Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"Notes From A Dead House" by Fyodor Dostoevsky - A Stunning New Translation

My love for the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky has been passed down to the next two generations.  It is no accident that one of my grandsons bears the middle name of Fyodor!  The author's memoir about prison life - thinly disguised as a novel, has undergone a stunning and beautiful new translation at the hands of the gifted husband and wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Dostoevsky was initially sentenced to die by firing squad for his involvement in a Utopian socialist discussion group.  The Tsar commuted his sentence to four years in Siberia.  This book, "Notes From A Dead House" represents Dosoevsky's memories of those years, smuggled out of the prison in bits and pieces.

Most striking in this narrative is the transformation that the aristocratic protagonist undergoes as he begins to recognize the common humanity that he shares with many of the prisoners - even with the least likable among them. The language in this marvelous translation is rich and evocative. The characters we meet are memorable and idiosyncratic, in many cases giving hints at future fictional characters like Raskolnikov and members of the Karamazov family.

For any fan of Dostoevsky's remarkable oeuvre, this book is a welcome addition to your library.



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