Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism

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Read more. Don't have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention tolstoy and dostoevsky literary criticism homer epic george steiner steiner begins with tolstoy dostoevsky and tolstoy russian authors novels writers comparisons familiar insightful insights nature philosophy profound tradition. Showing of 12 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews.

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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Peterson Top Contributor: Poetry Books. Format: Paperback Verified Purchase. Over the past eighteen months, making good use of my retired status, I read the major works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

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Needless to say, it was a richly rewarding experience. Serendipity, because Steiner's book turned out to be the best book of literary criticism that I have ever read. It not only enhanced greatly my understanding of both Russian authors, it also offered much of value concerning the more general intellectual history of Western literature. Steiner begins with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky standing at the zenith of the Russian novel of the nineteenth century, which he then goes on to argue was "one of the three principal moments of triumph in the history of western literature, the other two being the time of the Athenian dramatists and Plato and the age of Shakespeare.

In all three the western mind leapt forward into darkness by means of poetic intuition; in them was assembled much of the light that we possess on the nature of man.

Much of the book consists of separate intensive discussions of each of them, backed by detailed analyses of some of their seminal works. In this regard, his discussions of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" and Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" were particularly instructive for me, helping me get beyond some of my problems with those two novels in particular. Tolstoy is presented as a sort of re-incarnation of Homer; the epic is his literary form. Dostoevsky's, on the other hand, is dramatic tragedy; his closest literary predecessor is Shakespeare.

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky; an essay in the old criticism

One aspect that united Tolstoy and Dostoevsky stands in stark contrast to the nineteenth-century fiction of Western Europe. The art of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky was religious. Tolstoy's lode star, even in matters of religion, was rationalism; Dostoevsky was suffused with the daemonic and in love with paradox. To repeat, this is a great work of literary criticism.

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Of course, it will be even more so if you are quite familiar with or, as in my case, recently read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Steiner's prose is not a paragon of lucidity - it demands concentration from the reader and I had to consult the dictionary from time to time - but it is not academically stilted or pretentious.

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And both within his immediate focus of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and within the broader realm of Western literature, Steiner is very knowledgeable. Steiner's sub-title indicates his position on the matter and, although not directly relevant to either Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, Steiner's comments on the debate are worthwhile and, to me, convincing.

And the book as a whole vindicates him. Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. How refreshing it is to read a real work of scholarly appreciation, such a far cry from the dry, jargon ridden claptrap that has too often passed for literary criticism in the Anglo-Saxon world in recent decades. The depth and breadth of the knowledge and love of literature that Steiner displays are astounding.

And, partly for that reason, it is highly instructive and convincing. I would unstintingly recommend this volume to those both acquainted and unacquainted with 19th century Russian literature. The former would be given new insights. The latter would hopefully be stimulated into the deeply enriching experience of reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. This book is not always an easy read. I'm familiar with most of the work of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and also with their biographies and the history of Russia during the period in which they wrote.

But Steiner's amazing intellect covers such a grand sweep of the world's arts there were times when I felt I was in over my head. Steiner uses all the arts in his analysis, and draws cultural comparisons across long spans of intellectual history with insights into philosophy, political theory, music, drama and of course, literature. This is a masterful work of great amplitude. Steiner flatly states that Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are the two greatest writers of all time.

I know I'm convinced. He sees Tolstoy as being in the tradition of Homer, an epic writer preoccupied with reason and fact. Dostoevsky he sees as a Shakespearian dramatist, plumbing the depths of the individual soul and always on the edge of the demonic, the darker side of the human experience. I will not give away who Steiner believes to be the greater of the two. Naturally his choice then becomes in Steiner's estimation, the greatest writer of all time.

You don't have to be acquainted with the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to read this book to find it illuminating - but it helps. This is a great book. Steiner helps make my case for Dostoyevsky over Tolstoy in telling ways. Dostoyevsky rich, deep, and sublime; Tolstoy's vision more limited and pedestrian. The Tolstoy half was largely a treatise on Homer and Virgil. The parallels were not irrelevant, but much overdone and drawn out.

We seek to record their impact, to put our shaken house in its new order. In Tolstoy or Dostevsky, Steiner writes out of love for these two great Russian novelists, but his point of departure is the observation that the two authors are fundamentally opposed in all the ways that matter most.

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Steiner puts his subjects in the broadest possible context, ultimately explaining Tolstoy and Dostoevsky by reference to Homer and Shakespeare! But I have noticed the same thing Steiner noticed, that there is a fundamental contrast between these two big Russian novelists. In fact, I have long thought that there are basically two kinds of people in the world: Tolstoy people and Dostevsky people.

But Steiner says it better, and says more:. Fyodor Dostoevsky - Regional & Cultural / History & Criticism: Books

A reader may regard them as the two principle masters of fiction —that is to say, he may find in their novels the most inclusive and searching portrayal of life. But press him closely and he will choose between them. If he tells you which he prefers and why, you will, I think, have penetrated into his own nature. Thus, even beyond their deaths, the two novelists stand in contrariety.

Petersburg amid the solemn rites of the Orthodox Church; Dostoevsky, pre-eminently the man of God; Tolstoy; one of His secret challengers. admin