Dostoevsky in Love
An Inimate Life
A highly original and immersive new biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky, published to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth
Dostoevsky’s life was marked by brilliance and brutality. Sentenced to death as a young revolutionary, he survived mock execution and Siberian exile to live through a time of seismic change in Russia, eventually being accepted into the Tsar’s inner circle. He had three great love affairs, each overshadowed by debilitating epilepsy and addiction to gambling. Somehow, amidst all this, he found time to write short stories, journalism and novels such as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov, works now recognised as among the finest ever written.
In Dostoevsky in Love Alex Christofi weaves carefully chosen excerpts of the author’s work with the historical context to form an illuminating and often surprising whole. The result is a novelistic life that immerses the reader in a grand vista of Dostoevsky’s world: from the Siberian prison camp to the gambling halls of Europe; from the dank prison cells of the Tsar’s fortress to the refined salons of St Petersburg. Along the way, Christofi relates the stories of the three women whose lives were so deeply intertwined with Dostoevsky’s: the consumptive widow Maria; the impetuous Polina who had visions of assassinating the Tsar; and the faithful stenographer Anna, who did so much to secure his literary legacy.
Reading between the lines of his fiction, Christofi reconstructs the memoir Dostoevsky might have written had life – and literary stardom – not intervened. He gives us a new portrait of the artist as never before seen: a shy but devoted lover, an empathetic friend of the people, a loyal brother and friend, and a writer able to penetrate to the very depths of the human soul.
First published by Bloomsbury Publishing in January, 2021
immersive and extraordinary
The Times (Best Literary Non-Fiction of 2021)
an immersive, swift-moving but carefully source collage, “a tale both novelistic and true to life”
fluent and enthralling…the driving force here is Christofi’s sense that Dostoevsky speaks to our time as never before.
Mr Christofi has produced what he calls “a reconstructed memoir”… It is an ambitious concept, and it works. I greatly enjoyed this book.
Wall Street Journal
fluently readable and warmly entertaining, graced with a nice sideline in Christofi’s own dry asides
The Sunday Times
innovative approach…(to)..a potted biography of a striking figure
An immersive and visceral journey through the life of the revolutionary author . [Dostoevsky in Love] feels like a cinematic thriller with one of those protagonists that you want to grasp by the shoulders and shake.
An utterly charming, lively and original work that reads like a novel itself.
Globe and Mail
A wonderfully readable account of one of the great, and difficult, figures in world literature, Dostoevsky in Love brings the subject brilliantly to life. Anyone who loves his novels will be fascinated by this book.
Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche
Dostoevsky in Love is beautifully crafted and realised, but it is the great love that Christofi feels for his subject that makes this such a moving book.
Frances Wilson, Guardian
Whether you know everything or nothing about Dostoevsky, whether you love or hate him (and he was extremely annoying), this is the perfect modern biography. A celebration of human complexity which fuses surprising new information about the life of the writer with a passionate love for his books. Alex Christofi has created the most charismatic and engaging portrait of a tortured, brilliant man. Dostoevsky In Love is as entertaining as it is insightful.
Viv Groskop, author of The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature
A wonderfully written life of Dostoevsky, in which the boundaries that conventionally separate biography and autobiography are dissolved to revelatory effect.
Combining equal parts fact and fiction with literary flair, Alex Christofi has crafted in Dostoevsky in Love a stunning, genre-bending work certain to captivate fans of Dostoevsky and the Russian classics. A daring and mesmerizing twist on the art of biography.
Douglas Smith, author of Rasputin: The Biography
Alex Christofi has created a dazzling hybrid, a narrative account of Dostoevsky’s life that blends the known facts with his letters and the most autobiographical elements of his fiction. The effect is like that of colourised film footage: the Dostoevsky that shambles through these pages possesses an immediacy and a realness that’s almost uncanny.
Chris Power, novelist and author of Mothers
[A] compelling portrait of the writer’s inner world . Christofi reminds us how much Dostoevsky’s own failings and endless remorse informed his work and shaped his characters. My only caveat is that this lively account is too short.