There’s an insightful article over at First Things on Dostoevsky’s quote that “beauty will save the world.” Written by Jimmy Myers as winner of first place in their annual Student Essay Contest.
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky has been credited with saying that “beauty will save the world.” At first glance, it is quite a nice quip, one that no doubt tingles the romantic sensibilities of art critics, patrons, savants, and even laymen who appreciate dabbling in the regime of the beautiful. But, where does Dostoevsky so aphoristically express this soteriology? One might expect to find it in a personal journal, or in a letter to a friend, or perhaps even in an esoteric, but profound, lecture on the pregnant possibility that the arts alone can gestate and birth. Where else could such a romantic thing be said? It is surprising to find, then, that it comes not from the chords of Dostoevsky himself, but is uttered by a curious character from his novel entitled The Idiot.
His name is Hippolite and in the middle of the novel, after having fallen asleep at a dinner party, he awakes with quite a start and deep confusion. Immediately he launches into worrisome inquiries: “What? Are they leaving? It’s over? Has the sun risen?” After achieving some measure of equilibrium, Hippolite continues with a crazed and fervent monologue, during which he turns to a character called “the Prince” and questioningly utters the fateful phrase: “Prince, is it true you once said that the world would be saved by ‘beauty’? What kind of beauty will save the world?”
Read the rest of his essay here.