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The Possessed

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Book Overview: 

Although titled The Possessed in the initial English translation, Dostoyevsky scholars and later translations favor the titles The Devils or Demons. An extremely political book, Demons is a testimonial of life in Imperial Russia in the late 19th century. As the revolutionary democrats begin to rise in Russia, different ideologies begin to collide. Dostoyevsky casts a critical eye on both the radical idealists, portraying their ideas and ideological foundation as demonic, and the conservative establishment's ineptitude in dealing with those ideas and their social consequences. This form of intellectual conservatism tied to the Slavophile movement of Dostoyevsky's day, called Pochvennichestvo, is seen to have continued on into its modern manifestation in individuals like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Dostoyevsky's novels focus on the idea that utopias and positivist ideas, in being utilitarian, were unrealistic and unobtainable. The book has five primary characters representing different ideologies. By exploring their differing philosophies, Dostoyevsky describes the political chaos seen in 19th century Russia. - Summary by Wikipedia

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Nikolaevitch.

I went out weighed down by my promise, and unable to understand what had happened. I had seen a woman in real despair, not hesitating to compromise herself by confiding in a man she hardly knew. Her womanly smile at a moment so terrible for her and her hint that she had noticed my feelings the day before sent a pang to my heart; but I felt sorry for her, very sorry—that was all! Her secrets became at once something sacred for me, and if anyone had begun to reveal them to me now, I think I should have covered my ears, and should have refused to hear anything more. I only had a presentiment of something... yet I was utterly at a loss to see how I could do anything. What's more I did not even yet understand exactly what I had to arrange; an interview, but what sort of an interview? And how could I bring them together? My only hope was Shatov, though I could be sure that he wouldn't help me in any way. But all the same, I hurried to him.

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