Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

edited by Mary Petrusewicz
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 984
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Joseph Frank's award-winning, five-volumeDostoevskyis 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 Timeilluminates the writer's works--from his first novelPoor FolktoCrime and PunishmentandThe 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3341-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE: Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. PART I The Seeds of Revolt, 1821–1849
    • CHAPTER 1 Prelude
      (pp. 3-4)

      The last years of the reign of Alexander I were a troubled, uncertain, and gloomy time in Russian history. Alexander had come to the throne as the result of a palace revolution against his father, Paul I, whose increasingly erratic and insensate rule led his entourage to suspect madness. The coup was carried out with at least the implicit consent of Alexander, whose accession to power, after his father’s murder, at first aroused great hopes of liberal reform in the small, enlightened segment of Russian society. Alexander’s tutor, selected by his grandmother Catherine the Great, had been a Swiss of...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Family
      (pp. 5-22)

      Of all the great Russian writers of the first part of the nineteenth century—Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Herzen, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Nekrasov—Dostoevsky was the only one who did not come from a family belonging to the landed gentry. This is a fact of great importance, and influenced the view he took of his own position as a writer. Comparing himself with his great rival Tolstoy, as he did frequently in later life, Dostoevsky defined the latter’s work as being that of a “historian,” not a novelist. For, in his view, Tolstoy depicted the life “which existed in the tranquil and...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Religious and Cultural Background
      (pp. 23-37)

      Dostoevsky’s contemporary, Alexander Herzen, remarks in his memoirs that “nowhere does religion play so modest a role in education as in Russia.”¹ Herzen was, of course, talking about the education of the male children of the landed or service aristocracy, whose parents had been raised for several generations on the culture of the French Enlightenment and for whom Voltaire had been a kind of patron saint. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, such parents had long since ceased to be concerned about Orthodox Christianity, even though they continued to baptize their children in the state religion and to structure...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Academy of Military Engineers
      (pp. 38-50)

      The death of Marya Feodorovna snapped the strongest emotional thread tying the young Dostoevsky to Moscow; but the inner conflict between his desire to leave and the bleakness of the prospect ahead may account for the mysterious illness that struck him down just before his departure for the Academy of Military Engineers. Without any apparent cause, he lost his voice and seemed to have contracted some throat or chest ailment whose diagnosis was uncertain. The impending trip to St. Petersburg had to be postponed until finally Dr. Dostoevsky was advised to begin the journey and trust to the revivifying effects...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Two Romanticisms
      (pp. 51-60)

      In addition to the mathematics and engineering requirements, the Academy of Military Engineers also provided a humanistic education for future officers of the Russian Army. For at least the first year or two of his studies Dostoevsky attended lectures on religion, history, civil architecture, Russian and French language and literature, and also lessons in German. The chair in Russian literature was held by V. T. Plaksin, who accepted Romanticism as the art of the modern world; he lectured on Pushkin and Lermontov, and on the Russian folk poet Koltsov. From Plaksin, Dostoevsky could not have acquired much more in the...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Gogol Period
      (pp. 61-75)

      At the beginning of 1840, Dostoevsky was still an obscure student of military engineering with vague ambitions for a literary career but with nothing to show that such ambitions would ever be realized. By 1845, however, he was being hailed by Belinsky—the most powerful critical force in Russian literature—as the newest revelation on the Russian literary horizon. During these years, he went through a metamorphosis that set him firmly on the road he was to follow the rest of his life. “Brother,” he writes Mikhail in the spring of 1845, “as regards literatureI am not as I...

    • CHAPTER 7 Poor Folk
      (pp. 76-85)

      No début in Russian literature has been described more vividly than that of Dostoevsky, and few, in truth, created so widespread and sensational a stir. Dostoevsky’s account is well-known, though he considerably exaggerated and sentimentalized his own innocence and naïveté. “Early in the winter [of 1845], suddenly, I began to writePoor Folk[Bednye lyudi], my first novel; before that I had never written anything. Having finished the novel, I did not know what to do with it, and to whom it should be submitted.”¹ Dostoevsky knew very well what he wished to do with his novel, and there is...

    • CHAPTER 8 Dostoevsky and the Pléiade
      (pp. 86-93)

      Belinsky’s excitement over the manuscript ofPoor Folkquickly made Dostoevsky’s name a byword among his circle, and the fame of the new young author spread throughout the literary community even before the publication of the novel in January 1846. Panaev, who paid Dostoevsky the compliment of immediately beginning to imitate his manner, wrote several years later: “We carried him in our arms through the streets of the city, and, exhibiting him to the public, cried: ‘Here is a little genius just born, and whose works in time will kill off all the rest of the literature past and present....

