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Capital Punishment As a Crime More Dreadful Than Murder: Dostoyevsky on the Guillotine

February 4, 2013

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On the 22nd of December 1848, Dostoyevsky, the famous Russian writer, had been subjected to a false execution, ordered by the Tsar, who pardoned him a few moment before the execution.

In his major novel, The Idiot, he writes :

“Now with the rack and tortures and so on—you suffer terrible pain of course; but then your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have plenty of that) until you die. But here I should imagine the most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all—but the certain knowledge that in an hour,—then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now—this very instant—your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man—and that this is certain, certain! That’s the point—the certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on the block and hear the iron grate over your head—then—that quarter of a second is the most awful of all.”

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