This is the third essay of Stefan Zweig’s Three Masters: Balzac, Dickens, Dostoevsky, written in the early 20th century. Part biography, part literary criticism, part cultural history, the essay offers a window onto how a Central European regarded the Russian master, who died in 1881, the year Zweig was born.
Dostoevsky’s genius, in Zweig’s view, owed a debt to his illness, as Tolstoy’s did to his radiant health. Illness “enabled Dostoevsky to soar upward into a sphere of such concentrated feeling as is rarely experienced by normal men; it permitted him to penetrate into the underworld of the emotions, into the submerged regions of the psyche.”
This essay is one of the best examples of Zweig’s psychologically-informed literary criticism.