A magnificent one-volume abridgement of one of the greatest literary biographies of our time
Joseph Frank's award-winning, five-volume Dostoevsky is widely recognized as the best biography of the writer in any language—and one of the greatest literary biographies of the past half-century. Now Frank's monumental, 2,500-page work has been skillfully abridged and condensed in this single, highly readable volume with a new preface by the author. Carefully preserving the original work's acclaimed narrative style and combination of biography, intellectual history, and literary criticism, Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time illuminates the writer's works—from his first novel Poor Folk to Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov—by setting them in their personal, historical, and above all ideological context. More than a biography in the usual sense, this is a cultural history of nineteenth-century Russia, providing both a rich picture of the world in which Dostoevsky lived and a major reinterpretation of his life and work.
This fourth installment in Frank's acclaimed, projected five-volume biography presents an astonishingly vivid, uncanny portrait of Dostoevsky's spiritual, emotional and artistic development during his crucial years abroad. Marrying his pert, reserved stenographer, Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina (his first wife died in 1864), Dostoevsky fled Russia with her in 1867 to escape harassing creditors and grasping dependents. Their obscure, lonely existence in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, until their return to Russia in 1871, was punctuated by the tragic death of their first child, Sofya, who lived only two months; by the penurious writer's frequent, disabling epileptic fits; by his mania for gambling; and by a stormy meeting with liberal, pro-Western Turgenev in Baden-Baden. The miracle implied by the book's title is that during this period, Dostoevsky wrote three major novels-Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Devils-plus two novellas, The Gambler and The Eternal Husband. Frank anchors the prophetic writer in his social and cultural milieu, tracing his struggles against Russian nihilists, his expose of the pitfalls of revolutionary politics, his messianic nationalism and his vision of an authentic Russian culture rooted in Christian morality and mystical union with the soil.