As with The Devils, I think here, Dostoevsky's reach exceeded his grasp artistically - and while the former novel was hindered by censorship (view spoAs with The Devils, I think here, Dostoevsky's reach exceeded his grasp artistically - and while the former novel was hindered by censorship (view spoiler)[(Stavrogin's "confession" was not allowed to appear in the original version, and since each character represents a "type," this necessitated a re-working of the book in such a way that blunts the coherency and strength of its implicit social-political commentary) (hide spoiler)], the latter is hindered by a mix of self-censorship and self-indulgence.
Dostoevsky was placing his novel in a journal with political leanings seen as contrary to his own, with an editor who had earlier derided Dostoevsky for his focus on pathological sensationalism - consequently he seems to restrict his subject matter and motifs to a greater degree than with any other work from his mature period. At the same time, there seems to be no limit to the number of devices, plot points, or character-traits haphazardly recycled from his published and unpublished oeuvre. This is also easily the most convoluted of his books, with every character pushed across hundreds of pages from one ridiculous intrigue to the next (Dostoevsky even mistakenly changed the name of one character from one part of the book to the next, so the reader should be forgiven for having any trouble keeping up with the action).
There are a few striking or memorable passages, as well as a clear theme (i.e. who can/should the Russian youth look to for moral guidance or as models?), but overall the novel seems distinctly and strangely unfocused. Perhaps the novel makes more sense when situated in the context of contemporaneous depictions of the Russian "family" - especially Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - but The Brothers Karamazov is such a towering response both aesthetically and philosophically to these works (as well as a great achievement on its own), that it is difficult not to consign The Adolescent to the shadows.
So, while (Dostoevsky's biographer) Joseph Frank's critical assessment of The Devils lead me to appreciate it much more than I would have on my own, I've yet to encounter a convincing defense of the abiding merit of this book....more
A bit soap-opera-ish, with a touch of Dickens. Worth a read none-the-less.
The narrator, Vanya, is a novelist in the mold of the author. One of his criA bit soap-opera-ish, with a touch of Dickens. Worth a read none-the-less.
The narrator, Vanya, is a novelist in the mold of the author. One of his critics says that his books border on mawkish, and are stained by Vanya's sweat and tears, who works with such febrile intensity to complete them (always under the pressure of a deadline). This weakness is apparent in Dostoevsky's characterizations as well, as nearly everyone in this novel is in a near constant state of delirious emotional upheaval, convulsing (often literally) after every confrontation, as the narrator rushes from one scene to the next with no respite even in dreams. It is easy, not to mention disconcerting, to imagine Dostoevsky on the verge of a nervous attack, in hot-pursuit with his pen as he feels all the emotions as he describes them. It is impossible to sustain a climax for hundreds of pages, so this intensity undermines the arc of the story as the reader habituates to the style, and any revelations only have the force of added melodrama when they emerge.
Each character is again an exaggerated "type," although they are more involving and believable than in Dostoevsky's prior work, and seem based in part on his experience of individuals he knew in reality.
There are hints of Dostoevsky's full powers at work here, though obscured by over-use of certain techniques and under-maturation of his literary/philosophical themes....more