Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to His Family and Friends

Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to His Family and Friends

Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to His Family and Friends

Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to His Family and Friends

Excerpt

"The truth is, I find it terribly difficult to write letters; I have no talent for it" (no. LXVI). Thus as an elderly man Dostoevsky ended a long missive. Nevertheless, he penned--literally--a considerable number of letters. The four-volume Moscow edition of them, which was completed last year, contains over nine hundred items, and undoubtedly many have not been preserved, while some may not yet have come to light. His not infrequent absences from home--one of them, which was involuntary, lasting a decade--his activities as author and editor, his position as a public figure to whom strangers turned for counsel and spiritual comfort--all served to swell his correspondence.

Aside from the semi-fictional record of his life in prison, and some fragmentary reminiscences in A Writer's Diary, a monthly which he issued intermittently in his last years and to which he was the sole contributor, he published nothing in the nature of memoirs. The autobiographical impulse asserted itself in his stories and novels. In fashioning them he drew heavily on his intimate experiences and rare self-knowledge. He placed his characters in situations in which he had found himself, endowed them with his own traits, made them the mouthpieces of his convictions and obsessions. It is as though he were driven by an urge to reveal what he felt and thought, to confess. Naturally, his avowals are often oblique, ambiguous, disguised. The letters, on the other hand, are direct, outspoken, unequivocal, if occasionally less than candid, for example when he tries to get an advance from a tight- fisted publisher. He had great powers of observation and a unique insight into the workings of the mind, but he was also a visionary . . .

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