    • CHAPTER 9 Belinsky and Dostoevsky: I
      (pp. 94-103)

      Belinsky’s age, as well as his authoritative position, excluded the intimate rivalry that pitted Dostoevsky against his contemporaries; and Dostoevsky, quite naturally, also felt an immense gratitude toward the man who had catapulted him to fame. Belinsky never joined in the persecution and openly expressed his disapproval; but despite all the good will on both sides, the acquaintance that began so promisingly in the late spring of 1845 ended in a quarrel in the first half of 1847. This short span of time remained one of the most important and memorable in Dostoevsky’s life.

      Belinsky was a powerful and passionate...

    • CHAPTER 10 Feuilletons and Experiments
      (pp. 104-118)

      Despite the wounding criticism from Belinsky and others, the besieged and struggling Dostoevsky nonetheless continued along his own path. Weary with the narrow stylistic range of the Natural School, he felt his shift to a new style and subject matter as an inner release. “I am writing myLandlady,” he tells Mikhail at the end of January 1847. “My pen is guided by a source of inspiration rising directly from the soul. Not likeProkharchin, over which I agonized all summer.”¹ Even as inspiration coursed through him, however, and even as he had already begun to block out another major...

    • CHAPTER 11 Belinsky and Dostoevsky: II
      (pp. 119-128)

      To the public and literary aspects of their involvement must be added the asserted direct influence of the renowned critic on the formation of the young man’s convictions and beliefs. Thirty years later, Dostoevsky published two articles about Belinsky in hisDiary of a Writer, and their burden is that Belinsky was the ideological mentor responsible for having placed Dostoevsky’s feet on the path leading to Siberia.

      Dostoevsky’s account provides an irresistibly hagiographic version of the great drama of his conscience. Before meeting Belinsky, he had been a young, pure-hearted, idealistic, naïvely devout believer in the God and Christ of...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Beketov and Petrashevsky Circles
      (pp. 129-144)

      The first mention of Dostoevsky’s new acquaintances occurs in mid-September 1846—after the crisis induced by the failure ofThe Double. “I take my dinner with a group,” he writes Mikhail. “Six people . . . including Grigorovich and myself, have gotten together at Beketovs.”¹ These were months when Dostoevsky was “almost in a panic of fear about my health,”² but the psychological aid provided by his friends seems to have restored him completely. “Brother,” he writes two months later, “I am reborn, not only morally but also physically. Never have I felt in myself so much abundance and clarity,...

    • CHAPTER 13 Dostoevsky and Speshnev
      (pp. 145-160)

      Nikolay Speshnev—who unquestionably furnished Dostoevsky, twenty years later, with some of the inspiration for the character of Nikolay Stavrogin inDemons,stood out among the rather drab personages clustering around Petrashevsky as a bird of a more brilliant plumage. He was, in the first place, a very wealthy landowner. Like Petrashevsky, he had attended the Alexander Lyceum, and the two had known each other as students, but with an arrogant off-handedness typical of his character, Speshnev had not bothered to graduate. He was the only member of the circle who did not have to earn a living, and he...

  9. PART II The Years of Ordeal, 1850–1859
    • CHAPTER 14 The Peter-and-Paul Fortress
      (pp. 163-184)

      “The whole city,” wrote Senator K. N. Lebedev in his diary, “is preoccupied with the detention of some young people (Petrashevsky, Golovinsky, Dostoevsky, Palm, Lamansky, Grigoryev, Mikhailov, and many others), who, it is said, reach the number of 60, and this number will no doubt increase with the uncovering of links with Moscow and other cities.”¹ Senator Lebedev, who was well connected and personally acquainted with some of the young men under arrest, spoke to I. P. Liprandi, a seasoned official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, “about our child-conspirators,” and received one reply: “The affair, in his opinion, is...

    • CHAPTER 15 Katorga
      (pp. 185-195)

      In the four years he spent in prison camp, Dostoevsky had not received a single word from his family, and the complete loss of contact inspired him to compose a lengthy letter to Mikhail on February 22, 1854, just a week after being released. Picking up the thread of his life at the moment of departure for Siberia, it begins by recounting the impressions gathered on the eighteen-day journey and the major incidents marking his arrival at the first way station, Tobolsk. “It was a sad moment when we crossed the Urals,” Dostoevsky recalls. “The horses and sledges had foundered...

