Greg Brown's Reviews > The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them

The Possessed by Elif Batuman
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's review
Mar 18, 2012

it was amazing
Read from March 16 to 18, 2012

I was really blown away by this book, despite hearing nothing but praise when it came out. Batuman's essays are about the experience of studying Russian literature—both in the literature and in the studying. She attends academic conferences filled with people who would easily substitute for characters in the books, who squabble about the silliest things.

On top of this amazing subject, Batuman brings her own incredible skills as a writer. She is so good that the challenges of writing disappear, and you're able to enjoy what's going on. I feel like even this praise is short-changing her, as the quality of her writing was what shocked me most about the book, even having read her stuff in other venues.

And in the end, it all catalyzes into the titular essay of the book: a deep-dive into Dostoevsky and study of how his book Demons (or literally translated as "The Possessed") works. It is stunningly good.

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