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200 × 130 × 16 mm
240 pages
32 illustrations
01 Feb 2012
Critical Lives

Fyodor Dostoevsky Robert Bird

Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Demons, The Idiot – the complex and prolific Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) is responsible for some of our greatest literary works and most enduring characters. He is acknowledged by critics as a pre-eminent writer of psychological fiction and a precursor of twentieth-century existentialism.

Set in the troubled political and social world of nineteenth-century Russia, this book describes how Dostoevsky’s craving for social justice spurred his quest for innovative literary form. Robert Bird traces Dostoevsky’s path from being his impoverished family’s brightest hope to political rebellion and, finally, to becoming a writer who fought his battles through the printed word. Bird considers the period Dostoevsky spent in prison after his arrest and near-execution in 1849 and his subsequent exile with hard labour in Siberia, demonstrating how these gruelling experiences contributed to the writing of such unclassifiable fiction as Notes from Underground. This new critical interpretation of Dostoevsky’s work and biography will pique the interest of any lover of literature and Russian history.

‘Writing a biography of Dostoevskii after Joseph Franks acclaimed five-volume Dostoevsky was always going to present a significant challenge, and Robert Birds lively and well-illustrated study of the authors life and work for the Critical Lives series in no way attempts to replicate the comprehensive nature of its illustrious predecessor. Instead it presents a concise and allusive approach that integrates Dostoevskiis writing successfully with key episodes from his life, and poses questions designed to take the reader back to the text, rather than providing simple answers that could only be glib in the limited space available . . . a useful and readable introduction to an enormous subject that perhaps could never be adequately squeezed into a work of this length, while also offering thought-provoking insights to pique the interest of the specialist.’ — Modern Language Review

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Robert Bird is Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago and is the author of several books including Andrei Rublev (2005) and Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema (Reaktion, 2008).

Introduction: Faces of Dostoevsky
1. A Noble Vocation
2. Ten Years of Silence
3. The Name
4. The Wager
5. In Suspense
6. Dreams and Demons
7. Gestures of Engagement
8. Pilgrimage
Epilogue: The Convict

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Photo Acknowledgements