Dostoevsky in love An intimate life

Alex Christofi

Book - 2021

"Dostoevsky's life was marked by brilliance and brutality. Sentenced to death as a young revolutionary, he survived mock execution and Siberian exile to live through a time of seismic change in Russia, eventually being accepted into the Tsar's inner circle. He had three great love affairs, each overshadowed by debilitating epilepsy and addiction to gambling. Somehow, amidst all this, he found time to write short stories, journalism and novels such as Crime and Punishment, The Idio...t and The Brothers Karamazov, works now recognised as among the finest ever written. In Dostoevsky in Love Alex Christofi weaves carefully chosen excerpts of the author's work with the historical context to form an illuminating and often surprising whole. The result is a novelistic life that immerses the reader in a grand vista of Dostoevsky's world: from the Siberian prison camp to the gambling halls of Europe; from the dank prison cells of the Tsar's fortress to the refined salons of St Petersburg. Along the way, Christofi relates the stories of the three women whose lives were so deeply intertwined with Dostoevsky's: the consumptive widow Maria; the impetuous Polina who had visions of assassinating the Tsar; and the faithful stenographer Anna, who did so much to secure his literary legacy." -- inside front jacket flap.

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BIOGRAPHY/Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
London ; New York : Bloomsbury Continuum 2021.
Language
English
Physical Description
xiv, 236 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 224-229) and index.
ISBN
9781472964694
1472964691
Main Author
Alex Christofi (author)
  • Prologue: Life is a gift (1849)
  • White nights (1821-45)
  • Circles within circles (1846-49)
  • The Dead House (1850-54)
  • The Devil's Sandbox (1854-59)
  • Young Russia (1860-62)
  • Polina (1863)
  • Epoch's End (1864-66)
  • The Gambler (1866-67)
  • The Idiot (1867)
  • Death for the Russian (1868-71)
  • The Citizen (1872-77)
  • The Prophet (1878-81)
  • Epilogue.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* On his deathbed, Dostoevsky declared to his wife, "Remember, Anna, I always loved you passionately." In this probing life study, Christofi illuminates the formative power of the great novelist's passionate love. Readers see how Anna, who refuses the writer's first proposal, finally responds to his romantic overtures by becoming his unfailing support, enabling him to achieve artistic greatness despite episodes of debilitating epilepsy, compulsive gambling, and desperate indebtedness. Indeed, it is Anna who serves as amanuensis as Dostoevsky dictates The Idiot, and as business manager for the publication of Devils. Readers come to understand why, when Anna grows perilously ill, Dostoevsky cries out, "How can I live without her? She is everything to me." But Christofi's assiduously researched narrative also brings into view the two women who precede Anna in Dostoevsky's love: Maria, whose premature death ends the writer's frustrating first marriage, and Polina, whose humble origins make her youthful ambitions singularly inspiring. Beyond Dostoevsky's love for these three women, readers discern other potent loves: fraternal love for his brother Mikhail; paternal love for his four children; religious love for his Saviour. Readers come to recognize how Dostoevsky's diverse loves all fuse in his culminating masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. Literary scholarship laudably synthesizing insightful analysis with emotional empathy. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Fiction writer and book editor Christofi (Glass) provides a novelistic account of the life of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, with a focus on the Russian writer's romantic life. Christofi traces Dostoyevsky's miserable childhood, tempestuous adulthood, and novel-writing career, but also introduces readers to the women in Dostoyevsky's life. They included Apollinaria Prokofievna Suslov, whom Dostoyevsky had an affair with after she submitted a short story to his literary journal, Time, and Anna Grigorievna Snitkina, who met Dostoyevsky after he advertised for a copyist for The Gambler, and married him soon after. Christofi's approach pays off in his recreations of intimate scenes—"Deserted by language, Fyodor kissed hand over and over, and they drank hot chocolate together"—and in his revelations about Dostoyevsky's fiction, as when the novelist confesses, before writing The Brothers Karamazov, "There is a novel in my head and my heart, and it's begging to be written." Christofi succeeds in revealing Dostoyevsky's personality in ways no ordinary biographical treatment could. (Mar.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Weaves carefully chosen excerpts of the author's work with the historical context to form an illuminating and often surprising whole. The result is a novelistic life that immerses the reader in a grand vista of Dostoevsky's world. Along the way, Christofi relates the stories of the three women whose lives were so deeply intertwined with Dostoevsky's: the consumptive widow Maria; the impetuous Polina who had visions of assassinating the Tsar; and the faithful stenographer Anna, who did so much to secure his literary legacy. Reading between the lines of his fiction, Christofi reconstructs the memoir Dostoevsky might have written had life - and literary stardom - not intervened"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

'A daring and mesmerizing twist on the art of biography' – Douglas Smith, author of Rasputin: The Biography'Anyone who loves [Dostoevsky's] novels will be fascinated by this book' – Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich NietzscheDostoevsky's life was marked by brilliance and brutality. Sentenced to death as a young revolutionary, he survived mock execution and Siberian exile to live through a time of seismic change in Russia, eventually being accepted into the Tsar's inner circle. He had three great love affairs, each overshadowed by debilitating epilepsy and addiction to gambling. Somehow, amidst all this, he found time to write short stories, journalism and novels such as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov, works now recognised as among the finest ever written.In Dostoevsky in Love Alex Christofi weaves carefully chosen excerpts of the author's work with the historical context to form an illuminating and often surprising whole. The result is a novelistic life that immerses the reader in a grand vista of Dostoevsky's world: from the Siberian prison camp to the gambling halls of Europe; from the dank prison cells of the Tsar's fortress to the refined salons of St Petersburg. Along the way, Christofi relates the stories of the three women whose lives were so deeply intertwined with Dostoevsky's: the consumptive widow Maria; the impetuous Polina who had visions of assassinating the Tsar; and the faithful stenographer Anna, who did so much to secure his literary legacy. Reading between the lines of his fiction, Christofi reconstructs the memoir Dostoevsky might have written had life – and literary stardom – not intervened. He gives us a new portrait of the artist as never before seen: a shy but devoted lover, an empathetic friend of the people, a loyal brother and friend, and a writer able to penetrate to the very depths of the human soul.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A highly original and immersive new biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky, published to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth