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Looking Back: 11th of November


“One can know a man from his laugh, and if you like a man’s laugh before you know anything of him, you may confidently say that he is a good man.” Fyodor DostoyevskyO

November 11th, Armistice Day, or Veterans Day as it has come to be called. Today in 1918 at 6 a.m. the German and Allied forces signed a treaty ending the fighting on the Western Front. The treaty wouldn’t come into affect for another five hours, on the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in the eleventh month of the year. WWI was been billed as the “war to end all wars” and Armistice Day was treated as the day peace came to the world. However, fighting continued in the Ottoman Empire and across the Russian Empire, in total more than half a million soldiers lost their lives.

Kurt Vonnegut was born today in 1922. While attending Cornell University Kurt enlisted in the armed forces, his division was captured on Dec 19, 1944 during the infamous Battle of the Bulge. He was held in Dresden where he witnessed the firebombing of the city in 1945. After his release Vonnegut returned to the firebombing in his most widely known book, Slaughter House 5, in which the character Billy Pilgram becomes “unstuck” in time and begins drifting between different moments in his life.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was also born in Moscow on this day in 1821. Born to Mikhail and Maria, Fyoder gained his spirituality from his mother, who taught him to read using the old and new testament and who’s religious temperament bounded in the joy of Christ as opposed to the religious vigors or the day. His father was a hard-nosed man who firmly believed in serfdom and was later killed, presumably by his driver. Fyodor became highly political, and joined Speshnev’s secret revolutionary society. He was arrested in 1849 at the age of 27 and in April of the same year, he and his colleges were lined up before a firing squad but before he could be shot the Tsar’s messenger commuted the sentence to hard labor on the Siberian front. After his eventual release Fyodor wrote extensively on the human condition, religion and the injustices of the class system. “The Brothers Karamazov” was Fyodors last novel.

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