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A Writer's Diary and Other Works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
« on: October 14, 2008, 05:53:34 PM »
In 1873 Dostoyevsky assumed the editorship of the conservative journal Grazhdanin (“The Citizen”), where he published an irregular column entitled “Dnevnik pisatelya” (“The Diary of a Writer”). He left Grazhdanin to write Podrostok (1875; A Raw Youth, also known as The Adolescent), a relatively unsuccessful and diffuse novel describing a young man's relations with his natural father.

In 1876–77 Dostoyevsky devoted his energies to Dnevnik pisatelya, which he was now able to bring out in the form he had originally intended. A one-man journal, for which Dostoyevsky served as editor, publisher, and sole contributor, the Diary represented an attempt to initiate a new literary genre. Issue by monthly issue, the Diary created complex thematic resonances among diverse kinds of material: short stories, plans for possible stories, autobiographical essays, sketches that seem to lie on the boundary between fiction and journalism, psychological analyses of sensational crimes, literary criticism, and political commentary. The Diary proved immensely popular and financially rewarding, but as an aesthetic experiment it was less successful, probably because Dostoyevsky, after a few intricate issues, seemed unable to maintain his complex design. Instead, he was drawn into expressing his political views, which, during these two years, became increasingly extreme. Specifically, Dostoyevsky came to believe that western Europe was about to collapse, after which Russia and the Russian Orthodox church would create the kingdom of God on earth and so fulfill the promise of the Book of Revelation. In a series of anti-Catholic articles, he equated the Roman Catholic church with the socialists because both are concerned with earthly rule and maintain (Dostoyevsky believed) an essentially materialist view of human nature. He reached his moral nadir with a number of anti-Semitic articles.

Because Dostoyevsky was unable to maintain his aesthetic design for the Diary, its most famous sections are usually known from anthologies and so are separated from the context in which they were designed to fit. These sections include four of his best short stories—“Krotkaya” (“The Meek One”), “Son smeshnogo cheloveka” (“The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”), “Malchik u Khrista na elke” (“The Heavenly Christmas Tree”), and “Bobok”—as well as a number of autobiographical and semifictional sketches, including “Muzhik Marey” (“The Peasant Marey”), “Stoletnaya” (“A Hundred-Year-Old Woman”), and a satire, “Spiritizm. Nechto o chertyakh Chrezychaynaya khitrost chertey, esli tolko eto cherti” (“Spiritualism. Something about Devils. The Extraordinary Cleverness of Devils, If Only These Are Devils”).

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The Possessed: A Novel By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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