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Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881 Paperback – September 22, 2003
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From Library Journal
These two works add immensely to our understanding of Dostoevsky, though they have quite different purposes: Frank completes his monumental biography of Dostoevsky, while Scanlan examines the Russian writer's philosophical thought. Scanlan (emeritus, philosophy, Ohio State Univ.) argues that while much has been said about Dostoevsky as a writer, he has rarely been treated as a philosopher. Yet through his writings, he explored a variety of philosophical issues, primarily concerning the nature of humankind. Scanlan studies Dostoevsky's nationalism, opposition to rational egotism, and beliefs about our eternal souls, moral agency, and aesthetic needs. Of course, Dostoevsky's philosophy was framed within a Christian worldview, and Scanlan does excellent work discussing Dostoevsky's ideas in terms of his religious faith. Readers wanting to learn more about the thought of one of Russia's great writers will find this work essential.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Like the life it chronicles, Frank's magisterial biography of Dostoevsky concludes in the radiance of rare achievement. In this fifth and final volume, Frank surpasses even the brilliance of the earlier volumes in probing the literary genius that rose to an unexpected zenith in his Brothers Karamazov. Both in illuminating the historical context for this masterpiece and in celebrating its imaginative artistry, Frank amplifies Dostoevsky's singular contribution to world literature. No one understands better than Frank the torturous process through which Dostoevsky converted his personal observations into deathless characters--the impulsive sensualist, Dimitri; the cynical rationalist, Ivan; the self-sacrificing idealist, Alyosha. Frank likewise surpasses other commentators in capturing the defining moment in Russian culture when Dostoevsky triumphed over Turgenev with his famous Pushkin speech. But Frank also confronts the failures of Dostoevsky's final years: the legal missteps in editing The Citizen; the wooden plotting of A Raw Youth; the chauvinistic polemics of the Diary of a Writer. And in narrating the author's personal life, Frank opens to the reader Dostoevsky's moments of deepest vulnerability: his rage against his wife, Anna, when a prank went awry; his grief when his three-year-old son unexpectedly died; his anguish when his rival, Tolstoy, apostatized from Christianity. The complexities in Frank's nuanced portrait well reflect a central motif of Dostoevsky's own fiction: the irreducible mystery of the human soul. A landmark biography, certain to win praise from scholars and Dostoevsky readers everywhere. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Whew! So much for Dostoevsky being a "sloppy writer."
He was also, in a strange way, the world's first blogger! He did it without computers or the Internet, but his journal "A Writer's Diary" was almost exactly what good bloggers create today: it was written by himself (100 percent) and actually sold very well. It was this "blog" which brought him to national prominence and fame, as well as his public readings, which moved audiences to tears and brought fifteen or twenty standing ovations.
As for "The Brothers Karamazov," at some level it cannot be "explained" --- literary masterpieces do not lend themselves to "explanation" very well: they create and exist in their own world, from "The Iliad" through "The Little Prince." But Joseph Frank surely provides all the available explanatory background, and it is actually thrilling to see all the little pieces of Dostoevsky's life coming together as he finally and confidently creates the masterwork which stunned his countrymen, and still stuns the world.
Books are gateways to other worlds. Nineteenth-century Russia is so different from twenty-first century America that Frank's work amounts to a magic-carpet ride, transporting us to an alien yet extremely important time and place, where vast intellectual and social forces were getting ready to completely shatter the "Old Russia" and give birth to something totally unexpected and vastly malignant. Abstract ideas such as "Utopian Socialism" and "Left Hegelian atheism" --- the intellectual brew stirred up by Chernyshevsky and many others --- were preparing the ground for the coup led by Lenin, and the Communist government that eventually produced sixty million corpses.
This biography winds up being about much more than Dostoevsky --- it has to be about much more. It will open your eyes to the world of nineteenth-century philosophy and literature in a completely new way. Names such as Schiller, George Sand, Eugene Sue, and Victor Hugo take on new aspects and are seen in a new light. I would compare this experience to a really excellent graduate course taught by a brilliant teacher.
Highest possible recommendation!
Previous volumes in the series are: Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849; Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859; Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865; and Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871.
It was during the final decade of his life, 1871-1881, that Dostoevsky wrote Diary of a Writer and his greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Many pages of Frank's fifth volume deals with analzying these two works (140 pages for The Brothers Karamazov alone).
With impressive literary scholarship, Frank throws light on the historical, political, economic, social, cultural, and literary setting within which Dostoevsky created his works of art, novels of great psychological depth.
For example, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: "Dostoevsky, the only psychologist, by the way, from whom I had anything to learn; he is one of the happiest accidents of my life, even more so than my discovery of Stendhal."
Dostoevsky traced the roots of the evils in Russian society to a loss of religious faith. By "religious faith" he meant specifically the Christian faith of the Russian Orthodox Church. He thought the Roman Catholic Church was a distortion and perversion of true Christianity. (See the harangue Dostoevsky puts into the mouth of Prince Myshkin in Part Four, Chapter VII, of The Idiot.
Of particular interest is Frank's discussion of Dostoevsky's philosophical thinking (framed, of course, within a Christian worldview), such as his ruminations on Russian nationalism, rational egoism, and the freedom of the will, and his grave concerns over the adverse moral and political effects of atheism and nihilism.
Frank soft-pedals Dostoevsky's notorious anti-Semitism, seeking to exonerate his hero as being simply "a child of his time."
Although one finds many things to dislike about Dostoevsky, one cannot help being impressed by his literary genius. Recognizing the excellence of Dostoevsky's art, Frank devotes the lion's share of his volume not to the man himself but to the man's literary production.
While this is surely not the fault of Joseph Frank, one is depressed by the seemingly endless fare of Russian sectarian bickering and murky political maneuverings. One breathes a huge sigh of relief to escape this oppressive atmosphere.