Review 1886: Dostoevsky in Love

Up until now, it has seemed to me that biographies fall into two categories: more academic works that are full of notes and citations and are sometimes turgid or too detailed or works meant primarily for the public that often list no backup material whatsoever and are sometimes sensational or even untruthful. Dostoevsky in Love makes an interesting compromise between the two. It is short at a couple hundred pages, it does include notes, and it somehow distills a sense of the true person that pages and pages of detail may not. Dostoevsky lived an interesting life and Christofi relates the events and Dostoevsky’s ideas in an interesting way, including quotations from his work to illustrate his points.

Dostoevsky’s life was difficult. He was poor for most of it, yet one reason was his generosity. (Unfortunately, another was his addiction to gambling, which he finally conquered.) Most of his life was spent in ill health, including epilepsy, serious bladder infections, and finally emphysema. As a young author, his first work was acclaimed, his next reviled, and then he was arrested for his radical politics and spent four years in Siberia (after suffering through a fake execution), followed by a stint of extra compulsory military service (he had already completed his usual service) with years before he was allowed to go to either Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Finally, in the last few years of his life, he gained the recognition he deserved, but he was still so poor that his wife Anna had no money to bury him with.

I found this to be an absorbing book. I have always wondered why most of Dostoevsky’s characters seemed to be in a frenzy, and now I think it’s because he himself was often in a frenzy, beset as he was with cares.

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5 thoughts on “Review 1886: Dostoevsky in Love

  1. RussophileReads July 7, 2022 / 4:35 pm

    So happy to see this book reviewed here! It’s been on my To Read list for ages . . . I should really give it a try.

    • whatmeread July 7, 2022 / 5:59 pm

      I enjoyed it. Interesting to learn more about F. D.

  2. Silvia July 7, 2022 / 8:49 pm

    Great review of a beloved author. His book The Gambler is a novella that depicts gambling addiction like no other. I knew he drew from experience, as you said about his characters. Glad this bio was in that sweet middle.

  3. thecontentreader July 9, 2022 / 5:12 am

    Thank you for this interesting review. I have read other biographies of Dostoyevski, but this sounds like another one I have to read. A sad life. Sometimes I think that miserable people write the best books. He is anyway a fascinating character.

    • whatmeread July 9, 2022 / 9:55 am

      I don’t know that I would come to that conclusion (the one about miserable people). Certainly it might help to understand other people if you’ve had some drama in your own.

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