    • CHAPTER 16 “Monsters in Their Misery”
      (pp. 196-222)

      Dostoevsky’s views of his fellow convicts changed dramatically between his first days in prison camp and his last. Dostoevsky, the great psychologist, never analyzes his inner state of mind, never discusses the specific modality of his ideological evolution, his transformation from a philanthropic radical with Christian socialist leanings into a resolute believer in the Russian people as the unique national embodiment of the moral ideals he had found so appealing in Utopian Socialism. Reminiscing, in hisDiary of a Writer(1873), “on the regeneration of my convictions,” Dostoevsky simply remarks, “It did not occur so quickly, but gradually—and after a...

    • CHAPTER 17 Private Dostoevsky
      (pp. 223-242)

      Dostoevsky was released from the Omsk stockade on February 15, 1854, but the freedom for which he had waited so long was still minimal. As he remarked in his letter to Mme Fonvizina, “In the overcoat of a soldier, I am just as much of a prisoner as before.”¹ For reasons of health he was allowed to remain in Omsk for a month, and both he and Durov lived at the home of the hospitable Konstantin Ivanov and his wife.

      Dostoevsky’s letters give us a graphic picture of his plight as a lowly soldier. Completely dependent on the good will...

    • CHAPTER 18 A Russian Heart
      (pp. 243-254)

      Thanks to the kindness of new friends like Wrangel and Yakushkin, who obligingly conveyed letters between Dostoevsky and his family and old circle of friends in Petersburg and Moscow, the novelist, though far removed from the centers of Russian social and cultural life, could still gain some sense of the ideas and tendencies now stirring the intelligentsia. The outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853 (news of which had barely managed to seep into the prison camp) had stirred all the latent patriotic ardor of Dostoevsky’s old friend Apollon Maikov, a progressive Westernizer, and his open letter, published in the...

    • CHAPTER 19 The Siberian Novellas
      (pp. 255-272)

      Once Dostoevsky had received his commission as an officer in March 1857, and once his rights as a nobleman had been restored in May 1857, we hear no more about hisLetters on Art. Instead, all his energies are now concentrated on the various projects for novels and stories on which he had never ceased to work in the three years since his release from the prison camp, despite the demands of his military duties and the stultifying aftermaths of his epileptic seizures. He still did not know whether he had regained the right to publish, but his correspondents assured...

    • CHAPTER 20 Homecoming
      (pp. 273-278)

      The publication of Dostoevsky’s two Siberian novellas marks the end of his artistic exile and the beginning of his return to the center of Russian cultural life. These works appeared in print during 1859, and at the very end of this year, in mid-December, Dostoevsky finally realized his long-awaited dream of returning to St. Petersburg. This homecoming, however, did not take place all at once; even after arriving in European Russia, he was forced to stagnate for a few months in Tver, a city on the railroad line between Petersburg and Moscow. The Ministry of War had denied him the...

  10. PART III The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865
    • CHAPTER 21 Into the Fray
      (pp. 281-297)

      Dostoevsky’s presence in St. Petersburg was soon noticed by the larger literary fraternity in which he was so eager to resume his place. Just a few days after establishing residence, he was elected a member of the newly founded Society for Aid to Needy Writers and Scholars, usually called the Literary Fund. Dostoevsky lent his support to the activities of the fund, and not only through his participation in the numerous readings and events that the society organized to fill its coffer. Difficult as it is to imagine, he also performed the tasks of an efficient and conscientious administrator. Elected...

    • CHAPTER 22 An Aesthetics of Transcendence
      (pp. 298-316)

      It was rare for an issue ofTimeto appear without one of Dostoevsky’s articles or an installment from one of his works in progress, and his presence was also constantly felt in the form of introductions to translations, as well as editorial notes appended to the articles of other contributors. Understandably concerned over the impression that would be created by the first issue of the journal, Dostoevsky rewrote almost entirely an article originally assigned to the poet D. D. Minaev. The result was the feuilleton “Petersburg Visions in Verse and Prose,” a unique mixture of Dostoevsky’s prose text with...

    • CHAPTER 23 The Insulted and Injured
      (pp. 317-329)

      Dostoevsky’s novelThe Insulted and Injured(Unizhennye i oskorblennye), began to appear as a serial in the first issue ofTimeand ran through seven numbers of the journal. The work encountered a mixed critical reception, but it was read with avid attention and achieved its purpose of making readers impatient for the next installment. Dobrolyubov devoted his very last essay, “Downtrodden People” (Zabitye lyudi), a classic of Russian criticism, to a penetrating survey of the entire corpus of Dostoevsky’s writings up to and including this latest product of his pen. In an obvious reply to Dostoevsky’s attack some months...

