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Demons (1872)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,258581,116 (4.16)83
Based on a true event, in which a young revolutionary was murdered by his comrades, The Possessed provoked a storm of controversy for its harsh depiction of a ruthless band of Russian intellectuals, atheists, socialists, anarchists, and other radicals who attempt to incite the population of a small provincial town to revolt against the government. In contrast to Dostoevsky's savage portrait of these radicals and the violent ideas that have possessed them like demons, the author expresses great sympathy for workers and other ordinary people ill-served by those who presume to speak in their name.… (more)
  1. 10
    Petersburg by Andrei Bely (kitzyl)
    kitzyl: "The turbulent late years of the Russian empire produced not one but two novels about terrorist plots that abound in images of carnivalesque horror. Dostoevsky’s Demons (1873) and Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (1913, revised 1922 [!]) both dramatize the activities of radical terrorist groups. Members of terrorist cells engaged in secretly planned and spectacularly performed acts of violence, and both Dostoevsky and Bely employ theatrical imagery to represent the dual nature of terror, as a both private and public phenomenon. This theatricality ranges from Shakespearean allusions to acts of costuming and scripting to images of puppets and clowns." Issue 35 of Hypocrite Reader… (more)
  2. 11
    The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ehines)
  3. 00
    The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Die allgemein lesenswerte Sammlung von autobiografisch eingefärbten Literatur- und Reiseerfahrungen enthält auch einen Essay zu "The Possessed".
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What is a “true” Russian? Why is “the real truth” always implausible. Is belief only ironic or is it real or both? These are just a few of the questions dealt with by Dostoevsky in Demons, his great novel that is predecessor to The Brothers Karamazov.

He questions whether atheism is a reason or a result of rebellion, and the saying that “An atheist cannot be Russian”. The result is a novel that compares favorably and provides an eloquent introduction to themes that will be dealt with at the family level in The Brothers Karamazov.

Liberalism and Socialism is contrasted by representative characters from two different generations. One is that of Herzen and the liberals, represented by Stepan Verkhovensky and others. While Stepan's son, Pyotr, is the reputed leader of the new generation of nihilist anarchists who are the precursors and somewhat participants in the rise of the Russian intelligentsia.

Demons does not only look forward, but also backward as can be seen in comparison with The Idiot which ends with Prince Myshkin in a Swiss Asylum; the silence of madness.
The Demons ends with the silence of suicide. (You have to read it to find out who, when, and why) The cabalists (the fivesome) are representatives of the central importance of ideology (nihilistic anarchism). The lives of the cabalists literally depend on the whims of their leader, Pyotr, and their own willingness to follow the ideology.

Through all of the novel there is in the background, Nikolai Stavrogin, son of Varvara Petrovna, spinning his web, better yet acting as a puppeteer while others speak and act for him and as his whim commands. Compared to The Underground Man, Stavrogin is relatively silent; he lets others speak for him: Pyotr, “you wrote the rules . . .); Shatov, “I was the pupil, you were the teacher”; Kirilov, “Go look at [Kirilov] now---he's your creation”.

The plot seems somewhat complex, but the organization can be seen more simply when one views the contrast between the two generations, Stepan and Varvara vs. Pyotr and Nikolai, and within that the detail maneuvering with the additional characters, especially the changing views within each generation and between the two.

Ultimately there is a coming together of characters and the ideas they represent in a sort of maelstrom of events at the end of Part Three of the novel. It concludes with an explosion of activity that is only hinted at in the long introduction in Part One. That is just one of the aspect of this novel that raises it to one of the best from the pen of Dostoevsky. ( )
  jwhenderson | Sep 9, 2020 |
This was a decent novel, but I do not consider it among the finer of Dotoyevsky's works. There seemed to be a little distance, with the style of the writing, that enforced a certain reticence involving the reading. Although there were good parts, and great character development, overall it felt lacking.

3 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Nov 14, 2019 |
I finished this at a doctor's office, not my doctor's, but my wife's. She had the flu. When my wife was in the hospital a few years before that and on the door his name was posted adjacent to her's: Faith - Grief.

