Other Literary Forms
In addition to short fiction, Fyodor Dostoevski wrote novels, nonfiction, criticism, and Yevgeniya Grande (1844), a translation of Honoré de Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet (1833). In his own time, Dostoevski was exceptionally influential, especially through Dnevnik pisatelya (1876-1877, 1800-1881; The Diary of a Writer, 1949), a series of miscellaneous writings that he published occasionally in St. Petersburg. Dostoevski also wrote a series of essays on Russian literature, some feuilletons, and the well-known travelogue “Zimniye zametki o letnikh vpechatleniyakh” (1863; “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions,” 1955). His most famous contribution in his own time was his speech in Alexander Pushkin’s honor, given on the occasion of the dedication of a monument to Pushkin in 1880.
More Literary Forms
The collected works of Fyodor Dostoevski (dahs-tuh-YEHF-skee) are available in many Russian editions, starting from 1883. The most carefully prepared of these, comprising some thirty volumes, is the Leningrad Nauka edition, which began publishing in 1972. A wide variety of selected works are also available in English. While the novels dominate Dostoevski’s later creative period, he began his career with sketches, short stories, and novellas, and he continued to write shorter pieces throughout his working life. These works do not exhibit the same unity of theme as the major novels, though many of them in one way or another involve Dostoevski’s favorite topic, human duality.
Dostoevski’s nonfictional writing is diverse. In his monthly Dnevnik pisatelya (1876-1877, 1880-1881; The Diary of a Writer, 1949), he included commentary on sociopolitical issues of the time, literary analyses, travelogues, and fictional sketches. He also contributed many essays to his own journals and other publications. The nonfictional writings often clash with the views expressed in the novels and consequently enjoy wide circulation among specialists for comparative purposes. Equally popular is his correspondence, comprising several volumes in his collected works. The notebooks for the major novels, as well as other background comments, are also included in the collection. They became available in English in editions published by the University of Chicago Press during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
In the world literature of the nineteenth century, Fyodor Dostoevski has few rivals. Some of his characters have penetrated literary consciousness and produced a new generation in the works of prominent twentieth century authors such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Jorge Luis Borges. He initiated psychological realism, inspiring both Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. His novels are read in translation in twenty-six languages. Dostoevski was originally suppressed in the Soviet Union, only to reemerge as even more influential in the second half of the twentieth century, finding a whole new generation of admirers in his transformed homeland. Even though his style is markedly nineteenth century, Dostoevski still seems quite modern even in the twentieth century.
Both Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevski, the giants of the Russian novel during the era preceding the 1917 October Revolution, are firmly part of the Western literary tradition today, but whereas Tolstoy’s outlook is solidly rooted in the nineteenth century, Dostoevski’s ideas belong to modern times. His novels go far beyond the parameters of aesthetic literature; they are studied not only by literary historians and critics but also by psychologists, philosophers, and theologians the world over. Each discipline discerns a different drift in Dostoevski’s work, and few agree on what the author’s basic tenets are, but all claim him as their hero. His contemporaries, too, were at a loss to categorize him, primarily because his style and subject matter had little in common with accepted literary norms. Russia’s most prominent writing, as espoused by Ivan Turgenev and Tolstoy, was smooth and lyric. While Turgenev analyzed topical social...
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