    • CHAPTER 24 The Era of Proclamations
      (pp. 330-340)

      The one or two years following the liberation of the serfs on February 16, 1861 are known by Russian historians as “the era of proclamations.” For the first time since the Decembrist uprising in 1825, open agitation was carried on against the regime in the streets of Petersburg and Moscow. Inflammatory leaflets turned up everywhere—not only on doorhandles and in mailboxes but also lying scattered along main streets such as the Nevsky Prospect. The sheer fact of their appearance was a highly significant and unprecedented event—not to mention the boldness of those who wrote and distributed them. The...

    • CHAPTER 25 Portrait of a Nihilist
      (pp. 341-357)

      Despite the overheated expectations of the young radicals, there is no reliable evidence that the stability of the regime was ever seriously threatened. Peasant discontent with the terms of the liberation, at Bezdna and elsewhere, was remarkably peaceful, nonviolent except for a few isolated cases, and inspired by unbroken loyalty to the tsar; the violence came entirely from the government. Dostoevsky’s opinion on how the authorities behaved at this critical juncture may be surmised from a scene inDemonsthat can be read as a comment on their lack of judgment. When a loyal delegation of factory workers comes to...

    • CHAPTER 26 Time: The Final Months
      (pp. 358-371)

      On returning to Petersburg in the fall of 1862, both Dostoevsky and Strakhov took up their work onTimeagain with renewed vigor. Grigoryev had also returned from self-imposed exile in Orenburg and was once again a rallying presence. By mid-year,Time’ssubscription list had gone over the four thousand mark, thus reaching the level of such long-established publications asNotes of the Fatherland. Financial security was at last in sight for the hard-pressed Dostoevskys, who had worked like galley slaves to establish their publication on a sound economic footing. Even more encouraging, their editorial portfolio was overflowing with manuscripts...

    • CHAPTER 27 Winter Notes on Summer Impressions
      (pp. 372-383)

      The last important work that Dostoevsky published inTimewasWinter Notes on Summer Impressions(Zimnie zametki o letnikh vpechatleniyakh), a series of articles in which he launches a full-scale assault on the major pieties of the radical credo. Dostoevsky seizes the occasion of his first journey through Europe to explore the whole tangled history of the relationship between educated Russians and European culture. Within this framework he also discusses the larger issues then being posed by radical ideology: the basis of a new moral-social order; the question of Socialism; the future destiny of mankind. By the time he finishes...

    • CHAPTER 28 An Emancipated Woman, A Tormented Lover
      (pp. 384-398)

      Despite the severity of the permanent interdiction ofTime, its editors and contributors could not believe that the misunderstanding on which it was based would long continue. Strakhov, whose reputation was at stake, hurriedly wrote letters to Katkov and Ivan Aksakov explaining his loyalty to the Russian cause. The censorship would not allow Strakhov’s letters to be printed, but Katkov, magnanimous to a repentant foe, replied that he would clarify the matter in an article. Hopes thus revived, as Dostoevsky wrote to Turgenev in mid-June, that the decision of the authorities could be reversed. A week or two later, Katkov’s...

    • CHAPTER 29 The Prison of Utopia
      (pp. 399-412)

      All during the summer and fall, Mikhail had been writing endless petitions to the authorities for permission to resume publication, and in mid-November permission was given, not to reviveTime, but to publish a new journal—on condition that it maintain an “irreproachable tendency.”¹ The loss of the previous name of the journal meant that the new publication could not benefit from the prestige already acquired byTimein the past two years and would have to begin anew to establish itself. Dostoevsky took as active a part as he could in the preparations, and there was a steady flow...

    • CHAPTER 30 Notes from Underground
      (pp. 413-440)

      Few works in modern literature are more widely read than Dostoevsky’sNotes from Underground(Zapiski iz podpol’ya) or so often cited as a key text revelatory of the hidden depths of the sensibility of our time. The term “underground man” has become part of the vocabulary of contemporary culture, and this character has now achieved—like Hamlet, Don Quixote, Don Juan, and Faust—the stature of one of the great archetypal literary creations. Most important cultural developments of the present century—Nietzscheanism, Freudianism, expressionism, surrealism, crisis theology, existentialism—have claimed the underground man as their own or have been linked...

    • CHAPTER 31 The End of Epoch
      (pp. 441-452)

      After the interment of Marya Dimitrievna, Dostoevsky returned to Petersburg at the end of April and once again began to take an active part in the editorial affairs ofEpoch. To tide himself over financially, he obtained a loan from the Literary Fund, and, as if to signal the beginning of a new era in his life, he also ran up a substantial bill at a fashionable Petersburg tailor for a new suit of clothes and a summer overcoat. But if the death of his first wife might be considered a blessing in disguise, whatever the pangs of conscience and...

