Richard E. Kim, The Martyred

The Martyred by Richard E. Kim My rating: 4 of 5 stars Richard E. Kim's The Martyred was published to great sales and acclaim in 1964. It dominated the bestseller list, earned comparisons to Camus and Dostoevsky, and boasted blurbs from Pearl S. Buck and Philip Roth. Kim was born in what is now North… Continue reading Richard E. Kim, The Martyred

J. M. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus

The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee My rating: 4 of 5 stars This sequel to Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus (2013) provides further adventures of Davíd, Simón, and Inés in an ambiguous dream-like setting. The first novel tells of characters who arrive from over the sea to a mysterious socialist society called Novilla; Simón,… Continue reading J. M. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars Despair, Nabokov's seventh novel, written in Russian, dates from the mid-1930s (begun in 1932, serialized in 1934, published as a book in 1936, translated into English by the author in 1937); Nabokov revised the translation—and, as he notes in his preface, the book itself—for its… Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

In Defense of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Janet Malcolm contributes the latest polemic against Richard Pevear and Linda Volokhonsky (hereafter P&V), the famed husband-and-wife translators of the Russian classics, whose preeminence in their field is now being challenged by a number of critics. I have read the previous arguments with interest (for instance, by Gary Saul Morson and Helen Andrews), but they… Continue reading In Defense of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Gentle Creature and Other Stories

A Gentle Creature and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 4 of 5 stars This little book, translated by Alan Myers, collects three of Dostoevsky’s short works on the subject of the "dreamer"—one early piece, the classic 1848 novella "White Nights," and two pieces of the 1870s, first published in D.’s Diary of a… Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Gentle Creature and Other Stories

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 5 of 5 stars A very, very strange novel. In her review of David McDuff's 2004 translation of The Idiot (I myself read the 2002 Pevear and Volokhonsky version), the novelist A. S. Byatt describes the difficult circumstances of its composition: The writing and publication of the novel… Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

J. M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg

The Master of Petersburg by J.M. Coetzee My rating: 5 of 5 stars Coetzee's Dostoevsky novel. I wonder, in a sense, why Coetzee attempted it: he well knows Dostoevsky is larger than he is. There is a quality in Dostoevsky that is beyond Coetzee: call it "high spirits." Coetzee is Ivan, to the letter, but… Continue reading J. M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg

Links: Me, Elsewhere

1. While I don't even really know who Ira Glass is, I thought the response to his anti-Shakespeare tweet was missing a broader perspective, so I wrote an essay for The Millions attempting to provide one, giving some good reasons why people across the ages, from Tolstoy to Wittgenstein to Joyce to Woolf, have criticized… Continue reading Links: Me, Elsewhere

George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism by George Steiner My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is a superb book. It abounds in literary-historical insight; it goes to the heart of these authors' achievements. The title is a bit misleading in that it's not really about deciding whether Tolstoy or Dostoevsky is… Continue reading George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 5 of 5 stars While this story of nihilist-socialist radicals run amok in provincial Russia is touted as Dostoevsky's political novel, his pamphlet novel, there's surprisingly little substantial ideological discussion or debate. Dostoevsky does send up the intellectual left in terms that remain amusingly relevant, from its notorious circular-firing-squad… Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons