During his all-too-brief life (he died at the age of fifty-six), Dr. Leonid Tsypkin was indistinguishable from many other middle-class professionals in the Soviet Union. He was born in Minsk of Jewish parents, both of them doctors; part of the family was wiped out in the Stalin terror, part after Minsk fell to the Germans in 1941. His immediate family escaped because a grateful ex-patient made room for them in a truck. The young Leonid himself went on to become a research doctor, a pathologist, a member of the Institute for Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis, the author of a hundred medical articles on his specialties. But his scientific career suffered as a result of Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign and the emigration of his son and daughter-in-law to the United States in 1977. His own efforts to emigrate proved in vain.
The picture of him on the back flap of the present volume shows a round-faced man with rather fleshy features sitting before a microscope, from which, one imagines, he has just lifted his head. The expression on his face is pensive, contemplative, the penetrating eyes turned away from the camera and looking beyond it, as if broodingly pondering what he has just seen.
We are concerned with Dr. Tsypkin here because, as well as pursuing his honorable if unfortunately hampered medical researches, he also had a passion for literature, particularly for Dostoevsky, and devoted whatever time he could to literary composition. Only one work of his, the present volume, written between 1977 and 1980, was published in his lifetime (he died seven days after it began to appear in a Russian-language journal in the United States); and though he wrote several others, they were only printed, along with the republication of Summer in Baden-Baden, in a very small Russian edition financed by his son.
Luckily, however, the version of the brief novel published in a Russian-language newspaper in New York led to its excellent translation by a small English publisher, and Susan Sontag accidentally found the English edition while browsing among bookstalls in London. It turned out to be so striking and unusual that she got in touch with the author’s American family and arranged for its publication here—for which we can all be grateful.
The title refers to the five weeks spent in Baden-Baden by Dostoevsky, then forty-six years old, and his recent wife Anna Grigoryevna, twenty years younger, during July and August of 1867. These were the years when, whenever he went abroad and was within reach or easy traveling distance of a roulette table, he was overcome by an irresistible gambling fever (though after 1871 he never gambled again, despite several trips to Europe). While in Baden-Baden he also had a rancorous encounter with Turgenev, one that has left its traces in Russian cultural history. His relations with Turgenev until that time, though strained and touchy, had still been tolerably friendly, and just before the quarrel Dostoevsky had even been mulling over asking him for a loan (although an earlier one had not yet been repaid).
The novel is by no means confined only to this period of Dostoevsky’s life, and the author does himself a slight injustice by this choice of title. The book roams over Dostoevsky’s career, ranging from his literary debut in the 1840s to the very last days of his life in 1881. Indeed, if one wished to characterize the book more accurately, it might be called, perhaps, a rhapsody on Dostoevskian themes, or a series of variations on Dostoevskian motifs.
The book consists in large part of the uninterrupted flow of the author’s strikingly imaginative reconstruction of Dostoevsky’s life, based on a thorough knowledge of the original biographical sources as well as of Dostoevsky’s works. There is no division into chapters, and the unusual prose proceeds with an impetus that rarely relinquishes its grip on the reader. Tsypkin hardly pauses to complete sentences, which roll on with one clause succeeding another connected only by an “and” or separated with a dash. The pause for new paragraphs lasts only for a moment, as if the writer had just stopped to catch his breath.
The fadings in and out familiar from the movies also come to mind because transitions, often involving a change of time and place, are usually made through links of memory that evoke one another. This is not unlike what occurs in the stream-of-consciousness novels of Joyce and Woolf, but here the stream-of-consciousness is entirely dominated both by imaginative accounts of incidents from Dostoevsky’s life, which become fused with those of the characters in his novels, and to a lesser extent with the lives of other Russian writers and their works—Pushkin, Turgenev, Ivan Bunin, Tsvetaeva, Solzhenitsyn. As third-person narrator, the author enters freely into and out of the consciousness of the characters he is creating (in this case, Dostoevsky, his wife, and the various people, particularly Turgenev, who play an important part in Dostoevsky’s life) and at times he tends to merge with the figures about whom he is writing.*
Another narrative, first-person and autobiographical, is interwoven with the episodes devoted to Dostoevsky. Here Dr. Tsypkin himself speaks, and the book begins with a description of his departure from Moscow on a journey to Leningrad to visit the Dostoevsky Museum there and take photographs of the surrounding neighbor-hood. From time to time the author thus emerges from Dostoevsky’s world and brings his own twentieth-century Russia into relation with it, sometimes with a bitterly ironic comment on the total indifference of most of its inhabitants to the moral and cultural issues that so preoccupied Russians in the past. As for himself, this consuming interest in Dostoevsky provides a motive not only for his musings and reshapings of the Dostoevskian world, but also for a self-probing that gives his writing a particular poignancy.
