Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time
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Joseph Frank's award-winning, five-volume Dostoevsky is widely recognized as the best biography of the writer in any language--and one of the greatest literary biographies of the past half-century. Now Frank's monumental, 2500-page work has been skillfully abridged and condensed in this single, highly readable volume with a new preface by the author. Carefully preserving the original work's acclaimed narrative style and combination of biography, intellectual history, and literary criticism, Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time illuminates the writer's works--from his first novel Poor Folk to Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov--by setting them in their personal, historical, and above all ideological context. More than a biography in the usual sense, this is a cultural history of nineteenth-century Russia, providing both a rich picture of the world in which Dostoevsky lived and a major reinterpretation of his life and work.
during “the second day of Easter Week”11 and was motivated by his memory of the peasant Marey, one of his father’s serfs whom he had known as a boy. During Lent the prisoners, relieved of work for one week, went to church two or three times a day. “I very much liked the week of the preparation for the sacrament,” Dostoevsky confirms in House of the Dead. “The Lenten service so familiar to me from the faraway days of my childhood in my father’s house, the solemn prayers, the prostrations—all this
himself together, of retreating into himself to such an extent that ordinary shyness cannot convey the slightest idea of his condition. It could only be characterized by the very word he had invented himself, stushevat’sya, to vanish, disappear, efface oneself, which now came into Chudov’s head.13 Glazhievsky’s entire face suddenly became crestfallen, his eyes vanished under his brows, his head went into his shoulders, his voice, always muffled, lost all its clarity and freedom, sounding as if
than good to its cause; hence the Utilitarians, in neglecting artistic value, are the first to harm their own cause” (18: 79). Even though both poles are thus rejected as being internally inconsistent, it is obvious that Dostoevsky believes the mistake of the partisans of art to be only a venial sin, while that of the Utilitarians implies a denial of the very right of art to exist. It is true, Dostoevsky acknowledges, that Dobrolyubov does not specifically go to such lengths, but Chernyshevsky
thus may be seen as Dostoevsky’s first artistic answer to Tolstoy’s increasing fame; the second would have been the great work he was planning, on as vast a scale as War and Peace, under the title of The Life of a Great Sinner. In mid-December 1869 Dostoevsky speaks of his obligation to The Russian Messenger with anxiety and indicates how he will proceed. He is engaged on a vast novel, he tells his niece, “only the first part of which will be published in The Russian Messenger. It will not be
other attributes of the narrator’s style, such as syntactical inversions that would be felt as archaisms, can also be traced to such an intent. The fumbling, tentative quality of his assertions, his uncertainty about details, his moralistic judgments and evaluations, his emotional involvement in the lives of the characters, his lack of literary sophistication, and the heavy-handedness of his expository technique—all can be seen as an up-to-date version of the pious, reverent, hesitant,