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And we're off with our first author theme read featuring Fyodor Dostoevsky. Here we will discuss his background, his influences, his lifestyle, etc. to try and understand the man behind the literary works. How exciting!
Exciting indeed! This will be my first foray beyond The Brothers Karamazov.
Anyone have any recommendations for biographies? (I'm looking for a book, not a website, but I'm sure others would find a website useful.)
I have a biography Dostoevsky 1821-1881 by E.H. Carr first published in 1931 at a time when there was a large number of references and information available about the writer. My edition is 1962. I don't know of any later biography or any that would surpass the writing of E.H.Carr. It also has a comprehensive index. You would probably find a 2nd hand copy fairly easily.
Joseph Frank published a 5 book series on Dostoevsky's life and work (books published between 1979 to 2003)
a Monumental Biography of Dostoevsky (LT link to series)
I have the book Dostoevsky the Thinker by James P. Scanlan, I purchased it after reading Crime and Punishment two years ago. If you don't have time to read Frank's monumental bio I could suggest reading a bio online then read Scanlan's book for a very deep understanding of Dostoevsky's passions, and what drove this great thinker. I Have the bio series on my TBR list - maybe this year!?
From Library Journal: These two works add immensely to our understanding of Dostoevsky, though they have quite different purposes: Frank completes his monumental biography of Dostoevsky, while Scanlan examines the Russian writer's philosophical thought. Scanlan (emeritus, philosophy, Ohio State Univ.) argues that while much has been said about Dostoevsky as a writer, he has rarely been treated as a philosopher. Yet through his writings, he explored a variety of philosophical issues, primarily concerning the nature of humankind. Scanlan studies Dostoevsky's nationalism, opposition to rational egotism, and beliefs about our eternal souls, moral agency, and aesthetic needs. Of course, Dostoevsky's philosophy was framed within a Christian worldview, and Scanlan does excellent work discussing Dostoevsky's ideas in terms of his religious faith. Readers wanting to learn more about the thought of one of Russia's great writers will find this work essential.
The major biography is Joseph Frank's five-volume magnum opus:
Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849
Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859
Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871
Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881
Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865
I'm reading volume one at the moment. It is brilliant. Leonid Grossman's Dostoevsky: A Biography is also good.
Thanks. D the Thinker sounds like the kind of book that I'm looking for. Not one that necessarily gives a chronology of his life (wikipedia ftw) but dives deeper into what shapes his writing.
In addition to the five volume biography by Joseph Frank, mentioned above, I have compiled a small library of critical and biographical sources in preparation for serious thought about Dostoevsky with another group. Some I have looked at, others skimmed, some not at all.
George Steiner Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.
Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.
William Hubben,Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Kafka.
Donald Fanger Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism.
Richard Freeborn, Dostoevsky.
Leonid Grossman, Balzac and Dostoevsky.
Albert J. Guerard, The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsly, Faulkner.
Franco Venturi, Roots of Revolution.
Orlando Figes, Natasha's Dance.
Emancipation of the Russian Serfs.
Michael Florinsky, Russia: a history and an interpretation.
John T. Alexander, Catherine the Great.
Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia.
The ones that are probably the most useful for background are the Venturi which is wonderful though overwhelming in size, and the Figes, authoritative but readable.
I notice that you do not have The Double in your list of Dosteyovsky novels. Is that because you consider it a novella or is it an omission?
The best one volume biography of Dostoevsky that I have found is by Mochulsky. Highly recommended if you can't afford, or have not got room in your troika, for the 5 volume Frank bio.
Another very useful book to have on hand is The Cambridge Companion to Dostoevsky.
oh the touchstone didn't work....
Thank you, tomcatMurr! I'm ordering The Cambridge Companion to Dostoevskii now.
I'll recommend the one volume biography
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A Writer's Life by Geir Kjetsaa.
It's excellent !!
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