Early in the novel we find Tsypkin sitting in a swaying railroad carriage at the start of his journey—superficially only from one city to another, but more deeply into the world of Dostoevsky as well as into himself:
…Bright lights of Moscow stations flashing into view and vanishing again behind me like the scattering of some invisible hand—each snow-veiled suburban platform with its fleeting row of lamps melting into one fiery ribbon—the dull drone of a station rushing past, as if the train were roaring over a bridge—the sound muffled by the double-glazed windows with frames not quite hermetically sealed into fogged-up, half-frozen panes of glass….
Impressions of Dostoevsky’s life appear and vanish with a similar kaleidoscopic rapidity. The narrator is trying to read a book in the railroad car, one filched from the library of an aunt and which he has had rebound to prevent its falling apart. It is, he says,
the Diary of Anna Grigor’yevna Dostoyevskaya produced by some liberal publishing-house still possible at that time…—with dates given in both Old Style and New Style and words and whole phrases in German or French and without translation…a transliteration of the shorthand notes which she had taken during the summer following her marriage abroad.
Susan Sontag in her introduction seems to confuse this book with Anna Dostoevsky’s Reminiscences (“aboard a train bound for Leningrad, the narrator…opens a book…the Reminiscences of Dostoevsky’s second wife”) but these two works are not the same. The Diary, containing the unaltered shorthand notes made by Anna Dostoevsky in compliance with her mother’s request that she keep some account of her journey, was first published in 1923. The Reminiscences, partly written on the basis of Anna Dostoevsky’s diary at the very end of her life, were put together from her manuscripts in 1925, seven years after her death, by Leonid Grossman, one of the first Jewish specialists on Dostoevsky. This latter volume covers Dostoevsky’s entire life and draws very selectively on the Diary, whose entries, often showing Dostoevsky in a far from favorable light, were later revised and bowdlerized.
It is this first book that the narrator is holding so carefully (it was only republished in 1993). “Why was I now on my way to Petersburg—yes, not to Leningrad, but precisely to Petersburg?” he asks as he emotionally prepares to plunge into the world of Dostoevsky’s own life and time. “Why was I reading this book now, in a railway-carriage, beneath a wavering, flickering, electric light-bulb, glaring brightly at one moment, almost extinguished the next…?” The entire book provides, if not an unequivocal answer to this question, at least an understanding of why it troubles his conscience and confronts him with a moral dilemma.
Reading about the journey of the Dostoevskys while engaged on his own, the narrator describes their departure for Dresden, passing through Vilna, “where they were constantly pestered by loathsome little Jews thrusting their services upon them.” (The contrast between the Reminiscences and the Diary is brought out by Dr. Tsypkin’s own remark that in the former, “perhaps even after she [Anna Grigoryevna] got to know Leonid Grossman, there is no mention at all of loathsome little Jews on stairs” who show up in the Diary.) In Dresden, the couple go to the art gallery every day “as people in Kislovodsk drop in at the kursaal to take the waters,” and this causes the narrator to recall a long queue for a show at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow where “the Sistine Madonna” was once displayed—the same Madonna whose photograph, “in a wooden frame, hangs in the Dostoevsky Museum in Leningrad above the leather couch on which the writer died.”
Shifting back to Dresden again, and following the Diary, the narrator observes that, for the couple, the Germans are “a dim-witted bunch” who cheat all the time and barely treat them with minimal courtesy. Dostoevsky becomes infuriated when “some Saxon officer with fleshy red nose and yellowish eyes, his whole appearance that of a drinker,” is attentively served in a hotel restaurant while they are insultingly neglected. In a rage, Dostoevsky pounds the table with his fist, “and he even began to shout at [Anna] as if it were her fault that the two of them had gone there together.” The Diary itself is filled with incidents in which Dostoevsky turns on the wholly innocent and inexperienced Anna to vent his frustration; and the narrator makes clear the resentment Anna could express in the Diary (whose shorthand Dostoevsky was unable to read), but had to keep under careful control for the sake of her marriage.