  11. PART IV The Miraculous Years, 1865–1871
    • CHAPTER 32 Khlestakov in Wiesbaden
      (pp. 455-471)

      Dostoevsky was again eager to travel abroad because it was there that he could hope to meet his ex-mistress Apollinaria Suslova, the young feminist writer who had never been entirely out of his mind during the past two years and with whom he had carried on a secret correspondence even as his wife was dying. Suslova had remained in Europe when Dostoevsky returned to Russia, and letters between the pair constantly went back and forth. Unfortunately, all of this correspondence has been lost (except for the draft of one letter preserved in Suslova’s diary). That Dostoevsky still dreamed of renewing...

    • CHAPTER 33 From Novella to Novel
      (pp. 472-482)

      The main outlines of Dostoevsky’s conception ofCrime and Punishmentwere set early, but it was only as the work developed and expanded under his hands that it took on its multifaceted richness. In the splendid complete edition of Dostoevsky’s writings published by the Academy of Sciences of the former Soviet Union, the editors have reassembled the disorderly confusion of the notebooks that Dostoevsky kept while working onCrime and Punishmentand printed them in a sequence roughly corresponding to the various stages of composition. Dostoevsky, as we know, was in the habit of casually flipping open his notebooks and...

    • CHAPTER 34 Crime and Punishment
      (pp. 483-508)

      Crime and Punishment(Prestuplenie i nakazanie) is the first of the truly great novels of Dostoevsky’s mature period. The psychology of Raskolnikov is placed squarely at the center of the work and is carefully interwoven with the ideas ultimately responsible for his fatal transgression. Every other feature as well illuminates the agonizing dilemma in which Raskolnikov is caught, with its inextricable mixture of tormenting passions and lofty rationalizations. The main character is surrounded by others who serve as oblique reflectors of his inner conflicts, and even the subplots serve as implicit thematic commentary. The development of the plot-action is organized...

    • CHAPTER 35 “A Little Diamond”
      (pp. 509-520)

      The publication ofCrime and Punishment, which created even more of a sensation than hadHouse of the Deadfive years earlier, marked a new era in Dostoevsky’s literary career. Once again he was in the forefront of Russian literature, and it was now clear that he, Turgenev, and Tolstoy were in competition for the palm as the greatest Russian novelist. The final chapters of the novel had been completed with the aid of Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, the stenographer who had worked with him onThe Gambler, and by this time a major change had also occurred in his personal...

    • CHAPTER 36 The Gambler
      (pp. 521-530)

      The first mention of gambling as a theme for a novella, we know, goes back to the summer of 1863, when Dostoevsky was traveling in Europe with his erstwhile mistress Apollinaria Suslova. Dostoevsky was gambling furiously all during this trip, and he thought of recouping his losses by turning them into literature. While in Rome he wrote to Strakhov outlining a work for which he hoped Strakhov could obtain an advance. “I have in mind,” he wrote, “a man who is straightforward, highly cultured, and yet in every respect unfinished, a man who has lost his faith butwho does...

    • CHAPTER 37 Escape and Exile
      (pp. 531-548)

      The days immediately following the wedding were filled with postnuptial celebrations, and Anna remarks that “I drank more goblets of champagne during those ten days than I did all the rest of my life.” So too did her husband, and those celebratory libations brought on Anna’s first encounter with the frightening physical manifestations of Dostoevsky’s dread disease. It overtook him at the home of her sister, just as Dostoevsky, “extremely animated,” was telling some story. Suddenly, “there was a horrible, inhuman scream, or more precisely a howl—and he began to topple forward.”¹ Although her sister became hysterical and fled...

    • CHAPTER 38 In Search of a Novel
      (pp. 549-563)

      The Dostoevskys arrived in Geneva on August 13/25, spending a day en route in Basel. In the short time afforded them, they hurried out to take in the sights, of which the Basel Museum alone merited Dostoevsky’s regard, or more precisely, two of the paintings displayed in the museum. Anna writes:

      There are only two really priceless pictures in the whole Museum, one of them being the Dead Savior, a marvelous work that horrified me, and so deeply impressed Feodor that he pronounced Holbein the Younger a painter and creator of the first rank. . . . [T]he whole form...

