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A fascinating insight into the mind of Dostoevsky, as imagined by Coetzee - Nobel-Prize winner and one of our greatest living writers.
J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace, Summertime and The Childhood of Jesus. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.
St. Petersburg is poised for revolution as Fyodor Dostoevsky returns from Germany to claim his deceased stepson's papers. Although the police rule Pavel's death a suicide, the famous writer is drawn into a group of shady characters, including the anarchist Nechaev, who is possibly Pavel's killer. Plagued by seizures and tormented by a torrid affair with his stepson's landlady, Dostoevsky struggles to ascertain once and for all a writer's responsibility to his family and society. The strength of South African writer Coetzee (Age of Iron, LJ 8/90) lies in his ability to draw characters and scenes evoking the dark mood of the master's novels. Unfortunately, this story of action and ideas lapses into monotonous debate in its final chapters, but there is much to enjoy despite the flagging plot. Recommended for literary collections.-Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Writing from inside the head of another writer is always a hazardous undertaking; when the subject is Fyodor Dostoyevski, the audacity is breathtaking. But that is what Coetzee (Waiting for the Barbarians; The Life & Times of Michael K) dares here, succeeding beyond all expectation. His Dostoyevski, after serving his sentence in Siberia, is living in self-imposed exile in Germany when his much-cherished stepson Pavel is found dead on a quay in St. Petersburg. The novelist rushes back there, full of anguish and guilt, and finds himself drawn instantly into an intense, edgy affair with the boy's landlady and into a wary intimacy with her young daughter, who had befriended Pavel. As a former revolutionary, he also becomes the object of police attention, particularly as one of Pavel's close associates was Nechaev, the very model of a ruthless Bolshevik. The epileptic Dostoyevski is in deepest turmoil as he mourns his stepson, tries to learn how he died (Was he killed by the police? Slain by the revolutionaries as a provocation? A suicide?) and alternately yields to and resists his darkest erotic self. The world Coetzee conjures with burning intensity is the one we remember from Karamazov and The Possessed, and there are long, searching conversations, with a police inspector and with the remorseless Nechaev himself, that could have been penned by the Russian master. It's a harrowing, exhilarating performance sure to further lift Coetzee's lofty reputation. (Nov.)
"Hugely impressive-Coetzee never puts a foot wrong" Daily Mail "Anyone interested in the power of fiction to move us and extend our sense of life should get hold of this book" Spectator "An intense and deep book" Guardian "A stunning account of the relation of writers and events-A harsh and eloquent critique of the human condition. It is also a subtle, powerful, superbly written personal testament. The bleakness of vision is tempered only by the certainty that life can be material for art. This is art. The case is proven" Sunday Times "Both a gripping mystery and a meditation on the relationship between art and life" BBC History Magazine