Happiness is frequently posited as the ultimate good, the summum bonum to which all humans aspire. The United Nations now measures the collective happiness of nations even to the third decimal point. But is individual contentment really the point of existence? And what happens to a society which believes the only goal of life is the pursuit of happiness? No people have pondered these questions more profoundly than the Russians, whose grim history has compelled a clear-eyed and honest appraisal of the human condition. Gary Saul Morson, writing in The Athenaeum Review, tells us how Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn captured the psychic impoverishment of those who neglect their soul and measure their lives merely by material comforts.

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