Dostoevsky: A Self-Portrait

Dostoevsky: A Self-Portrait

Dostoevsky: A Self-Portrait

Dostoevsky: A Self-Portrait

Excerpt

Whether his works and influence are approved or deplored, Fëddor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky is now almost universally acknowledged to be one of the greatest and most significant figures of the nineteenth century, but when he died, eighty years ago (28 January/9 February 1881), his importance was still not fully recognized even in Russia and, because of language difficulties, he had hardly been heard of at all outside that country. The first English translation of any of his works was of The House of the Dead, which appeared in 1881 under the title of Buried Alive: or Ten Years Life of Penal Servitude in Russia. Crime and Punishment came out in English in 1886, and The Idiot, as well as a number of minor novels, during the next two or three years, but The Brothers Karamazov had to wait for Constance Garnett Works of F. Dostoevsky (1912), and Memoirs from Underground until 1913. There were French translations considerably earlier than English, but these circulated for the most part inside Russia itself, and it was 1884 (when translations of Crime and Punishment and The Insulted and Injured were published in France) before the ordinary French reader had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with Dostoevsky's work, although a number of critical studies of the author had appeared earlier. Even excellent translations (and neither the first English nor the first French translations can claim to be that) suffer from the handicap of having lost the evocative power of the language and allusions of the original, but the impact of the novels nevertheless made itself felt in course of time. Interest not only in the works themselves but also in the life and personality of the extraordinary genius who created them has grown steadily, books about both have multiplied, and there are now innumerable biographies and critical studies . . .

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