Real-life inspiration for Dostoevsky's famous murderer

The Lacenaire link is not new. What is new is the way Birmingham has alchimized scholarship into a masterful, immersive and romantic ac...


The Lacenaire link is not new. What is new is the way Birmingham has alchimized scholarship into a masterful, immersive and romantic account of the author’s life. His heart beats as Dostoyevsky, no page written a few weeks before the book’s deadline would force him to cede his royalties to a creditor for nine years, having already sold everything he could to cover his debts and those of his family. enlarged, reluctantly resolves to try dictation. And it hammers again as he, until then devoted to love, finds it little by little with Anna Snitkina, his stenographer. These episodes are the work of a talented storyteller who understands that you need scenes made from, say, concrete details from Snitkina’s diary – as opposed to quotes or a summary, with commentary from the author, to bring history to life. (The guards’ thongs were rawhide.)

This approach carries risks. At first I sometimes yearned for a better idea not only of Dostoyevsky but of Birmingham – for example, his judgment on Dostoevsky’s first novel, “Poor Folk”, and certainly how he reconciled Dostoevsky’s criticism of the revolution. French of 1848 with its participation in the anti-monarchical groups. But starting with Dostoyevsky’s time at the roulette tables in Wiesbaden, Germany – his losses spurred the front pages of “Crime and Punishment” – Birmingham maintains an exceptional balance. (The 1867 trip that Dostoevsky and Snitkina, then his wife, made to a nearby German spa town was the source of another double account of Dostoevsky’s life, Leonid Tsypkin’s “”Summer in Baden-Baden. ”)

In its concretization, the Birmingham book sometimes even improves fiction like JM Coetzee’s Dostoyevsky novel “The Master of PetersburgWhich can be frustrating in places. (“He’s wearing a dark suit of somewhat old-fashioned cut,” Coetzee writes. Old-fashioned how?) It also complicates the popular idea, certainly encouraged by Coetzee’s book, that Dostoyevsky was tormented to the point of evil. Here is Dostoevsky in love, in a selfless devotion to his brother’s ungrateful family and in the fits of ecstasy which preceded his epileptic seizures.

The reduction may be the price of the legend. Also insensitivity: My youthful readings of “Crime and Punishment” left me with the impression that it was a well-dressed plea for Christianity and suffering. But the novel, as Birmingham reminds us, is “about the problem of ideas.” it’s not a novel of ideas. In the end, it is the work of an author whose knowledge of the peculiarities that make written life seem like reality was spectacularly sharp. In this sense, among others, “The Sinner and the Saint” is a magnificent and appropriate homage.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Real-life inspiration for Dostoevsky's famous murderer
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