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All posts for the month June, 2010

Dostoevsky: not so grim?

The recent stories about the murals at the new Dostoevsky metro station in Moscow, which have led to concerns that it could become a favourite spot for suicides, have made me think about why Dostoevsky is considered such a depressing writer. Is it because he depicts so much poverty and misery? I doubt it, because […]

Women, beauty and other things

The ambiguous treatment of some of Dostoevsky’s major themes was high on the menu in the first session on Thursday. Joe Andrew gave a very interesting paper on the ‘woman question’ in The Brothers Karamazov, discussing how marginalized the female characters are – in the central family grouping there are no mothers, daughters or sisters […]

The underground man at the International Dostoevsky Symposium

Wednesday was all about Notes from Underground for me. Carol Apollonio’s paper was stunning, probably the highlight of the symposium, and it confirmed my view of her as one of the most original scholars working on Dostoevsky. She examined the use of pronouns in Notes from Underground (specifically ‘I’), but also giving a broader perspective […]

More news from Naples

Naples is hot and tiring, but there have been some really great papers and discussions today. Probably the best presentation was by Liza Knapp, on the idea of motherhood and intercession for their sinful sons in House of the Dead – a wonderful, thought-provoking conception which opens up that text in all sorts of interesting […]

Live from Naples

I’m currently at the 14th International Dostoevsky Symposium in Naples, which started this morning. I missed the opening sessions so don’t have a great deal to report yet except to say that the surroundings in the Palazzo Du Mesnil are really rather sumptuous, and they provided us with a very fine lunch, for which I […]

Soviet jokes

The book I’ve been reading for fun over the last few days could, for once, actually be described as fun: Ben Lewis, Hammer and Tickle: A History of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes (2008). Actually, it isn’t that funny, partly because analyses of humour never are (the worst research seminar I’ve ever been to was […]

The Crocodile and the Crystal Palace: a whimsy

Some of the best ideas are destined never to make it into print. They’re usually the ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ ideas, that you know probably aren’t true, and even if they are, there’s no way you’re ever going to prove them. At the same time you don’t want to let them go altogether. And […]

Dickens and anti-Semitism

Now I’ve finished reading Oliver Twist, I can say for certain that the depiction of Fagin is undoubtedly the most problematic aspect of the novel. It is widely known to be a graphic example of anti-Semitism, but even so, it’s quite shocking. I say this as someone who’s used to reading Dostoevsky, but I would […]