Monday, January 16, 2012

“Fyodor Dostoyevsky” by Peter Leithart

Part of the Christian Encounters series

Leithart does a great job of summarizing Dostoyevsky’s life and philosophical development in an easy to read volume. The story is told in narrative form as a series of flashbacks and memories framed in a hypothetical night of conversation between Fyodor and an old friend. He manages to make the life and times of this author something that the reader can grasp, which in turn enables Dostoyevsky’s writings easier to grasp.

That has long been the challenge for this reader in regards to Dostoyevsky. I can catch a hint of genius here and there, but the distance I am kept at through cultural and historical ignorance has kept me from fully enjoying his novels. This volume has served to open those doors a bit wider, enabling me to better grasp some of the things I had been missing, without having to take a class on Russian history.

That being said, this is just an introduction. It appears that the intention here is a simple afternoon of reading and no more. It hints at, but does not detail the political and historical events of Dostoyevsky’s Russia. Most casual readers will finish the book asking more questions than they started it with and that may be a good thing. It certainly has encouraged me to try my hand at more than the couple novels I have attempted till now.

The Christian Encounters series continues to please. I really like these little biographies. Once again, however, I would have liked a bit more help in the form of a timeline of the subject’s life and some contextual world events. For my purposes I had to turn to one in my copy of “The Brothers Karamazov.”

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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