The Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Translated From the Russian
by The Macmillan Co. 1923. 12 volumes. $2.50 each, $27.50 set.. New York:
A MADDER world this of Dostoevsky’s than ever Hamlet knew; unordered, inconsequent, formless, peopled with saints and sufferers and lunatics, a world of exile, imprisonment, disease, and misery. The artist who conceived it was a neurological epilept, mad as Poe or madder; as a writer slipshod, meandering with little sense of form and less of proportion, now impossibly romantic, now realistic with dull and devious detail; committing all the faults that writing is heir to, but with compassion in his heart, and in his brain the very instinct of understanding. There is none we can set beside him. No writer in English can by comparison remotely suggest his novels; none in French, though in the Age of Absinthe strange dreams have been dreamed; none — so far as I know — even in Russian.
In Tolstoi the seer speaks. In Turgenev, the artist; in Dostoevsky, the incarnation of Charity. His ‘heroes’ are veritable dregs of earth, murderers, dupes, egotists, and in perfect contrast ‘simpletons,’ with hearts too full of the misery of others to know their own goodness. His most beloved heroine is a woman of the streets whose sins have not soiled her soul. In the Christian code by which Dostoevsky lived, crime is its own punishment and suffering is the world’s sin.
These are stories better understood now that General Booth has wrought among us and we dimly apprehend that not poverty but riches make our slums and evil places. So, fortunate it is to have now the whole set of Dostoevsky’s novels — familiar through two generations in French and German — complete in English. Mrs. Garnett, perhaps the best-known translator writing in our time and the most competent, has finished the set of twelve wonderful volumes without which no library of fiction or — as this reviewer thinks — of Christian ethics would be complete. In these days when the bulk of woman’s work is, by men at least, held in some derogation, here is a monument of intelligent, sympathetic, and capable industry. Twelve volumes—5383 pages! Let anyone who has toiled with pen, dictionary, and a difficult original — the reviewer knows whereof he speaks — consider that. Our congratulations and warm thanks are given to Mrs. Garnett on an achievement which in wide and permanent usefulness outranks all the original work in English fiction for ten years past.
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