Brother! I have not become downhearted or low-spirited. Life is everywhere life, life in ourselves, not in what is outside us. There will be people near me, and to be a man among people and remain a man for ever, not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me — this is life ; this is the task of life. I have realised this. This idea has entered into my flesh and into my blood. Yes, it’s true ! The head which was creating, living with the highest life of art, which had realised and grown used to the highest needs of the spirit, that head has already been cut off from my shoulders. There remain the memory and the images created but not yet incarnated by me. They will lacerate me, it is true ! But there remains in me my heart and the same flesh and blood which can also love, and suffer, and desire, and remember, and this, after all, is life. On voit le soleil! Now, good-bye, brother! Don’t grieve for me!
…When I look back at the past and think how much time has been wasted in vain, how much time was lost in delusions, in errors, in idleness, in ignorance of how to live, how I did not value time, how often I sinned against my heart and spirit, — my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, each minute might have been an age of happiness. Si jeunesse savait! Now, changing my life, I am being reborn into a new form. Brother! I swear to you that I shall not lose hope, and shall preserve my spirit and heart in purity. I shall be reborn to a better thing. That is my whole hope, my whole comfort!
From Dostoevsky’s letter written at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg to his brother Mikhail on December 22, 1849. He had been condemned to death (only to be revealed as a mock execution at the last moment) and had written a farewell the day before his supposed execution.