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The definitive Dostoevsky

Joseph Frank has completed his five-volume biography of the Russian genius

By Derek Brower   76

A year before he died of emphysema in 1881, Fyodor Dostoevsky was invited to speak at a festival in Moscow, held to celebrate the unveiling of a statue of Alexander Pushkin-then, as now, considered by Russians to be their first great writer. Uniquely among authors, Dostoevsky said, Pushkin had a prophet’s ability to “infuse his spirit into the spirit of other nations.” Russia herself also had this ability, he said, to usher in a “universal brotherhood of peoples.” Dostoevsky continued: “Our land may be impoverished, but Christ himself in slavish garb traversed this impoverished land and gave his blessing.”

Dostoevsky’s…

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