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This review is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

STALKER John Jones, Dostoevsky (OUP) £15.00

It was not much fun, reading Anthony Burgess' Observer notice for this book, which hadn't, as he thought, done much to send him back to the Dostoevsky gathering dust on his shelves, or to assuage his moral and novelistic 'worries' about Raskolnikov's unhinged motivelessness. Not much fun, because one has to wonder who, if not a clever novelist with some Russian to boot, can be reading Dostoevsky at all, in our own world, now. And the vision of a literary consensus of Dostoevskyless sanity is unexciting, and even chilling. So I think, at least, although Mr Burgess sounds as though he looks forward to the dawning of such a day.

Still, it was only a review, and we have a book to think of - several books. 'Watch somebody with Crime and Punishment in his hands,' begins John Jones. Never mind if they take some finding; the first and only thing his Dostoevsky takes for granted is that to read is to love, and it turns its back, as it must, on literature's shadow world where books may be more or less desultorily kicked around in the limitless academic dustbowl of the West.

Unnerving for the contemporary novelist, though, to discover that Dostoevsky has stolen a march on the whole of the twentieth century, without even having lived in it, or to watch the vehement, intent and versatile precision with which the 'young poet' hailed by Belinsky shapes the language of Poor People. 'Dostoevsky is ...


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