Demons: Formerly translated as The PossessedDemons: Formerly translated as The Possessed
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
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Inspired by the true story of a political murder that horrified Russia in 1869, Fyodor Dostoevsky concieved Demons as a "novel-pamphlet" in which he would say everything about the plague of materialist ideology that he saw infecting his native land. What he emerged with in 1872 was at once his darkest novel until The Brothers Karmazov and his most ferociously funny. For alongside its relentlessly escalating plot of conspiracy and assassination, Demons (which earlier translators eroneously titled The Possessed) is a blistering comedy of ideas run amok. And, like all of Dostoevsky's novels, it is also a riot of literary voices, whose profusion, energy, and variety are rendered wonderfully in this new English version by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, winners of the PEN Book-of-the-month Club Translation Prize.

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

Prince Harry. Matchmaking


THERE WAS one other person on earth to whom Varvara Petrovna was attached no less than to Stepan Trofimovich—her only son, Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin. It was for him that Stepan Trofimovich had been invited as a tutor. The boy was then about eight years old, and the frivolous General Stavrogin, his father, was at the time already living separately from his mama, so that the child grew up in her care alone. One must do Stepan Trofimovich justice: he knew how to win his pupil over. The whole secret lay in his being a child himself I was not around then, and he was constantly in need of a true friend. He did not hesitate to make a friend of such a small being, once he had grown up a bit. It somehow came about naturally that there was not the least distance between them. More than once he awakened his ten or eleven-year-old friend at night only to pour out his injured feelings in tears before him, or to reveal some domestic secret to him, not noticing that this was altogether inadmissible. They used to throw themselves into each other’s embrace and weep. The boy knew that his mother loved him very much, but he hardly had much love for her. She spoke little to him, rarely hindered him in anything but he always somehow morbidly felt her eyes fixed upon him, watching him. However, in the whole business of education and moral development his mother fully trusted Stepan Trofimovich. She still fully believed in him then. One may suppose that the pedagogue somewhat unsettled his pupil’s nerves. When he was taken to the lycée in his sixteenth year, he was puny and pale, strangely quiet and pensive. (Later on he was distinguished by his extraordinary physical strength.) One may also suppose that when the friends wept, throwing themselves into their mutual embrace at night, it was not always over some little domestic anecdotes. Stepan Trofimovich managed to touch the deepest strings in his friend’s heart and to call forth in him the first, still uncertain sensation of that age-old, sacred anguish which the chosen soul, having once tasted and known it, will never exchange for any cheap satisfaction. (There are lovers of this anguish who cherish it more than the most radical satisfaction, if that were even possible.) But in any event it was good that the youngling and the mentor, though none too soon, were parted in different directions.

For the first two years the young man came home from the lycée for vacations. While Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovich were in Petersburg, he was sometimes present at his mother’s literary evenings, listening and observing. He spoke little, and was quiet and shy as before. He treated Stepan Trofimovich with the former tender attentiveness, but now somehow more reservedly: he obviously refrained from talking with him about lofty subjects or memories of the past. In accordance with his mama’s wish, after completing his studies he entered military service and was soon enrolled in one of the most distinguished regiments of the Horse Guard. He did not come to show himself to his mama in his uniform and now rarely wrote from Petersburg. Varvara Petrovna sent him money without stint, in spite of the fact that the income from her estates fell so much after the reform that at first she did not get even half of her former income. However, through long economy she had saved up a certain not exactly small Sum. She was very interested in her son’s successes in Petersburg high Society. The young officer, rich and with expectations, succeeded where she had not. He renewed acquaintances of which she could no longer even dream, and was received everywhere with great pleasure. But very soon rather strange rumors began to reach Varvara Petrovna: the Young man, somehow madly and suddenly, started leading a wild life. Not that he gambled or drank too much; there was only talk of some savage unbridledness, of some people being run over by horses, of some beastly behavior towards a lady of good society with whom he had had a liaison and whom he afterwards publicly insulted. There was something even too frankly dirty about this affair. It was added, furthermore, that he was some sort of swashbuckler, that he picked on people and insulted them for the pleasure of it. Varvara Petrovna was worried and anguished. Stepan Trofimovich assured her that these were merely the first stormy impulses of an overabundant constitution, that the sea would grow calm, and that it all resembled Shakespeare’s description of the youth of Prince Harry, carousing with Falstaff, Poins, and Mistress Quickly.1