Summary (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Perhaps Fyodor Dostoevski’s greatest literary achievement was to marry the novel of ideas to the novel of mystery and crime, thereby creating a philosophical novel-drama, or metaphysical thriller. To be sure, he has glaring faults: His construction and style are often congested; his tone tends to be feverish; his language has sometimes unnerving changes of pace and rhythm; his pathos can become bathos; he crowds his fiction with more characters, incidents, and ideas than most readers can reasonably absorb; and he can burden his plots with irrelevant excursions and pronouncements. Yet his vision, grasp, and skill in dramatizing the complexities and contradictions of man’s nature exceed those of any other novelist. His psychology is amazingly modern in its emphasis on the irrational nature of man, on the human psyche as far subtler and more paradoxical than previous writers realized. He anticipates many of the findings of contemporary depth psychology in his awareness of the personality’s duality, of the roles played by unconscious drives, and of the symbolic function of dreams. His is a creative process that grasps intuitively not only the outline but also the philosophical implications of events. His characters are wholly absorbed by their thoughts and emotions: They live as they think and feel, translating their ideas and passions into entirely appropriate actions. Dostoevski’s hypnotic art, filled with a fury that sometimes verges on hysteria, prepares...
(The entire section is 245 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The novels and stories of Fyodor Dostoevski are explorations of human nature and the nature of the religious experience. His vision is ambivalent, verging on the cynically pessimistic and burdened with the demons of human weakness. Yet in the conflating design of their characterization and plot structures, the works provide a rich poetic texture of compelling truth about humankind’s personal and religious values. His thought is radical and prophetic, and his art is confrontational. His novels are less an examination of religious ideology than a discernment of spirituality. Dostoevski asserts that life and art are meaningful. The nature of that meaning, however, is troubling, fraught with danger, and necessary to grasp.
(The entire section is 112 words.)