- Reviewed by
Robert Belknap's book on The Brothers Karamazov appears now in a most welcome paperback edition. Besides this new virtue of greater accessibility to the student in the classroom, the book retains all the features that have made it a standard of Dostoevsky scholarship in the English-speaking world since it first appeared in 1967. The author remarks upon the often contradictory interpretations that have been offered of the novel, and he hopes we can all agree that there are some facts of the text that are verifiable, sharable, and offer a sound basis for productive discussion. It may be that his hope is somewhat sanguine, but it affords him, nonetheless, an excellent vehicle for the discussion of those very interpretations. There has been no attempt to bring the text up to date with respect to scholarship on The Brothers Karamazov that has appeared in the twenty years since the book was first published. This is compensated by the addition of a new preface with material that will be welcomed by those with an interest in the early history of Slavic studies in the United States. One must also be pleased with the renewed availability of a book that so clearly derives from and is so directly oriented to the dynamics of the classroom and the interchange between teacher and student. [End Page 294]
Like the Belknap book, Jacques Catteau's Dostoyevsky and the Process of Literary Creation, is an old standard made newly accessible, in this case in an English translation published as part of the series "Cambridge Studies in Russian Literature." The translation has the virtue and shortcomings of the original, which was published in 1978. As to its virtues, the work offers sensible and measured conclusions based upon the careful and exacting scholarly examination of a massive amount of primary material. More striking now than when the French original appeared is Catteau's confrontation of Bakhtin's approach to Dostoevsky. Now that the initial flood of enthusiasm for Bakhtin's ideas has begun to abate and more sober voices have begun to be heard, at least in Dostoevsky scholarship, Catteau's acceptance of Bakhtin's central insight and his rejection of its excessive application (in the third part of his work, wherein he considers the question of space and time in Dostoevsky) seems prophetic. The major shortcoming of the present version had been noted already by Edward Wasiolek upon the appearance of the original: the lack of attention paid to scholarship written in other than French or Russian. The translation has a bibliography that has been "revised for the English edition," and we find there the names of such noted American scholars as Joseph Frank, Robert L. Jackson, Gary Saul Morson, Victor Terras, and Edward Wasiolek. These names have, however, not found their way into the index (and, therefore, into the text) so that one must question the extent to which the English translation has succeeded in "modernising" the original, as Catteau writes in his preface that he intended to do. On the other hand, the translation appears to have taken full advantage of the advances in scholarship which have been connected with the ongoing publication of the complete edition of Dostoevsky's work by the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
The second volume of David Lowe's projected five-volume series of Dostoevsky's letters meets the standards established by its predecessor. The translation is excellent, as are the annotations, which mainly follow those of the Academy of Sciences edition of Dostoevsky mentioned above. This particular volume covers the years from 1860 (Dostoevsky's return from Siberian exile) through 1867 (the early period of Dostoevsky's second marriage). Lowe sees three main foci of interest in this stormy period of Dostoevsky's life: 1.) the personal, including Dostoevsky's gambling, the deaths of...