Another recollection occurs at this point, however, as the narrator shifts from the Diary to Dostoevsky’s fictionalized memoir, House of the Dead: “Had he himself [Dostoevsky] not stared sycophantically into the yellow-lynx eyes of that drunk, red-nosed swine of a commandant in the con-vict prison?—yes! that was the one brought to mind by the Saxon officer just now.” The narrator then evokes a day in the prison camp, when Dostoevsky was feeling ill and lying on the bunk, and this officer shouted at him “with all the strength of his bullish throat” to get back to work. In another image from the prison-camp years Dostoevsky witnesses a punishment: “the victim lying motionless as he was beaten with birch-rods, leaving bloody weals on his back and buttocks,” and then getting to his feet with dignity and leaving without so much as a glance at Major Krivtsov, the sadistic prison-camp commandant.
If Dostoevsky was condemned to endure the same punishment, “would he have managed to keep so silent and leave the guard-room with such dignity?” (So far as is known Dostoevsky was never flogged, though rumors to that effect circulated throughout his lifetime; but the narrator evidently refuses to give them credence.) He imagines Dostoevsky, rather, as having “walked with head lowered—no, not walked, but almost ran—humiliating in itself—and when he reached the officer, he stared at him, not a firm, hard look, but with pleading eyes.” The memory of those “yellow, lynx-eyes,” with all their humiliating associations, crops up again and again to form one of the clusters of images that recur in the narrator’s portrait of a continually insulted and injured Dostoevsky.
Another such cluster of images is nautical, appearing whenever reference is made to the account in the Diary of Dostoevsky’s courtship and marriage. The abrupt change in Anna’s hitherto peaceful and uneventful life seems like the experience of a storm at sea. Once the two had met, “her world had begun to sway and swirl—on a ship in the middle of a storm, a gigantic wave had swept all the rigging and even the handrails away, leaving only the mast,” to which she felt only she alone was able to cling. Whenever Anna feels her marriage to be threatened, the image of her clinging to the mast reappears; and their sexual relations are transformed into the imagery of swim-ming—“swimming with large strokes, thrusting their arms in unison from the water to take great gulps of air into their lungs.” But a countercurrent prevents Dostoevsky from moving in unison with her, “and strangely this current, bearing him away…seemed to turn into the yellow eyes of the commandant with dilated predator pupils,” which then brings back the terrible details of the flogging, described as if inflicted on Dostoevsky himself. He hated all these imaginary “invisible witnesses” peering through grilled prison windows because they had seen his humiliation, blending with the faces of the waiter and the Saxon officer.
Just as this fictional Dostoevsky is haunted by debilitating memories of his prison-camp years, so another group of images emerges from recollections of his literary debut. His first novel, Poor Folk, had been hailed as a masterpiece by the leading critic of the time, Vissarion Belinsky (there is an error in the translation here which speaks of “White Nights,” a later short story, while the Russian correctly cites the novel), but then Dostoevsky’s swollen vanity irritated the group of young writers gathered around Belinsky—Panayev, Goncharov, Nekrasov, Turgenev. These distressing events also continue to bedevil Dostoevsky, particularly in the pages devoted to his gambling during their stay in Baden-Baden.
The couple often took walks in the mountains surrounding the city, and Dr. Tsypkin reimagines them in order to express Dostoevsky’s sense of success or failure, of exhilaration or despondency, depending on his luck at the gambling tables. When winning, he saw himself as conquering the mountain heights, the summit
covered in virgin snow, gleaming silver in the rays of the sun or even reflecting gold—and for the others—Turgenev, Goncharov, Panayev, Nekrasov—they all remained below at the foot of the mountain, hand in hand in some round-dance, enveloped in the fetid mists of the lowlands.
This “round-dance” keeps recurring, appearing either above or below Dostoevsky depending on whether he is winning or losing. And when “he tumbled headlong downhill,” the round-dance figures become amalgamated with others—“a purple face with lynx eyes,” and “women’s faces, too—and were they not the ones which had peered through the barred window to the guardroom?”
