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Encyclopedia > The Possessed (novel)
The Possessed
(aka "The Devils" or "Demons")

Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation of Demons
Author Fyodor Dostoevsky
Original title Бесы
Translator Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Cover artist Lynd Ward (from Gods' Man)
Country Russia
Language Russian; English
Genre(s) Philosophical novel
Publisher Vintage Classics
Publication date August 1995
Media type Paperback
Pages 733 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-679-73451-1

For the theatrical adaptation by Albert Camus, see The Possessed (play). This image is a book cover. ... It has been suggested that Cultural depictions of Fyodor Dostoevsky be merged into this article or section. ... Richard Pevear is an American-born poet and translator who frequently collaborates with his wife, Larissa Volokhonsky, on translations of Russian novels. ... In political geography and international politics, a country is a political division of a geographical entity, a sovereign territory, most commonly associated with the notions of state or nation and government. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Philosophical novels are works of fiction in which a significant proportion of the novel is devoted to a discussion of the sort of questions normally addressed in discursive philosophy. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... ISBN-13 represented as EAN-13 bar code (in this case ISBN 978-3-16-148410-0) The International Standard Book Number, ISBN, is a unique[1] commercial book identifier barcode. ... Albert Camus (IPA: ) (November 7, 1913 – January 4, 1960) was a French author and philosopher. ... The Possessed ( in French Les Possédés) is a play written by Albert Camus in 1959. ...


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. Year 1872 (MDCCCLXXII) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a leap year starting on Saturday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... A novel (from French nouvelle Italian novella, new) is an extended, generally fictional narrative, typically in prose. ... It has been suggested that Cultural depictions of Fyodor Dostoevsky be merged into this article or section. ...


An extremely political book, The Possessed is a testimonial of life in Imperial Russia in the late 19th century. The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. ... Imperial Russia is the term used to cover the period of history from the expansion of Russia under Peter the Great, through the expansion of the Russian Empire from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, to the deposal of Nicholas II of Russia, the last tsar, at the start... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ...


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 idealogical foundation as demonic, [1] and the conservative establishment's ineptitude in dealing with those ideas and their social consequences. Revolutionary, when used as a noun, is a person who either advocates or actively engages in some kind of revolution. ... Democracy describes a number of related forms of government. ... In politics, left-wing, political left, leftism, or simply the left, are terms which refer (with no particular precision) to the segment of the political spectrum typically associated with any of several strains of socialism, social democracy, or liberalism (especially in the American sense of the word), or with opposition...


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. [2] A Slavophile was a member of an intellectual movement from 19th century that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed upon values and institutions derived from its the early history. ... Alexandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Russian: , IPA:  ; born December 11, 1918) is a Russian novelist, dramatist and historian. ...


The book has four primary ideological characters: Verkhovensky, Shatov, Stavrogin and Kirilov. Through their philosophies, Dostoevsky describes the political chaos arising in pre Communist Revolution Russia in the late 1800s. Fyodor Dostoevsky. ...

Contents

Note on the title

An ongoing source of confusion among readers unfamiliar with the work has been regarding the title. There are at least three popular translations: The Possessed, The Devils, and Demons. This is largely a result of Constance Garnett's earlier translation which popularized the novel and gained it notoriety as The Possessed among English-speakers; however, later Dostoevsky scholars began to question the original translation as being inaccurate. These scholars have argued that The Possessed "points in the wrong direction," and have interpreted the original Russian title Бесы (Besy) as referring not to those who are "possessed" but rather to those who are doing the possessing. Some might see the discrepancy as mere semantics; however, others more closely acquainted with the text insist that the difference is crucial to a full understanding of the novel: Constance Garnett (née Black) (December 19, 1861 - December 17, 1946) was an English translator whose translations of nineteenth-century Russian classics first introduced them on a wide basis to the English public. ...

It would be simpler if the title were indeed The Possessed, as it was first translated into English (and into French -- a tradition to which Albert Camus contributed in his dramatization of the novel). This misrendering made it possible to speak of Dostoevsky's characters as demoniacs in some unexamined sense, which lends them a certain glamour and even exonerates them to a certain extent. We do see a number of people here behaving as if they were 'possessed.' The implications of the word are almost right, but it points in the wrong direction. And in any case it is not the title Dostoevsky gave his novel. Discovering that the Russian title Besy refers not to possessed but to possessors, we then apply this new term 'demons' to the same set of characters in the same unexamined way -- a surprising turnabout, if one thinks of it.[3]

As a result, newer editions of the novel are rarely or never rendered under Garnett's earliest title.


