Lawrence didn't like Dostoevsky, accused him of ""mixing God and Sadism,"" so that, like the spiritual ""poseur"" that he...



Lawrence didn't like Dostoevsky, accused him of ""mixing God and Sadism,"" so that, like the spiritual ""poseur"" that he is, he ""can nicely stick his head between the feet of Christ, and waggle his behind in the air."" Since this sort of silly envious reproach is still heard from time to time in America, it's good to have Leonid Grossman's scrupulous, sympathetic portrait of his countryman, a moving and scholarly work, which, though written in the noble-sounding literary style of the past, does prove conclusively that Russians understand their great men better than any foreigner can. Grossman acclaims Dostoevsky for creating ""the novel of passion, moral quest, acute psychological struggle and grandiose 'eternal' types, such as 'the great sinner,' 'the beautiful man' and the 'penitent Magdalene.'"" But Dostoevsky did more: He was the first to blend the confessional tale with philosophical reflection, the raw melodrama, the extraordinary secrets of the ordinary world with a thoughtful, frightening sense of man's contingency in the universe. His novels are remarkable both for their brilliantly observed naturalistic details and for the startling hallucinatory qualities he imparts to them. Dostoevsky is a master of the ""double,"" the demonic prompter always haunting Raskolnikov, Myshkin, or Stavrogin, urging them to make the supreme leap, to question the grounds of one's being, sacrifice one's illusions, test one's faith. In these and other matters he is the precursor of the existentialists, the crisis theologians, and of Freud. Historically he looks first toward a socialist millennium and then away from that to an evangelical redemption with Russia as the salvation of the world; psychologically he tries to provoke man into revealing his nakedness and then sheds compassionate tears over his bruised and exposed self. Grossman is quite right to accent his poetic nature. Like Pushkin, Dostoevsky wanted to ""burn men's hearts with the word!

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1974


Page Count: -

Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1974