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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

(1821-1881) born on Oct 30

A Russian novelist

He was the author of such classics as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, who is considered by many to have brought the Western novel to the peak of its possibilities.

Dostoevsky had his first seizure at age nine. After a remission which lasted up to age 32, he had seizures every few days or months, fluctuating between good and bad periods. His ecstatic auras occurring seconds before his bigger seizures were moments of transcendent happiness, which then changed to an anguished feeling of dread. He saw a blinding flash of light, then would cry out and lose consciousness for a second or two. Sometimes the epileptic discharge generalized across his brain, producing a secondary tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure. Afterward he could not recall events and conversations that had occurred during the seizure, and he often felt depressed, guilty and irritable for days. Epilepsy is a central source of themes, personalities, and events in his books; he gave epilepsy to about 30 of his characters.

Dostoevsky has this to say about the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, who is also considered to have had the same type of ecstatic epileptic aura:

"Mohammed assures us that he saw paradise and was inside... He really was in paradise during an attack of epilepsy, from which he suffered as I do. I do not know whether this bliss lasts seconds, hours, or months, yet take my word, I would not exchange it for all the joys which life can give."


". . . to be acutely conscious is a disease, a real, honest-to-goodness disease."


"Talking nonsense is man's only privilege that distinguishes him from all other organisms."