These examples should be enough to illustrate the remarkable texture of Tsypkin’s book, and the ingeniously inventive and convincing images in which Dostoevsky’s life and work are conveyed. In a bravura passage, inspired by the hallucinatory intensity of Dostoevsky’s gambling obsession, the narrator brilliantly portrays him rushing back and forth between home and casino, pawning everything he and Anna possess to make up his losses. In his feverish state he seems, in his own fantasies,
to be performing the most extraordinary movements, one moment turning into a juggler with black tights, white kid gloves and a black top-hat, skillfully throwing engagement rings up into space along with dresses and Anna Grigoryevna’s fur hat and just as skillfully catching them in mid-air.
He then becomes a ballet dancer, “twisting on his own axis in pirouettes,” and Anna emerges “swathed like Carmen in the shawl,” clicking castanets and tossing him her jewelry and her dress. And he “would fling necklaces, rings, dresses and shawls into the air, juggling them skillfully…—but the objects he was throwing into the air did not return.” No one who has read this portrayal of Dostoevsky, “executing the complex steps of a divertissement against the background of Baden-Baden’s red-brick houses,” is ever likely to forget it.
Turgenev appears not only in the “round-dance” but also in the account the narrator gives of their famous meeting. The author here is drawing on two sources, Anna’s Diary and Dostoevsky’s more detailed description a month later in a letter to an old friend, the poet Apollon Maikov. But Tsypkin recasts the scene, aware that Dostoevsky had always been put off by Turgenev’s condescendingly aristocratic air of friendliness, and that he had hated Turgenev’s most recent novel, Smoke, almost unanimously considered anti-Russian.
Tsypkin convincingly recreates the scene: “‘Ah! It’s you,’ said Turgenev in his woman’s falsetto, greeting his guest with that ingenuous smile of his, full of joy and amazement,” while Dostoevsky sat there “feeling like some wretched dropper-in or, to be more accurate, beggar, although he wasn’t begging for anything.” Stung by a reference (purely fictional) to his penal servitude, and enraged by Smoke, Dostoevsky asks: “So why don’t you to go Paris and buy a telescope so you can examine Russia from there?” Again, when Dostoevsky (again fictionally) demeaningly remarks that “your novel is German through and through,” Turgenev replies: “I take your words to be praise…. A literature which has given us Goethe and Schiller….” (In his letter to Maikov, Dostoevsky accuses Turgenev of having said that he felt more German than Russian.)
One could go on exploring the fascinating but by no means uncritical portrait of Dostoevsky presented here, or rather, of the Dostoevskys, since Anna Grigoryevna is given her rightful place. Dr. Tsypkin sympathetically describes her during the turbulence of the early months of their marriage, when Dostoevsky abusively turned on her again and again, only to return and confess the unfairness and injustice of his intolerable mistreatment and ask for forgiveness on his knees. And at this point, in the midst of a gambling scene in which he is “flying downhill,” the narrator gives an analysis of his character as shaped by such devastating experiences of humiliation:
Do we all not do the same thing…think up convenient theories designed to soften the blows continually rained on us by fate or to justify our own failures and weaknesses?—and is this not the explanation of the so-called crisis which Dostoevsky went through during his penal servitude?—could his morbid pride ever become reconciled with the humiliations to which he was subjected there?—no, he had only one way out: to consider these humiliations as his just desert—“I bear a cross, and I have deserved it,” he wrote in one of his letters—but in order to bring this about he had to represent all those earlier views of his, for which he had suffered, as erroneous and even criminal—and this he did, unconsciously of course—[the result of] the human psyche’s need for self-preservation.
Since this is a novel, there is no need either to accept or reject such an interpretation as having any definitive biographical truth; we are dealing with the Dostoevsky created by Dr. Tsypkin, and brought to life in his pages.
This passage provides one of the climaxes of the book—the narrator’s quest, as it were, for an understanding of Dostoevsky. But there is another quest embodied in the story, the search for an understanding of the narrator’s own fascination with the novelist. This question is directly posed when, on arriving in Leningrad, Tsypkin stays at the apartment of an elderly friend whose husband had been a medical colleague, a urologist also of Jewish origin. His hostess asks the narrator if he is “still keen on Dostoevsky,” adding: “Only don’t talk about it at the Brodskys.” The father of this family was “an academician” and the sons “engaged in some kind of secret work,” but they “ate nothing that was not kosher” and observed the Jewish holidays. For them the name of Dostoevsky was evidently anathema, and the narrator understands why perfectly well.
