Gide’s critical study of Dostoevsky, published here in its entirety in English for the first time, was one of the first of Gide’s books to be translated. Back in 1924 the London publisher commissioned an introductory note from Arnold Bennett, then at the height of his popularity, who wrote: “I can recall no other critical work which more cogently justifies and more securely established its subject. . . . It is impossible to read this Dostoevsky without enlarging one’s ideas of Dostoevsky and of the functions of the novel. This note is here reprinted and for the New Directions Paperbook edition a missing essay on The Brothers Karamazov (newly translated by Louise Varèse) is added, as is an introduction by Professor Albert J. Guerard, formerly of Harvard and now of Stanford University. Noting the rise in reputation of both Dostoevsky and Gide in the interim, some of it the result of the influence of this book, Mr. Guerard writes “. . . if I could keep only one book on Dostoevsky I would be tempted to keep this one. It conveys . . . the excitement of intensely personal and sympathetic reading and the shock of recognition.” André Gide, the French Protestant moralist and “corrupter of youth,” who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947 and died in apotheosis as the leading modern French critic and “the embodied consciousness of an epoch,” had planned to write a life of Dostoevsky, until then considered an “incomprehensible monster” in the non-Russian world. Instead he delivered a series of lectures which formed the basis for this book. A labor of love, it becomes a guidebook to the soul of the Russian genius. As much as a plumbing of the moral depths of the dark and terrible side of human nature as a discussion of Dostoevsky the novelist, it also is a reflection of Gide himself, for he emphasizes the paradoxes, the multiple contradictions, the ethic in Dostoevsky which were uppermost in his own view of life and literature.

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Clothbound (published January 1, 1961)

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