DOSTOEVSKY by David Magarsback
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Dostoevsky is the Job and Prometheus of Russian literature, a mass of apocalyptic contradictions, a demon-haunted God-seeker, an anarchist and an autocrat, and a powerful writer who has become the prime psychologist of our modern temper. Little wonder, then, that no net- biographically speaking, has been strong enough, sure enough, sure enough, to catch him. Some stunning attempts have been made, and probably the best of the lot is this latest, a closely interwoven study. If not as fully rounded a portrait as Magarshack's earlier Turgenev, Chekhov and Gogol, that is the subject's fault- not the scholar's. Using as many letters and diaries of Dostoevsky and his intimates as he could lay hold of, Magarshack elaborates upon the essential enigmas: Dostoevsky's childhood and the murder by serfs of his nobleman father; the Byronic-inspired years of revolt and conspiratorial clans; the famous death sentence and the last minute pardon; the Siberian penal servitude and epileptic fits, his marriage to a consumptive widow who called him jailbird; the tormented liaison with Pauline and the compulsive Baden-Baden gambling; his sado-masochistic involvements; the conflicts with censors; his turnabout from arch-radical to arch-revolutionary; the second marriage with young Anna; finally the amazing middle age when for over two decades he created his masterworks and gave us nihilists, student revolutionaries, prostitutes, assassins, monks, fommes fatales- the whole floodtide of human freedom, messianic nationalism and the theocratic millennium. Said Dostoevsky: To be Russian means to be universal. Though long out of favor with Sovietized Russia, Dostoevsky's place elsewhere is as secure as anyone's: now the Magarshack close-up can only add more inches to so awesome a status.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1963
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World