Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Adolescent

The Adolescent. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. 1875/2004. 647 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Unable to restrain myself, I have sat down to record this history of my first steps on life's career, though I could have done as well without it. One thing I know for certain: never again will I sit down to write my autobiography, even if I live to be a hundred. You have to be all too basely in love with yourself to write about yourself without shame. My only excuse is that I'm not writing for the same reason everyone else writes, that is, for the sake of the reader's praises.

Premise/plot: Written in the first person, The Adolescent is the 'notes' of Arkady Makarovich Dolgoruky. He has recently come St. Petersburg to see his family. His upbringing was unhappy and strange. He is illegitimate. His mother still married to another man, his legal father. His father is Andrei Petrovich Versilov. He was raised not by his mother--who ran off with Versilov, having another child with him, Liza--and not even by his legal father. His upbringing was scattered--raised by people here and there, and never with love or tenderness. To say he was angry and bitter would be an understatement. His parents are strangers to him as is his sister, as are his half siblings, Versilov's legitimate children. But he's answering a summons to come. His family is under great stress when the book begins. His father, his sister, and his half-sister are all in the middle of a passionate, dramatic, mysterious, scandalous scenario. Readers learn a little here, a little there. Nothing direct and straightforward. Everything having to be pieced together one puzzle piece at a time. Add in the fact that the narrator is on an emotional roller coaster and in the midst of searching for the meaning of life and that sums up the chaotic disorder that is this book. But keep in mind this is intended.

My thoughts: I personally prefer the Karamazov Brothers to this one. I am not a big fan of this first person narrative style. When the narrator is mentally and emotionally a mess, it reads like a crazy mess of a book with no real purpose.
But it was intentional.

Dolgoruky may have not been a 'literary man' writing for a 'literary marketplace' but he is the creation of Fyodor Dostoevsky. One theme in this one is that no man is an island; no one escapes the influence of others. Dolgoruky may think he's driven by one simple IDEA, but he's bound to his family and friends, even to his frenemies. It is a lot harder to live--and die perhaps--for one idea than this young man realizes. Human nature is complex, and the human heart is depraved. There isn't a saint to be found within the pages of The Adolescent. That is not a bad thing.

Can you really truly know someone, love someone, understand someone, trust someone. Dolgoruky doesn't even know himself, understand his own heart and mind so how can he really make good decisions and treat others kindly?

  • A literary man writes for thirty years and in the end doesn't know at all why he has written for so many years. (5)
  • Every man has the right to voice his conviction into the air. (31)
  • No one ponders; rarely does anyone live his way into an idea. (63)
  • Ah! So you,too, suffer sometimes because a thought won't go into words! It's a noble suffering, my friend, and granted only to the chosen; a fool is always pleased with what he says, and besides, he always says more than he needs to; they like extras. (122)
  • A great thought is most often a feeling that sometimes goes without a definition for too long. (218)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Carol 5:00 PM  

I've not heard of this title before. Crime & Punishment has been my favourite out of the two books I've read by Dostoevsky - the other book was The Brothers K. If C & P had been written in the first person like the one you've just reviewed, it would probably feel very similar.

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