Leafing through a pre-revolutionary copy of the Diary of a Writer that he finds on the bookshelf, he stumbles on the article “The Jewish Question,” in which Dostoevsky attempted to justify his anti-Semitism. And this leads him to think of Jewish characters and allusions from Dostoevsky’s novels—the obsequious Lyamshin in The Devils, the cunning moneylender Isaiah Fomich among the convicts in House of the Dead, the fireman in Crime and Punishment with his incongrous “Achilles helmet,” the Christian child supposedly crucified by a Jew in The Brothers Karamazov, a crime that Alyosha Karamazov refuses either to affirm or deny—as well as the entire panoply of vicious anti-Semitic charges unrolled in the article. The doctor read all this with “a pounding heart,” trying to understand why
a man so sensitive in his novels to the suffering of others, this jealous defender of the insulted and injured…that this man should not have come up with even a single word in the defense or justification of a people persecuted over several thousands of years—could he have been so blind?—or was he perhaps blinded by hatred?
Dostoevsky denied harboring any such hatred on religious grounds, but the article and his letters indicate that he considered the Jews to be ruthless exploiters of the misery of others, if not even worse.
Not only did Dr. Tsypkin belong to this “tribe,” as Dostoevsky calls the Jews, so did “the many friends and acquaintances of mine with whom I had discussed the subtlest problems of Russian literature.” So did practically all the Russian scholars and critics (seventeen names are listed) “who have gained,” as he notes with melancholy irony, “almost what amounts to a monopoly in the study of Dostoevsky’s literary heritage.” Susan Sontag remarks that “Tsypkin has no better explanation than the fervor of Jews for the greatness of Russian literature—which may remind us that the German adulation of Goethe and Schiller was in large part a Jewish affair…. Loving Dostoyevsky means loving literature.” Well, yes, but it also means something else less easy to acknowledge and less self-congratulatory.
For how does Dr. Tsypkin answer his own question? At first he compares the Jewish adoration of Dostoevsky to “a cannibalistic act performed on the leader of an enemy tribe,” presumably to acquire his powers. But then it becomes
using him as a safe-conduct—something like adopting Christianity or daubing a cross on your door during a pogrom—although one cannot exclude the simple fervor of Jews here which has always been particularly strong in questions of Russian culture…and which, in any case, completely accords with the preceding supposition.
The love of literature is part of a “symbiosis syndrome,” in which interest in culture, both perfectly genuine and also a means of self-protection, has been a perennial feature of Jewish cultural history and identity. Sontag’s German comparison is another excellent example of the same phenomenon.
Tsypkin’s question acquires a special pathos in the concluding pages, where, after reading Dostoevsky’s article on Jews, the doctor falls asleep and dreams. In a jumble of images, he again sees a supplicating Dostoevsky capering and dancing before those from whom he seeks favors or approval, walking on a tightrope, his face covered by “the mask of Harlequin from which tufts of his gray beard protruded” and being thrown into one humiliating situation after another. When Dostoevsky crawls to a mirror, “to straighten his appearance…instead of himself in the mirror he saw the puny figure of Isaiah Fomich, without any clothes on and with the breast of a chicken.” In Tsypkin’s dream Dostoevsky himself has now become transformed into the most manifestly Jewish figure he had ever described; and, as Tsypkin well knew, the very idea of such a transformation would have filled Dostoevsky with horror.
Once, having been wiped out at the tables in Wiesbaden and searching for a Russian priest at night to ask for both solace and a loan, Dostoevsky had almost entered a Jewish synagogue by mistake, thinking it a Russian church. He wrote Anna that he felt “as though I had cold water poured over me,” and it may have been more than coincidental that from this moment on he never gambled again, though he had promised to stop and failed many times before. Could he have interpreted his mistake as a warning from on high—he believed in such omens—that his gambling fever was bringing him close to becoming a Jew?
Tsypkin’s narrative then shifts to his own story, and we are back in the Leningrad flat with the narrator and his old family friends. They chat of the Leningrad blockade, when his aged hostess, who worked in a scientific institute, tells of “how the people actually ate the dogs and cats,” and one “would see frozen corpses…and how people would collapse before her very eyes, freezing to death on the same spot.” Then they talk about the arrest of the head of her institute, “a famous chemist,” released through the intervention of Romain Rolland, and the disappearance of her husband when he was taken into custody, though he suddenly turned up again one day to everyone’s surprise. Such anecdotes seem to have little to do with Dostoevsky but in fact serve to bring out the connection between the intimate Jewish world of Dr. Tsypkin and the common Russian fate.
