Dostoevsky’s ‘The Adolescent,’ Major Novel of His Number Four (4)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, at this point, is my favorite writer of novels. ‘The Adolescent,’ also called ‘Raw Youth’ because of Constance Garnett’s translation of the Russian title-word ‘Podrostok,’ was #4 of his five major novels. I just finished reading it…..
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, at this point, is my favorite writer of novels. ‘The Adolescent,’ also called ‘Raw Youth’ because of Constance Garnett’s translation of the Russian title-word ‘Podrostok,’ was #4 of his five major novels. I just finished reading it, and it took quite a bit of concentration.
Intrigue is the word that typifies this book for me. And all sorts of angles of stories, remembered differently from one person to the next, so sometimes I couldn’t remember what exactly was the truth. I had to eventually mark down page numbers where important documents and letters were located that had been read by whomever wrote or read them. Dostoevsky often guesses himself at how things would go, as he does his writing, and we go along with him. So the characters and the story progresses.
And there?s always that hooking you to the next section or chapter: like > > >
‘The poor woman’s story was incoherent in some places. I’ll tell it as I understood it and as I have remembered it…..’ or ‘This conversation was totally unexpected for me. But at that moment something suddenly happened that was also totally unexpected….’ or “Don’t answer yet, Katerina Nikolaevna, but listen to everything and then tell me the whole truth.”
I broke all barriers at once and flew off into space.’
The best scene in the book, I thought, was the gambling scene in the middle of The Adolescent, at Zershchikov’s, (Part II, Chapter 6, Section 3) where all kinds of weird things happen, including a miracle or three, yet there’s always that Dostoevskian despair which seems to flavor most of his works. The action and interactions, ecstasies and agonies, come fast and furious. Poor naive Adolescent Arkady Dolgoruky, bouncing like a billiard ball, off the crumbling walls into the snowdrifts of life…….
I now have read all of the big 5 of Fyodor D’s novels (the others are Crime & Punishment, 1866; The Idiot, 1868; The Possessed, 1872 — I’ve read that one three times now; and his last The Brothers Karamazov, 1880, one year
before his death from a ‘lung hemorrhage’ — Dostoevsky must’ve been a heavy smoker, as he took treatment for emphysema at Bad Ems in 1874). Konstantin Mochulsky, in his mid-20th century biography stated:
“In the variety of its happenings, the assortment of its characters, the intensity of its passions, and the effect of its conflicts, ‘The Adolescent’ is the most captivating of all Dostoevky’s novels.”
Quite a statement – by a man who some say wrote the ‘best one-volume critical biography of Dostoevsky.’
Do I agree? Give me some time to think on it. All his books are terrific. I’m not one to adore violence and decrepitude, raised to the hype of glory. So, Brothers and Crime & P, are not my favorites. The Idiot is wonderful, but I have to read that one again before I croak. The Possessed and The Adolescent are two of the finest novels that deserve the emotion of marvelling at a master’s creation. The Adolescent is written in the first person – the only one of the big five.
I just went through an intrigue-filled situation in my life, for which I was thankful I was reading this book. It helped me cope with all the shades and innuendoes that convoluted the picture of what was happening and what really happened. I?m getting the idea better right now, in fact.
Of course, I’d recommend The Adolescent to anyone who can read. Don’t be put off by the names, if you are afeared of Russian fiction. It all will settle into a gratifying experience by the time you reach the end of the whirlwind. And don’t mind too much that you still aren’t sure of a few things when you finish the Adolescent. You’ll just have to read it again. That’s what the future is for.
C 2005 Conrad Miller M.D.
P.S. Check the bookstore on the website for a quick route for the book to your night table.