    • CHAPTER 39 An Inconsolable Father
      (pp. 564-576)

      The publication of the first seven chapters ofThe IdiotinThe Russian Messenger(January 1868) successfully crowned the months of torturing gestation that Dostoevsky had just lived through. But his uncertainties about the novel’s continuation were far from over. Dostoevsky was forced to createbotha scenario and a final text for each new installment, remaining in continual uncertainty until the very last stage of composition. And he changed residences five times while the novel was under way. Twice the Dostoevskys were forced to change quarters in Geneva, and then they shifted from Geneva to Vevey, on the other...

    • CHAPTER 40 The Idiot
      (pp. 577-589)

      Writing to a correspondent more than ten years after finishingThe Idiot, Dostoevsky remarks, “All those who have spoken of it as my best work have something special in their mental formation that has always struck and pleased me.”¹The Idiotis the most personal of all his major works, the book in which he embodies his most intimate, cherished, and sacred convictions. Readers who took this work to their hearts were, he must have felt, a select group of kindred souls with whom he could truly communicate. It is only inThe Idiotthat Dostoevsky includes an account of...

    • CHAPTER 41 The Pamphlet and the Poem
      (pp. 590-600)

      The termination ofThe Idiotallowed Dostoevsky, who had been writing steadily for a year and a half, to catch his breath for a moment, but it also meant the end of the monthly stipend he had been receiving from Katkov. To make matters worse, Dostoevsky calculated that the amount of copy he had furnished still left him with a debt to Katkov’s journal of one thousand rubles. Dostoevsky thus begins to mention all sorts of new plans and projects, and the relation of these crisscrossing ideas to the works he then wrote is sometimes difficult to unravel.

      Even before...

    • CHAPTER 42 Fathers, Sons, and Stavrogin
      (pp. 601-615)

      At the end of May 1869, Katkov published an article in theMoscow Gazettedealing with the recent student disorders that had broken out in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and he designated among their leaders “a certain Nechaev.” He was described as a “very hardened Nihilist,” an “inflamer of youth,” who had been arrested but managed the unprecedented feat of escaping from the Peter-and-Paul Fortress and fleeing abroad. In Europe he had produced a series of incendiary proclamations calling on students to revolt, “printed them very handsomely,” and sent bales of them back to Russia through the public mails.¹ In...

    • CHAPTER 43 Exile’s Return
      (pp. 616-625)

      On July 8, 1871, Dostoevsky and his family returned to Russia after four years of living abroad, making as unobtrusive a reentry as possible into the St. Petersburg he had quit presumably only for a summer vacation. Already published were all of Part I and two chapters of Part II ofDemons, whose plot made spine-chilling use of the most spectacular event of the moment. Indeed, the public trial of the Nechaevtsy was taking place during Dostoevsky’s arrival in the capital, and some of the essential documents, including the coldbloodedly MachiavellianCatechism of a Revolutionary(written by either Bakunin or...

    • CHAPTER 44 History and Myth in Demons
      (pp. 626-649)

      Dostoevsky had in the past created fictional characters who, as the embodiment of certain social-cultural ideas and attitudes, could be considered “historical” in a broad sense, but not untilDemons(Besy) had he ever based himself on actual events that were a matter of public knowledge. Obviously, his novel is not limited to the actual, rather insignificant dimensions of the Nechaev affair. If this had been the case, “the facts” would have given him only a rather pitiful tale of a distressing event that had occurred among a handful of students and hangerson in the student milieu, who had been...

    • CHAPTER 45 The Book of the Impostors
      (pp. 650-666)

      Demons, as we know, was initially begun as a “pamphlet-novel” in which Dostoevsky would unleash all his satirical fury against the Nihilists. It is thus not surprising that, of all his major works, it contains the greatest proportion of satirical caricature and ideological parody. This becomes immediately apparent in the rhetoric of the narrator’s account of Stepan Trofimovich’s career, which both exalts and deflates him at the same time. Since the narrator feels a genuine sympathy for Stepan Trofimovich, he begins by delineating the exalted and ennobling image that the eminent worthy has ofhimself. But he immediately undermines it...

  12. PART V The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881
    • CHAPTER 46 The Citizen
      (pp. 669-681)

      The Dostoevskys had been living from hand to mouth on advances from Katkov, and with the conclusion ofDemons, this source of income ceased to exist. Anna was determined to help her husband increase the family income, and the opportunity arose when Dostoevsky turned to publishers for the sale of the rights toDemonsas an independent volume. He had hoped to net a considerable sum, but the hail of unfavorable criticism lowered the novel’s value in the marketplace, and the offers he received were derisory for an important work by a famous author. He and Anna thus decided to...

