A Writer in His Time

Paperback - 2010
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Joseph Frank's award-winning, five-volume Dostoevsky is widely recognized as the best biography of the writer in any language--and one of the greatest literary biographies of the past half-century. Now Frank's monumental, 2500-page work has been skillfully abridged and condensed in this single, highly readable volume with a new preface by the author. Carefully preserving the original work's acclaimed narrative style and combination of biography, intellectual history, and literary criticism, Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time illuminates the writer's works--from his first novel Poor Folk to Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov --by setting them in their personal, historical, and above all ideological context. More than a biography in the usual sense, this is a cultural history of nineteenth-century Russia, providing both a rich picture of the world in which Dostoevsky lived and a major reinterpretation of his life and work.

Publisher: Princeton [N.J.] : Princeton University Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9780691128191
Characteristics: xxiii, 959 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Petrusewicz, Mary


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" D evidently had a clear grasp of his murder plot and its thematic significance. ' Not just the plot is important for the reader, but in addition a certain knowledge of the human soul (psychology), which an author has a right to expect from a reader.' " On Dec. 8 he wrote Lyubimov that ' i worked so hard that i fell ill, and the book's theme has grown longer and more complicated.' " " ' If you distort the truth of Christ by identifying it with the aims of this world, you instantly lose the meaning of Christianity; your reason must undoubtedly fall prey to disbelief; instead of the true ideal of Christ, a new Tower of Babel is constructed.' "By this time, D's illicit romance with Marya Dimitrievna had become more and more absorbing, and the need to possess her completely soon drove all other thoughts out of his mind. For the D who had just written HOUSE OF THE DEAD and WINTER NOTES, Chernysshevsky's novel could hardly have been felt except as a direct challenge." " In April 1860, D himself came into public view as a participant in some amateur theatricals. Pisemsky had the idea of presenting plays with celebrated public figures filling the roles, and D was invited to join the fun in the role of the postmaster Shpekin in Gogol's THE INSPECTOR GENERAL." "Those who wished to see the play protested publically against the unseemly uproar." " What Sartre admired in Dos Passos was the portrayal of a consciousness totally saturated with the formulas and slogans of its society." "D's passion for journalism derived from the desire to remain in touc h with the burgeoning social-cultural issues of his time and to use them for artistic purposes." "TIME was constantly on the lookout for new young writers and remained unusually rec eptive to their fledgling efforts." " The images of art have traditionally provided the objects of religious reverence because man has a need to worship something entirely transcending the bounds of human life as he knows it. Man has always displayed an unconditional need for beauty inseparable from his history; without it, as D poignantly suggests, he would perhaps not wish to go on living at all."

Jul 14, 2017

This is a great book, if you like Feodor. Mr. Frank gives a lot of details about Dostoevsky and throws in a running commentary on all his his books as well. I got bogged down with all the contemporaries who were discussed, and I skimmed the book in parts where he discussed books I was not familiar with, but that's a reflection on me, not Mr. Frank. Highly recommended. Even took this along as my "light beach read" this year. Got strange looks.


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