Dostoevsky in Love: Inventive take on a remarkable life

Book review: Alex Christofi interweaves factual details with the Russian author’s work

Fyodor Dostoevsky: the Russian author was able to channel the extreme brutality he suffered into creative masterpieces.  Photograph: Culture Club/Getty Images

Fyodor Dostoevsky: the Russian author was able to channel the extreme brutality he suffered into creative masterpieces. Photograph: Culture Club/Getty Images

There is a touching passage near the beginning of Alex Christofi’s inventive new memoir, which takes place in a cell at the Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg, on Christmas Eve 1849. The young Fyodor Dostoevsky was about to be taken to a Siberian prison camp but remained defiantly upbeat, reassuring his older brother Mikhail: “I’m not going to my grave, this isn’t my burial – and they aren’t wild animals out there.”

As the clock struck midnight, he was shackled and taken on an open sleigh ride in -40 degrees to begin a four-year sentence for anti-government activities. And this is just the start of the story. It is lucky that Dostoevsky was able to channel the extreme brutality he suffered into creative masterpieces such as Crime and Punishment.

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