    • CHAPTER 47 Narodnichestvo: Russian Populism
      (pp. 682-693)

      Dostoevsky’s surprising desire to offer his next novel to the leading Populist journal,Notes of the Fatherland—edited by the poet Nekrasov and the deadly satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin, who had mercilessly pilloried him in the 1860s—is a direct outcome of the young intelligentsia’s shift to an ideology known asnarodnichestvo, or Russian Populism. This new tendency in radical ideology peaked during the Nechaev trial, whose effect was to destroy the Utilitarian morality (or lack of anything that could be called morality) of the 1860s. There is ample evidence that the stirring speeches made not only by the defense attorneys but...

    • CHAPTER 48 Bad Ems
      (pp. 694-705)

      Dostoevsky resigned fromThe Citizenin April 1874, and it was shortly afterward that an unexpected event occurred: Nekrasov called on his former friend. Anna was aware of their recent estrangement, and when her husband invited his visitor into his study she could not resist eavesdropping on their conversation. What she heard was an offer from Nekrasov for Dostoevsky to contribute a new novel toNotes of the Fatherlandduring the next year, at “a payment of two hundred and fifty rubles per folio sheet, while until this time Dostoevsky had gotten only a hundred and fifty.”¹ When he went...

    • CHAPTER 49 A Raw Youth
      (pp. 706-722)

      The last chapters ofA Raw Youthwere published inNotes of the Fatherlandin the winter of 1875. Written betweenDemonsandThe Brothers Karamazov, this curious hybrid of a novel is far from attaining the artistic stature of these two works, although its severest critics may have considerably exaggerated its defects. Why shouldA Raw Youthslump so markedly when compared with Dostoevsky’s other major novels? Some answers may be located in the implicit self-censorship that he here exercised on his creative faculties.

      Several extended notes show that Dostoevsky had a plan for a novel about three brothers,...

    • CHAPTER 50 A Public Figure
      (pp. 723-737)

      With the completion ofA Raw Youth, Dostoevsky was once again faced with the problem of what to undertake next. Although the publisher of several of his own works, he still had no regular source of income to provide for his family, recently increased to three children with the birth of a new son, Aleksey, on August 10, 1875. Now he returned to the idea of publishing a new periodical, hisDiary of a Writer, which he had experimented with inThe Citizen. A family decision was made to take the plunge, even though, as Anna wrote, “if theDiary...

    • CHAPTER 51 The Diary of a Writer, 1876–1877
      (pp. 738-759)

      The ideas promulgated in theDiary of a Writerwere already familiar from Dostoevsky’s earlier journalism, as well as from the ideological flights of his novels. But they are given new life and color by the constant parade of fresh examples drawn from his omnivorous reading of the current press, from his wide knowledge of history and literature both Russian and European, and, very frequently, from the events of his own life. Such autobiographical revelations were certainly one of the main attractions of theDiary; readers felt they were truly being admitted into the intimacy of one of their great...

    • CHAPTER 52 A New Novel
      (pp. 760-778)

      The Diary of a Writerfor October 1877 contained the announcement that, due to illness, Dostoevsky would suspend publication for two years. When this decision brought more than a hundred letters pleading with him to continue, he told his readers that “in the forthcoming year of rest fromPeriodicalpublication, I expect, indeed, to engage in belletristic work, which imperceptibly and involuntarily has been taking shape within me during the two years of the publication of theDiary” (26: 126). Both reasons certainly played their part, but perhaps the irresistible call of artistic creation was the stronger. For the next...

    • CHAPTER 53 The Great Debate
      (pp. 779-787)

      The first installment ofThe Brothers Karamazovwas published on February 1, 1879. A few days later the governor-general of Kharkov—a cousin of the anarchist revolutionary Peter Kropotkin—was killed, and in March an unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of the new head of the secret police, the successor of General Mezentsev, as he was driving his carriage through the center of Petersburg. In April, a revolutionary acting on his own, but with the knowledge of the Populist Land and Liberty, attempted to assassinate the tsar as he was taking his morning walk in the Winter Palace...

    • CHAPTER 54 Rebellion and the Grand Inquisitor
      (pp. 788-803)

      Dostoevsky would remain at Staraya Russa until July 17, hard at work on his novel. He was then writing Book 5 of Part 2, “Pro and Contra,” which contains Ivan’s rebellion against God’s world and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor. His life during this period was spent entirely tied to his desk, turning out chapter after chapter of his final masterpiece. To avoid misunderstandings that might lead to objections, and perhaps censorship, each section sent to his editor Lyubimov was accompanied by a letter of explanation. These provide a running self-commentary on his ideological and artistic aims that are...

