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Demons (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 24, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441412
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


? Dostoyevsky was the only psychologist from whom I had anything to learn: he belongs to the happiest windfalls of my life, happier even than the discovery of Stendhal.? ?Friedrich Nietzsche

About the Author

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), one of nineteenth-century Russia’s greatest novelists, spent four years in a convict prison in Siberia, after which he was obliged to enlist in the army. In later years his penchant for gambling sent him deeply into debt. Most of his important works were written after 1864, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, all available from Penguin Classics.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Classic Russian literature that will be enjoyed by anyone who has read his other works.
A. Gift For You
There is much that is discussed regarding God, Christ, the church, etc. providing food for philosophical as well as religious thought.
F. Sousa
His style of writing, and captivating dialogue will keep you glued to this book until you're finished.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By F. Sousa on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Demons or Devils or The Possessed, depending on which translation you pick up, is a complex book. Dostoyevsky himself admitted in a letter that he would sacrifice straightforward readability for the tendentiousness of the message(s) he transmits in this novel.

As an example the narrator Gogonov shifts from being part of the narrative and observing events to being completely detached from the tale being told. At times the reader wonders how he knows so much of what he tells. He goes from describing the plot without judgment, to judging very acutely certain occurrences and characters being described.

Demons takes on a smörgåsbord of very dense political, philosophical and religious issues. This is one of the high points of the novel, its 'inner stuffing,' standard Dostoyevsky fare. You may be forced to stop at times and re-read passages or discussions amongst the characters, to try to take them in, chew them and consider them seriously.

Dostoyevsky intended for his audience to ponder the case in point. Many have hailed him prophetic in his prediction - through Shigalyov's political utopia - of the amount of people that would be slaughtered in the 20th century due to political ideologies that did for the most part tend to tilt to the side of 'ego trips', as Robert Belknap correctly observes in the introduction - Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so on - the number being around 100 million.

Most importantly, Dostoyevsky was worried about the influence of materialist, nihilistic and atheistic ideas, aggressively transmitted, which could 'infect' or spread through the inadvertent youth of the day - and did eventually lead to the disasters Russia underwent following its 1917 revolution - when he wrote Demons.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. Makk on October 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must confess, this novel has never been my favorite of Dostoyevsky's. If you haven't already, read Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers K. first. This is his most political, abyss-facing, and toughest novel, in my opinion. As far as this translation goes, it's been a long time since I read Pevear's, but it as at least comparable. And as with other Penguin books, the notes are very helpful. I've always been an advocate of reading multiple translations, but if you only want one, this one's pretty good for your money.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By wil3 on January 31, 2013
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This book features plenty of short French phrases, as one of the characters is a multilingual university professor who uses French to assert his intelligence in casual conversation. But this book had ENDNOTES instead of FOOTNOTES, so unless you speak French you will have no idea what this character is saying (unless, of course, you like flipping back and forth while you read). But if you're really that hardcore, shouldn't you just read this in the original Russian?

The same goes for all the allusions to Pushkin and 19th century pop culture, which most translations would include in footnotes so that you can understand them as you read. But shoving these to the end, the publisher makes it a lot harder to understand this book unless you're a Professor of Russian Literature.

The book itself is worth reading. People love calling it a "flawed novel" and all sort of other self-indulgent epithets, but it's one of Dostoevsky's most philosophically-direct pieces and thus extremely relevant to the study of his writing. This edition includes the bowdlerized chapter "At Tikhon's," which a must-read after finishing the main text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg Deane on April 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Fyodor Dostoevsky's Бесы (translated either as The Possessed or The Devils) is an apocalyptic orgy of violence narrated through a sardonic voice that explorers how characters hold power over others, so that the work has a psychological approach to its subject. Like other works of Dostoevsky this novel has a prophetic quality as the possessed actors place themselves higher than laws. At the same time the author shows them to be ridiculous at their disorganized meeting where there pomposity unhinges them from their revolutionary purpose.

The book can suffer from a plethora of satirical detail however. It is as if Dostoevsky has deprived himself to deal at greater length with more serious matters so that deaths occur too quickly to impart a sobering impact.
Despite these laws, the work offers worthwhile explorations of people, God, morals, and ideology so that Dostoevsky belittles the sorts of revolutionaries who think they can effect positive change simply by destabilizing the privileged members of the high society in an insignificant provincial backwater. Dostoevsky amuses his reader as he manipulates conflicting ideas and ideals, employing a range of literary techniques, including conflicting perspectives. He uses passages from the Gospels, to denounce a nihilistic intellectual contagion among Russia's radicals through the parable of the Gadarene swine.

It may be that Dostoevsky was writing from a reactionary point of view, fearing that Russian godliness was at risk from ideas imported from Western Europe, which he saw as bustling, dominated by trade and materialism and industrialisation, where faith was supplanted by rationalism, socialism and revolution.
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