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The Possessed (In Russian: Бесы, tr. Besy), also translated as The Devils or Demons, is an 1872 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. For an explanation of the marked difference in the English-language title, please see the section "Note on the title" below.

An extremely political book, The Possessed 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. Dostoevsky casts a critical eye on both the left-wing idealists, exposing 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 conservativism tied to the Slavophil movement of Dostoevsky's day, is seen to have continued on into its modern manifestation in individuals like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Dostoevsky's novels focusing on the idea that utopias and positivists ideas, in being utilitarian, were unrealistic and unobtainable.

The book has five primary ideological characters: Verkhovensky, Shatov, Stavrogin, Stepan Trofimovich, and Kirilov. Through their philosophies, Dostoevsky describes the political chaos seen in 19th-Century Russia.

Published: Sheba Blake Publishing an imprint of Vearsa Limited on Jan 7, 2014
ISBN: 9781304775047
List price: $5.99
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I started this about a week ago, and it has been slow going (as evidence, I bought and read [Farewell My Lovely] in the interim). In Doestoyesvksy, we are always on the edge of horrendous behaviour. All we need to do is will it, and we can betray our family, abuse an old man, cover ourselves irretrievably in shame. Chilling. (3.3.07)read more
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I read it about 35 years ago, but include it here to go with other more recently read Dostoyevsky books. The emphasis was mainly on the cynical and, from Dostoyevsky's point of view, misguided activities of political radicals in Russia at that time. There are some interesting portraits, such as that of Stavrogin, but the book is not as compelling as Crime and Punishment, which I also read at that time.read more
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I've read this great political novel, but in a crappy old translation with no footnotes. The Pevear / Volokhonsky translation of Karamazov was such an improvement that I'm now working on going back and reading all of the great Russians in their versions.read more
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I started this about a week ago, and it has been slow going (as evidence, I bought and read [Farewell My Lovely] in the interim). In Doestoyesvksy, we are always on the edge of horrendous behaviour. All we need to do is will it, and we can betray our family, abuse an old man, cover ourselves irretrievably in shame. Chilling. (3.3.07)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read it about 35 years ago, but include it here to go with other more recently read Dostoyevsky books. The emphasis was mainly on the cynical and, from Dostoyevsky's point of view, misguided activities of political radicals in Russia at that time. There are some interesting portraits, such as that of Stavrogin, but the book is not as compelling as Crime and Punishment, which I also read at that time.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've read this great political novel, but in a crappy old translation with no footnotes. The Pevear / Volokhonsky translation of Karamazov was such an improvement that I'm now working on going back and reading all of the great Russians in their versions.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
As with all books by Dostoyevsky, the characters are what makes it. He takes one plot incident and builds around it, circling like an eagle, then jumps on his prey, which is you the reader.
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Demons is a very political novel about extreme political views and the ineptitude of the conservative status quo to control them. The book centers around Pyotr Verkhovensky, who is a nihilist and a bit of an opportunist, whose political views lead to death and destruction. Also present is Shigalovism, which is kind of a twisted sort of Communism, and the conservatism of the local governor, Lembke. Meanwhile, the reader is left to make sense of Pyotr's intellectual father, Stepan, who seems to be muddled in his beliefs, and there is also the enigmatic Nickolay Stavrogin, who seems to lack any real convictions at all. This interplay of different characters and their beliefs, both harmless and destructive, lie at the heart of the novel and tell us a lot about Dostoyevsky's view of Russia at this time.While I found the characters and the politics interesting, I was a bit put off by this book. For one thing, it took Dostoyevsky way too long to get past basic characterization and get to the plot of the novel. For this reason, I thought that this was not nearly as well crafted as the other three Dostoyevsky novels that I have read. Additionally, the use of first person narrator who was a confidante of Stepan was off-putting as well. There were several scenes that seemed to drift into third person as the narrator could not have possibly have known about what was happening. An example of this would be a conversation between two people who would not live long enough to share their conversation with anyone else. However, just when I thought that Dostoyevsky had switched narrative styles, the narrator would start telling you things that had happened in the first person. It was very jarring and made it difficult for me to enjoy the novel. For these reasons, while this is a decent novel, I didn't find it to be nearly as good as the other three Dostoyevsky novels that I haver read.
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Have decided not to continue with this (p175/700). It is going nowhere and the characters are uniformly irritating. I accept this is probably the author's intention, but it doesn't help. Life is too short and there are too many other books to read. No rating.
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