Retelling Dostoyevsky: Literary Responses and Other Observations

Retelling Dostoyevsky: Literary Responses and Other Observations

Retelling Dostoyevsky: Literary Responses and Other Observations

Retelling Dostoyevsky: Literary Responses and Other Observations

Synopsis

"Retelling Dostoyevksy studies the Russian author through recreations of his novels by nine twentieth-century writers deeply influenced by him. It examines ten individual novels - two by Joseph Conrad, the others by Richard Wright, Leonid Leonov, Vladimir Nabokov, Bernard Malamud, David Storey, J. M. Coetzee, Frank Herbert, and Albert Camus. Half are versions of Crime and Punishment, the others are of The Idiot, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov. These retellings shed surprising light on the creative process of each of the novelists, and are valuable as highly imaginative, interpretive criticism of Dostoyevsky's novels as well. The study also deals with influence as a phenomenon. It identifies motives particular to each novelist for his creative reuse of Dostoyevsky, and explores theoretic approaches to the problem of influence through Mikhail Bakhtin and Harold Bloom." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book IS ABOUT THE FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY WHO LIVES IN THE imagination of a select group of authors who have written novelistic responses to one or another of his major works. Five of these responses are to Crime and Punishment (by Richard Wright, Joseph Conrad, Leonid Leonov, Vladimir Nabokov and Bernard Malamud); one is to The Idiot (by the brilliant, nearly forgotten British author David Storey); one is to The Possessed (by J. M. Coetzee); and three are to The Brothers Karamazov (by Conrad again, by Frank Herbert, and by Albert Camus). A number of other authors have written novels that lean on Dostoyevsky to varying degrees: for example, Ralph Ellison in Invisible Man (1952) and Cristina Peri Rossi in Dostoevsky's Last Night (1992). My interest here, however, is in full-scale novelistic treatments that recast and reinterpret Dostoyevsky's work for a different time.

I find that each novelist's creative reuse of Dostoyevsky springs from a particular motive, and I explore theoretical approaches to the problem of influence—Bloom and Bakhtin— testing them for what they show about ways of retelling (ways in which a dominant precursor is transformed by acolytes). These retellings shed surprising light on the creative process of each of the novelists and are valuable as highly imaginative interpretive criticism of Dostoyevsky's novels.

Conrad and Nabokov, struggling for their own creative identities, repelled (by Dostoyevsky's ideology and aesthetics) and yet obsessed by him, wish to alert readers to what they see as the danger of his influence. Nabokov creates an ingeniously intricate parody, ostensibly as a monument to his contempt for, and freedom from, Dostoyevsky. Conrad's parodies are vehicles for painfully intimate acknowledgments about himself as a son and a writer. Leonov's greatest novel looks to Dostoyevsky for its polyphonic aesthetic and the freedom to tell itself. Coetzee similarly tries to reproduce the texture of . . .

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