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Fyodor Dostoevsky, by Peter Leithart

I’ve just finished burning the midnight oil to finish reading Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart.  It was very unexpectedly, a real page-turner!  I was expecting a dry biography, and instead encountered a mixture pathos, sex, political intrigue, imprisonment, marriage, true love and faith.  Leithart does a fantastic job of telling this story through flashbacks and conversations.  I’m seriously thinking of reading this book over again tomorrow!

On a personal note, the time period of this book overlaps with when my own Russo-German ancestors lived in Russia.  They were not serfs, nobility, or intellectuals, but rather German nationals who lived in their own towns along the Volga River.  In 1874 a lot of them immigrated to America in order to avoid conscription into the Russian army.  Fyodor Dostoevsky does a good job in portraying what life was like for people at many ends of the economic and social strata in Russia during this time.  It also talks about the Western vs. Slavophil philosophical debates going on in the country during that century.  It’s no wonder my own ancestors, not being Russian, wanted to leave.

The other thoughts this book brings to mind is my own shameful ignorance about Russian literature in general.  How could I have not read any Pushkin?  How could I have not read Crime and Punishment?  I am feeling seriously uneducated, but inspired to rectify this situation immediately.

Fyodor Dostoevsky is part of a series of biographies, called “Christian Encounters”.   Don’t let the series title scare you off though, because non-Christians would enjoy reading this book as well.   Hopefully the rest of the authors are as good as Peter Leithart! 

P.S.  I received a copy of this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for my review.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


6 Comments

  1. Jean says:

    OK, that’s really funny, because I just got this title. Had no idea that you’d gotten it too, and I’m not reading the post!

  2. Jean says:

    It did make me want to read more Russian literature, and gave me a guilt complex about the book of Pushkin’s short stories that is sitting on my nightstand. Tolstoy always makes me feel the most guilty, though. I’ve read quite a bit of Dostoevsky, but no Tolstoy to speak of.

    You know what you would love, though–you should see if you can find a copy of Pushkin’s fairy tales for children. They are Russian classics. They were originally written in rhyming couplets and I have one translation of a story that keeps the rhyme and is illustrated by Bilibin (like so:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_c3YxRqkUaTA/TVOBs8z2STI/AAAAAAAABiQ/jSu1G72UH4Y/s1600/ivan_bilibin_vasilisa.jpg.jpg)–but it’s very old. Mostly my kids read our collection book, which isn’t so fragile. We have a cartoon in Russian of the same story, too, which is very nice. (I have a Russian SIL.)

    I have to confess that the first thing I always think about when I hear about Pushkin is my old Russian textbook. Many of the exercises featured characters talking about Pushkin, and especially they would stagger around mourning his early death…

  3. jenbrdsly says:

    Wow! That Bilibin illustration reminds me of Mucha, and some of the stained glass windows we saw in Prague. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphonse_Mucha

    I wonder if they knew each other.

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