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History of Neurology: Neurology was there
August 2001

The Epilepsy of Fyodor DostoyevskyInsights From Smerdyakov Karamazov's Use of a Malingered Seizure as an Alibi

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, University of Miami, Miami, Fla.



Arch Neurol. 2001;58(8):1305-1306. doi:10.1001/archneur.58.8.1305

I am a lie, and the father of lies.—Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov

The descriptions of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's seizures are many and so are the interpretations of scholars who have attempted to explain them. Dostoyevsky himself contributed to the difficulties for he reported different symptoms at different times. At one point, early in his life, he stated: "I have all kinds of seizures."1(p61) Gastaut's2,3 writings on the subject offer an insight into the difficulties faced by anyone trying to understand Dostoyevsky's seizures. Gastaut2 initially believed Dostoyevsky had primarily generalized seizures. Years later he returned to the subject and gave what he called an "eclectic" but not very clear explanation for Dostoyevsky's symptoms. He wrote:

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