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by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Trans. By C. J. Hogarth
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Poor Folk is an epistolary novel -- that is, a tale told as a series of letters between the characters. And oh, what characters these are! Makar Dievushkin Alexievitch is a copy writer, barely squeaking by; Barbara Dobroselova Alexievna works as a seamstress, and both face the sort of everyday humiliation society puts upon the poor. These are people respected by no one, not even by themselves. These are folks too poor, in their circumstances, to marry; the love between them is a chaste and proper thing, a love that brings some readers to tears. But it isn't maudlin, either; Fyodor Dostoevsky has something profound to say about these people and this circumstance. And he says it very well. When the book was first published a leading Russian literary critic of the day -- Belinsky -- prophesied that Dostoevsky would become a literary giant. It isn't hard to see how he came to that conclusion, and in hindsight, he was surely was correct.
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian
From the Inside Flap
This is the first new translation of Dostoevsky's first novel since Constance Garnett's. Mr. Dessaix is not only more accurate than Garnett, but also makes an effort to deal with the sharply different styles in the epistolary novel in a consistent way. Dostoevsky made a point of saying that the style of the work was not his, but that of his letter writers--Devushkin and Varvara--and the reader will now be able to get some idea of these different styles. The translator's introduction focuses on the history of styles which Dostoevsky used in his very selfconsciously literary debut.
Written in 1845 and publised in 1846, Poor Folk is the natural beginning point for anyone who reads Dostoevsky. The novel occupies a position of particular interest and importance in both the history of Russian literature and Dostoevsky's work as a whole. Several lines of development in Russian prose intersect: sentimentalism, naturalism, the physiological sketch, and the phenomenon of Gogol, with whom Dostoevsky maintains a dialogue throughout the novel.
Robert Dessaix is the translator of The Mysterious Tales of Ivan Turgenev. He is Professor of Russian literature at the University of New South Wales.
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