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The Demons: A Novel in Three Parts
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Completed in 1872, Demons is rivaled only by The Brothers Karamazov for the place of Dostoevsky’s greatest work. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose acclaimed translations of The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and Notes from Underground have become the standard versions in English, now give us a brilliant new rendering of this towering masterpiece, previously translated as The Possessed. Dostoevsky first conceived of the book as a “novel-pamphlet” in which he intended to “say everything” about the new Russian nihilists, the growing group of anti-czarist political terrorists. The present novel grew out of an actual event in the winter of 1869: Ivan Ivanov, a student at the Petrov Agricultural Academy in Moscow and a man of strong character, had broken with his fellow young revolutionaries and was subsequently murdered by a small group of them headed by Sergei Nechaev. Around this crime and the ensuing trial of the Nechaevists in the summer of 1871, Dostoevsky constructed this superbly nuanced work, inexhaustibly rich in character and circumstance, which he also intended as a broad condemnation of the legion of ideas, or “demons, “ that had migrated from the West and were threatening the soul of the Russian nation. His magnificent achievement has proven to be one of the most powerfully prophetic statements about Russia’s political destiny, not only in his own day but in ours as well. Like all of Dostoevsky’s great novels, Demons is also a “philosophical tale.” As it reveals its many faces – comic, satirical, symbolic, and tragic – it enacts the drama of the promethean revolt of modern humanity against the institutions and values of tradition, and offers a brilliantinvestigation into the workings of the human will and the nature of evil. With this glorious new version all the stunning idiosyncrasies of the Russian original are available to English readers for the first time.
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