Aspects of Novelistic Technique in Dostoevskii’s Besy
Dostoevskii’s novels were once considered rude and barbarous, like the country whence they came: the expansive and tormented analyses of psychological and spiritual anguish were stirring stuff indeed, but there was thought to be little point in seeking technical and artistic accomplishment as well. The view that Dostoevskii was all soul and no skill has now passed into history, and the present chapter does not seek to fight the battle afresh. But the old view was not altogether absurd: it is difficult to comprehend that a writer so gifted with the surging force of creative imagination can at the same time command a disciplined, subtle mastery of the most delicate devices of his art; and the difficulty is compounded when art is used to conceal art. The contrast between the fractured, jagged surface and the cool craftsmanship beneath it is particularly acute in Dostoevskii’s most turblent work, Besy (The Devils’, 1871–72).2
KeywordsCreative Imagination Cattle Disease Surging Force Firm Grip Present Chapter
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- 1.Leon Edel (ed.), Henry James Letters, Vol. IV (London, 1984), p. 619. (Henry James to Hugh Walpole, 19 May 1912).Google Scholar
- 2.All references are to F. M. Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh (Leningrad, 1972-), Vol. X (1974). Subsequent references in the text will give either volume and page number (X, 111) or volume, part and chapter/subsection number (X, I, 1/1) as seems appropriate.Google Scholar
- 3.See Gene D. Fitzgerald, ‘The Chronology of F. M. Dostoevskij’s The Possessed’, Slavic and East European Journal, XXVII (1983), 19–46. Fitzgerald overlooks the reference to the ‘late Herzen’ (X, 276). Herzen died early in 1870, which gives a simple method of fixing the time of the ‘present’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 4.Geir Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (London, Macmillan, 1988), p. 255.Google Scholar