Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life by Alex Christofi - review by Donald Rayfield

Donald Rayfield

The Eternal Husband

Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life

By

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Dostoevsky’s character, experiences and writings have generated more studies than can be read in a lifetime. You can choose between the all-encompassing five-volume biography by Joseph Frank and brief lives by André Gide and Anthony Briggs. Some authors focus on just one aspect: Konstantin Mochulsky on religious searching, Geir Kjetsaa on the genesis of the novels. Alex Christofi boldly goes where others have trodden before: into Dostoevsky’s love life. Arguably, it is relevant to the themes of his novels and his development as a writer; certainly the topic is more exciting than his philosophical evolution or the literary influences that shaped him. The question remains whether Dostoevsky used his two wives, Maria Isaeva and Anna Snitkina, and his mistress, Apollinaria Suslova, as sources for invented heroines.

Christofi has excellent Russian and knows the critical literature. Being a novelist, he is a proficient storyteller. His reflections on facts or possibilities are intelligent. His excursions are amusing, though often irrelevant: the inclusion of a quotation from an obscene medieval birch-bark letter recently found in the bogs near Staraya

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