There's a great deal of both in this amazing novel. I should ask Dr. Grief if he likes Dostoevsky. I am afraid to as he looks as if he's only 15 years old. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I had mixed feelings about The Possessed, which is, in short, a novel about a circle of would-be revolutionaries wreaks havoc in the Russian provinces. Dostoevsky being Dostoevsky, and the book being 600 pages long, things are far more complicated. There are numerous subplots concerning love, murder, atheism, and provincial society.

On the plus side... The book can be fun and funny, and I loved the narrator’s slightly sardonic voice and his filtering of the distinct voices of many other characters. Both Verkhovenskiis are well-drawn, and it is interesting to watch certain characters hold power over others. The book feels very prophetic because the activists place themselves higher than laws. They also bumble in some of Dostoevsky’s more satirical passages: their disorganized meeting is hilarious, and they can be quite vain. One cell member loves to mooch food.

The Possessed, for me, had as many low points as high points. The book first appeared in serial form, which may account for certain technical inconsistencies. Introductions to characters took dozens of pages, and many of their supposed intrigues were, for me, boring, too hysterical, and lengthy. By contrast, several (but not all!) deaths occur so quickly that you could almost miss – or mistake – them by blinking. I’m also not partial to religious epiphanies at novel’s end.

Overall, worth reading but rather uneven. ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
Dark novel of 1870s Russia ( )
  JackSweeney | Nov 28, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (99 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dostoevsky, Fyodorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frank, JosephIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Güell, Josep MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geier, SwetlanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geir KjetsaaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leerink, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAndrew, Andrew R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praag, S. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyykkö, LeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timmer, Charles B.Contributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lat, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet to Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. -Luke viii. 32-36
Strike me dead, the track has vanished,  Well, what now?  We've lost the way,  Demons have bewitched our horses,  Led us in the wilds astray...What a number?  Whither drift they?  What's the mournful dirge they sing?  Do they hail a witch's marriage or a goblin's burying? - A. Pushkin
Dedication
First words
Before describing the extraordinary events which took place so recently in our town, hitherto not remarkable for anything in particular, I find it necessary, since I am not a skilled writer, to go back a little and begin with certain biographical detains concerning our talented and greatly esteemed Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky.
In undertaking to describe the recent and strange incidents in our town, till lately wrapped in uneventful obscurity, I find myself forced in absence of literary skill to begin my story rather far back, that is to say, with certain biographical details concerning that talented and highly-eseemed gentleman, Stepan Tromfimovitch Verhovensky.  (Modern Library 1930 edition)
In a letter written from Dresden, dated 8 October 1870, addressed to his publisher, Fyodor Dostoevsky described the difficulty he was having with the new novel he's begun writing:
For a very long time I had trouble with the beginning of the work. I rewrote it several times. To tell the truth, something happened with this novel that had never happened to me before: week after week, I would keep putting asigne the beginning and work on the ending instead... What I can guarantee is that, as the novel progresses, it will hold the reader's interest. It seems to me that the way I have it now is for the best. (Introduction)
Quotations
Stavrogin: "Every man has a right to an umbrella."
Lebyatkin: "You've defined the minimum of human rights in one short sentence, sir."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice

Variant Titles: Demons was also published as The Devils and The Possessed.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Based on a true event, in which a young revolutionary was murdered by his comrades, The Possessed provoked a storm of controversy for its harsh depiction of a ruthless band of Russian intellectuals, atheists, socialists, anarchists, and other radicals who attempt to incite the population of a small provincial town to revolt against the government. In contrast to Dostoevsky's savage portrait of these radicals and the violent ideas that have possessed them like demons, the author expresses great sympathy for workers and other ordinary people ill-served by those who presume to speak in their name.

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Book description
Pëtr Verchovenskij è il capo di un'organizzazione nichilista, e con ammirata sottomissione offre il frutto della propria attività rivoluzionaria al demoniaco Stavrogin. Quando viene ucciso Satov, un ex seguace convertitosi alla fede ortodossa, Pëtr obbliga Kirillov ad autodenunciarsi, prima del suicidio. Seguono altri delitti in apparenza privi di motivo e solo la fine di Stavrogin, trovato impiccato nel suo appartamento, sembra porre termine all'azione di questi "demonî". Un romanzo polifonico, in cui i personaggi rivelano tutte le contraddizioni di una società apparentemente colta e liberale.
(piopas)
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