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Cataloged in Psychology

120 Years Ago, Dostoevsky Explained Trump With Remarkable Accuracy

Renowned Russian novelist and philosopher, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, wrote his final novel, The Brothers Karamazov, in 1879. Remarkably, his description of the primary character, the patriarch and“buffoon” Fyodor Karamazov, sounds an awful lot like the sitting president.

In his book, Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention, David Shields deconstructs the psyche of Trump and the cultural context that created him. This passage is an excerpt from Chapter II, The Frenzy Of The Invisible.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky describes the patriarch, Fyodor Pavlovich:

“He was a strange type yet one rather frequently met with, precisely the type of man who is not only worthless and depraved but muddleheaded as well—one of those muddleheaded people who still handle their own little business deals (if nothing else) quite skillfully….He was married twice and had three sons….There never was mutual love, either on the bride’s part or his own, despite the beauty of Adelaida Ivanova [his first wife]. He was a great sensualist all his days, always ready to hang on any skirt that merely beckoned to him….As a father, he did precisely what was expected of him; that is, he totally and utterly abandoned his child by Adelaida Ivanova, not out of malice toward him and not from any wounded matrimonial feelings but simply because he totally forgot about him….Fyodor Pavlovich was fond of play-acting, of suddenly taking up some unexpected role right in front of you, often when there was no need for it and even to his own real disadvantage….He saw and got to know his father, Fyodor Pavlovich, for the first time only after his coming of age, when he arrived in our parts with the purpose of settling the question of his property with him. It seems that even then he did not like his father; he stayed only a short time with him and left quickly, as soon as he had managed to obtain a certain sum from him and made a certain deal with him concerning future payments from the estate, without being able to learn from his father either the value of the estate or its yearly income. Fyodor Pavlovich saw at once (and this must be remembered) that Mitya had a false and inflated idea of his property. Fyodor Pavlovich was quite pleased with this, as it suited his own designs….Fyodor Pavlovich, though he led a wild, drunken, debauched life, still never stopped investing his capital and always managed his deals successfully, though of course almost always somewhat shabbily….Loose women would gather in the house right in front of his wife, and orgies took place….Three or four years after his second wife’s death, he set off for the south of Russia and finally wound up in Odessa, where he lived for several years in a row. First, he made the acquaintance, in his own words, of ‘a lot of Yids, big Yids, little Yids, baby Yids,’ but he ended up later being received ‘not just by Yids but by Jews, too.’ We may assume it was during this period of his life that he developed his special skill at knocking money together and knocking it out of other people….He now loved to be outrageous with the female sex, not simply as before, but even in a more repulsive way. He soon became the founder of a number of new taverns throughout the district. Many inhabitants of our town and district immediately got into debt with him, naturally on the best securities. Lately he had become bloated; he began somehow to be erratic, lost his self-control, and even fell into a sort of lightheadedness; he would start one thing and end up with another; he became scattered.”

David Shields

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (named one of ...