As the narrator gropes his way through the darkening Leningrad streets, walking past places associated with the novels (“Raskolnikov’s House or the Old Moneylender’s House”), he finds his way to the Dostoevsky Museum and gives an account of the final three days of Dostoevsky’s life. Past and present blend as the narrator imagines the
flames of the two candles standing on the desk and the photograph of the “Sistine Madonna” floating in the clouds with the Child, which was hanging above the couch on which the dying man lay, and outside the windows was a wintry Petersburg night—just as it looked now at this moment most probably.
Just before dying Dostoevsky was again climbing a mountain, viewing “not only the earth with all the vanity of its inhabitants…but all the terrible secrets of those distant planets”; then the sun vanished and “he sank down into terrible, fathomless darkness.”
For all his identification with Dostoevsky, the narrator is nonetheless preoccupied, as he emerges to search for the trolley car that will take him home, not only by the question that had plagued him from the start but by a sense of estrangement he has not been able to shake off. “Why had I come here under cover of darkness, walking along these empty and godforsaken streets like a thief?” And why, in the museum, “or other places connected with [Dostoevsky],” had he trailed behind, or stood aside, as if all this were no concern of his? What was the meaning of the dream, “in which, at the end, [Dostoevsky] turned into Isaiah Fomich”? Was this not “only the pathetic attempt of my subconscious to ‘legitimize’ my passion?”
Earlier, “the human psyche’s need for self-preservation” had impelled Dostoevsky to overcome debasement by renouncing his past. The same need, expressed in Dr. Tsypkin’s dream, has now transformed Dostoevsky into a Jew so as to overcome the debasing awareness of his anti-Semitism. The narrator has thus himself become a typical Dostoevskian character, torn between what his mind tells him is distressingly true and what his heart (his “passion”) refuses to accept. Could this resemblance be the underlying reason for the strange power that his favorite writer exercised on Dr. Tsypkin’s psyche? It certainly helps to comprehend, in any case, the particular features of Dostoevsky that he places in the foreground of his powerful portrait.
So ends Tsypkin’s short poetic masterpiece, which opens insightful perspectives on Dostoevsky as well as on Russian literature past and present. There are sparkling pages devoted to Pushkin, and there is the sudden appearance, after the Dostoevsky–Turgenev argument, of the unnamed but unmistakable figures of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov (along with Elena Bonner), who emerge to renew the Westernizer–Slavophil dispute one hundred years later. Similarly, we may compare Dr. Tsypkin’s reliving of the Russian-Jewish ambiguity about Dostoevsky with that of the journalist Arkady Kovner. He is not mentioned in the text, though Dostoevsky was answering him in the article “The Jewish Question” that the doctor reads.
Kovner had been a well-known publicist in the Hebrew Pale, the western provinces of the Russian Empire, producing two books in Hebrew before switching to Russian and contributing to Petersburg progressive journals. He wrote to Dostoevsky from prison (his crime had been to swindle money from a bank with the hope of emigrating to the United States), and while praising the humanity of his works, he objected vigorously to his anti-Semitic tirades. Dostoevsky was so impressed with this letter that he replied (Kovner was one of his two known Jewish correspondents) with both a letter and his article. After reading the article, and just before being sent into exile to Siberia, Kovner again castigated Dostoevsky for having written that
if there were eighty million Jews and only three million Christians, the Jews would in the most literal sense of the word fleece them alive…. How can the Russian people not hate the Jews when its best representatives speak of them publicly as wild beasts?
Nonetheless, at the very end of his article Dostoevsky seems to ask (though very reluctantly) for a more charitable attitude toward the Jews. And this is enough for Kovner to add:
May you be forgiven, much-esteemed Feodor Mikhailovich, for this thoughtless paradox [the accusation against the Jews]. I say “thoughtless” because you are, at bottom, the kindest of men (as you have proved for the thousandth time…in the same number of your Diary).
The enigma of Dostoevsky’s anti-Semitism has thus bewildered his Jewish readers for more than a hundred years. But Dr. Tsypkin has done much more than give us another version of well-worn arguments. Like Dostoevsky in his own novels, he has embodied his quarrel with himself in a moving and impressive artistic achievement.
May 23, 2002
The critic Dorrit Cohn used the word “psycho-narration” to describe the technique of a third-person narrator fusing with and conveying the consciousness of a character in her excellent book Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction (Princeton University Press, 1978), Chapter One. ↩