Tyler 's Reviews > The Possessed

The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
May 14, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: 19th-century
Recommended for: _Anyone
Read in January, 2003

The people and passions of the 19th century clash in this masterpiece, which comments on political conditions in Russia. The politics and ideas of the day entangle all the characters as the action unfolds, and the moral that unfolds along alongside the plot is that ideas have consequences. The accuracy of the predictions made about what would happen politically to Russia is so astonishing that the novel could be read for that reason alone. In any case, it knocked my socks off.

Always lurks more than one reason to read a Dostoyevsky, and politics does not obsure a well-turned plot. The author's ability to present several points of view adds immeasurably to the narrative power. Here one might find the secret of the book's excellence.

My own favorite character in the story is Kirillov, and the care the author takes with him hints at a soft spot Dostoyevsky nurtures even for this young nihilist. Shatov I found a warmly sympathetic character, the vessel that carries Russia in its hold. The characterization of a political meeting in a safehouse stands out in my mind for it's cunning humor, the best in 19th century literature.

One small note: it's better to read the chapter "Savrogin's Confession" in the order the author originally intended, not at the end.

I prefer the Garnett translation to the current title, "Demons." Although that was the correct Russian word, it carries a religious connotation absent from the novel except in certain places. "The Possessed" better captures in English what is happening in the novel -- the fact that ideas are driving the action, as opposed to persons, that ideas are taking posssession over people. Garnett was on-target to choose that as the English title.
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02/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben Tyler, I recommend The House of th Dead, too. Just finished it last night and it further shows Dostoevsky's amazing ability.

Tyler Thanks, Ben -- I've been thinking lately about reading something new by Dostoevsky, and that one might be the best.

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