Carne Levare

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Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart

Posted by Remy on October 6, 2011

Biography is a troublesome genre in that it requires reducing a life to its lifeless chronology, pinning the influences upon the writer like labels to the appendages of a butterfly. The default setting of most biographers is to introduce the anxieties and trauma of a writer’s childhood so that the ensuing monuments of literature look to be the inevitable result of such a life, but the new biography of Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart (Thomas Nelson, 2011) avoids both the pitfalls of dreary biographical recap and the tenuous prospect of connecting an author’s psyche with his scholarship by artfully framing vignettes to develop the very themes Dostoevsky reflects upon in his novels. Drawing from Dostoevsky’s letters he constructs conversations as a novelist might to convey the person and his motives.

These biographical vignettes, rigorously researched and footnoted, are ordered by Dr. Leithart with a poets precision and timing. While no doubt a popular biography, Dr. Leithart’s “Fyodor Dostoevsky” nonetheless accomplishes a full vision of this great Russian novelist that a scholarly tome would spend hundreds more pages attaining.

A review copy was provided by the publisher Thomas Nelson, via Booksneeze.

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