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Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871…
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Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871

by Joseph Frank

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1391133,071 (4.57)1
This volume, the fourth of five in Joseph Frank's widely acclaimed biography of Dostoevsky, covers the six most remarkably productive years in the novelist's entire career.

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In which he knuckles down to writing novels. He marries his stenographer who seems to be the doormat-type. Yes, but see the last instalment of his life; and he's absolutely desperate to deliver his novels by deadline. Guess what the forfeit is if he doesn't? Abrogation of his rights to any profit from future works for the next ten years. So he hired a stenographer to go faster... and kept her. Most of the rest of this book is crit on the novels. What else did he have time for?

D. writes: "I am convinced that not a single one of our writers, whether past or present, ever wrote under the conditions in which I am continuously forced to write. Turgenev would die at the very thought." He also wrote, "My epilepsy has worsened so much that if I work for a week without interruption I have an attack, and the next week I cannot work because the result of two or three attacks would be -- apoplexy. And yet I must finish. That's my situation."

I find Frank's crit on the turgid side, but he's made me think of the novels as "ideological tragedies". I always knew they were about people driven mad by ideas, ideas worse than the people are: I guess he’s getting me more specific, as I slog through 50 pages on Crime & Punishment. Since Frank details the ideologies bubbling at the time, you see how Dostoyevsky extrapolated or pursued ideas to consquences no-one else had seen. Obviously people objected to that. 'Excuse me, we don't believe in knocking pawnbrokers on the head.' But that's the novelist's eyes, beyond ideology to what used to be called the universal human, eh? And why he makes sense to me, vital sense, and seems to be about ideas I’ve struck or half-had in my life, not what he found in a newspaper in Russia 1866.
  Jakujin | Mar 15, 2013 |
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