The Billings Outpost

My summer with Fyodor

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

The ’60s were a turbulent time. Millions of people had just gained real civil rights for the first time. Government distrust soared because of a failed war. Young people were exploring socialism, communes and free love.  Alternative publications flourished. Nihilists were tearing away at norms of society.

I am, of course, referring to Russia in the 1860s. The country had just failed miserably in the Crimean War. Tsar Alexander II had freed the serfs, who had lived in virtual slavery for centuries. Marxism was in its infancy, and Russians were split over whether socialism or capitalism could lead the nation out of decades of economic doldrums.

The hotbed for all of this turmoil was St. Petersburg, which happened to be the home of Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose novels record these troubled times in unforgettable novels.

I have been working on the Outpost’s upcoming book section, which usually focuses on new books, especially books about Montana. But maybe it makes sense to look once at the books that got us here, especially since some of the reviews I write this summer will be influenced by the many hours I have spent in the last year reading Dostoevsky’s work.

Dostoevsky sets a tough standard. As Woody Allen once put it, “Tolstoy is a full meal. Turgenev is a fabulous dessert. Dostoevsky is a full meal with a vitamin pill and extra wheat germ.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 July 2015 10:43

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