A few years after the publication of the fifth and final volume of my books on Dostoevsky (2002), the idea was broached of attempting to follow the model provided by Leon Edel with his five-volume work on Henry James. This multivolumed text, shortened to one, has been highly praised and widely read; and it was suggested by Princeton University Press that perhaps a one-volume condensation of my five, if done properly, would be equally welcomed. At first I encountered such a prospect with some reluctance. The length of my treatment of Dostoevsky was the result of placing his life and writings in the context of a much larger social, historical, and ideological background than had previously been attempted; and I did not wish to lose the new insights that, as I was pleased to see widely acknowledged, this context provided. Moreover, my books contained independent analyses of both his literary and journalistic writings that I wished to remain intact as far as possible. In them I had tried to illuminate Dostoevsky's unique fusion of the issues of his own life and time with those both of Russian culture as a whole and of the religious-metaphysical “accursed questions” about the meaning of life that had always plagued Western mankind. Hence my hesitation about a one-volume edition; but this was overcome when I was assured that my original volumes would remain in print, and so would be easily available to new readers wishing for a wider horizon.
The decision thus was made to search for an editor to undertake the arduous and taxing task of composing the one-volume manuscript. The choice eventually fell on Mary Petrusewicz, an experienced writer and editor with a PhD degree in Russian literature who taught undergraduate and continuing education courses in the humanities (including courses on Dostoevsky) at Stanford University. Her editorial duties, performed in an exemplary manner after initial consultation for safeguarding what I considered essential, took two years to be completed. I then reviewed the resulting manuscript and made key authorial additions, adjustments, and textual revisions to ensure that this condensed book represented the best and smoothest adaptation of the five previous volumes. She has herself described the principles that guided her excellent work in the Editor's Note appended to the present book (p. 933) and that, as the reader will see, focuses on what seemed to me of greatest importance—to bring out, as she says, “the full power of Dostoevsky's texts.”