    • CHAPTER 55 Terror and Martial Law
      (pp. 804-812)

      The new year 1880 began auspiciously for the Dostoevskys. On February 3, the members of the Slavic Benevolent Society selected him to write a congratulatory address to be presented to Alexander II on February 19, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession to the throne. Two weeks before the festivities, however, Russia was shaken by an event that cast a gloomy pall over the prospective festivities.

      On February 5, at twenty-two minutes past six in the evening, a bomb exploded in the Winter Palace just under the dining room of the tsar. A diplomatic dinner had been scheduled for that hour...

    • Chapter 56 The Pushkin Festival
      (pp. 813-834)

      The Moscow Pushkin festival in the spring of 1880 has been remembered by posterity largely because of the sensation created by Dostoevsky’s impassioned apotheosis of the great poet. At the time, however, the event assumed considerable importance because of the tense and ominous social-political climate in the country, which imparted a political coloring to any large manifestation of public opinion. In this instance, the cream of the Russian intelligentsia gathered in the ancient capital (as well as in other major cities) to eulogize a poet who had incurred the displeasure of Nicholas I, had been sent into exile, and had...

    • CHAPTER 57 Controversies and Conclusions
      (pp. 835-847)

      Back in Staraya Russa, Dostoevsky dispatched a letter to Countess Sofya Tolstaya, who, along with Vladimir Solovyev and the singer and composer Yulia Abaza, had signed a collective telegram congratulating him on his Pushkin success. He repeats in brief much of what we already know, including the glowing spontaneous responses of Turgenev and Annenkov (“the latter absolutely anenemyto me”), and adds an extra detail: “‘I’m not saying that because you praised my Liza,’ Turgenev told me.” Apologizing for “talking so much about myself,” Dostoevsky insists, “I swear it isn’t vanity: one lives for such moments, it’s for them...

    • CHAPTER 58 The Brothers Karamazov: Books 1–4
      (pp. 848-866)

      The Brothers Karamazov(Brat’ya Karamazovy) achieves a classic expression of the great theme that had preoccupied Dostoevsky sinceNotes from Underground: the conflict between reason and Christian faith. The controlled and measured grandeur of the novel spontaneously evokes comparison with the greatest creations of Western literature.The Divine Comedy,Paradise Lost,King Lear,Faust—these are the titles that come to mind as one tries to measure the stature ofThe Brothers Karamazov, for these too grapple with the never-ending and never-to-be-ended argument aroused by the “accursed questions” of mankind’s destiny. By enlarging the scale of his habitual poetics of...

    • CHAPTER 59 The Brothers Karamazov: Books 5–6
      (pp. 867-885)

      The two set pieces of Book 5, Ivan’s “rebellion” and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, reach ideological heights for which there are few equals. In the nineteenth century one can think only perhaps of Balzac’sSeraphita and Louis Lambert, George Sand’sSpiridion, or possibly Flaubert’sLa tentation de Saint Antoine. These inspired pages take their place in a Western literary tradition that begins with Aeschylus’sPrometheus Boundand the book of Job. They also continue the Romantic titanism of the first half of the nineteenth century, represented by such writers as Goethe, Leopardi, Byron, and Shelley. The Czech critic...

    • CHAPTER 60 The Brothers Karamazov: Books 7–12
      (pp. 886-911)

      Ivan’s Legend and Zosima’szhitiehave established the polarities of the conflict between reason and faith, and each of the main characters will be confronted by a crisis that requires choosing between them. Faith of some kind will prevail in all of these climactic moments—not necessarily faith in a specifically moralreligious form, as will occur with Alyosha, but a faith that incarnates some aspect of the morality of love and the self-transcendence of egoism represented and preached by Zosima. Alyosha is the first of the three brothers whose life experiences have been foreshadowed by those of Zosima, and there...

    • CHAPTER 61 Death and Transfiguration
      (pp. 912-932)

      After the intense pressure under which he had been laboring for the past three years, Dostoevsky might well have felt a need to relax, rest, and recoup his strength. But now that the first volume ofThe Brothers Karamazovhad been completed he threw himself, with his usual assiduity, into gathering material for his revivedDiary of a Writer. Well aware of the severe demands this renewal would make on his gradually deteriorating health, he was driven by economic need—other sources of income were quite insufficient—and also by the mission he had assumed to speak out against the...

  13. Editor’s Note
    (pp. 933-934)
  14. Index
    (pp. 935-959)