Synopsis

Spoiler Warning: The novel takes place in a provincial Russian setting, primarily on the estates of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky and Varvara Stavrogin. Stepan Trofimovich's son, Pyotr Verkhovensky, is an aspiring revolutoinary conspirator that attempts to organize a knot of revolutionaries in the area. He considers Varvara Stavrogin's son Nikolai central to his plot because he thinks Nikolai Stavrogin has no sympathy for mankind whatsoever.


Verkhovensky gathers conspirators like the philosophizing Shigalyov, suicidal Kirillov, and the former military man Virginsky, and he schemes to solidify their loyalty to him and each other by murdering Ivan Shatov, a fellow conspirator. Verkhovensky plans to have Kirillov, who was committed to killing himself, take credit for the murder in his suicide note. Kirillov complies and Verkhovensky murders Shatov, but his scheme falls apart when Nikolai Stavrogin, tortured by his own misdeeds, kills himself. Verkhovensky escapes, but the remainder of his aspiring revolutionary crew is arrested.


Historical Origins

The Possessed is a combination of two separate novels that Dostoevsky was working on. One was a commentary on the real-life murder in 1869 by the socialist revolutionary group ("People's Vengeance") of one of its own members (Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov). The character Pyotr Verkhovensky is based upon the leader of this revolutionary group, Sergey Nechayev, who was found guilty of this murder. Sergey Nechayev was a close confidant of Mikhail Bakunin who had direct influence over both Nechayev and the "People's Vengeance". Also the character Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky is based upon Timofey Granovsky. The other novel eventually melded into Demons was originally a religious work. The most immoral character Stavrogin was to be the hero of this novel, and is now commonly viewed as the most important character in Demons. Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (also Sergei Nechaev, Сергей Геннадиевич Нечаев), born October 2, 1847, died either November 21 or December 3, 1882) was a Russian revolutionary figure associated with the Nihilist movement and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including political violence. ... Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (Russian: Михаил Александрович Бакунин, Michel Bakunin on the grave in Bern), (May 18 (30 N.S.), 1814 – June 19 (July 1 N.S.), 1876) was a well-known Russian revolutionary, and often considered one of the “fathers of modern anarchism. Born in the Russian Empire to a family of Russian... Timofey Nikolayevich Granovsky (March 9, 1813 - October 4, 1855) was a founder of medieval studies in the Russian Empire. ...


Characters

  • Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin is the main character of the novel. A complex figure, he has many anti-social traits that mark him as a manipulative psychopathic personality.
  • Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky is the philosopher and intellectual that is partly to blame for the revolutionary ideas that fuel the destruction that occurs in the book. He served as a father figure to Nikolai Vsevolodovich when Stavrogin was a child. His character is based on the anarchist philosopher, Mikhail Bakunin.
  • Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky is the son of Stepan and the cause of much of the destruction. He plays at being a true believer revolutionary though his only goal is to have power. His character was actually based on the revolutionary, Sergey Nechayev, who was the subject of Bakunin's famous "Catechism of a Revolutionary".
  • Ivan Shatov is a son of former serf, as well as a former university student and another intellectual who has turned his back on his leftist ideas. This change of heart is what attracts Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky to plot Shatov's murder. Shatov is based on I. I. Ivanov, a student who was murdered by Sergey Nechayev for speaking out against Nechayev's radical propaganda, an actual event which served as the initial impetus for Doestoyevsky's novel.
  • Alexei Nilych Kirillov is a Russian engineer who has been driven insane by the thoughts of God and life after death.
  • Varvara Stavrogin is Nicolas's mother and is a rich lady who plays at being leftist.
  • Captain Lebyadkin is the drunken former officer whose sister is secretly married to Nicolas.
  • Fedka the Convict is a roaming criminal suspected of several thefts and murders in the novel.
  • Mavriky Nikolaevich Drozdov is a visiting gentleman and guest of Ms. Stavrogin.
  • Maria Timofeevna Lebyadkin is Captain Lebyadkin's sister, rumored to be married to Nikolai Stavrogin's past. She is crippled.
  • Bishop Tikhon is a bishop who, in Dostoevsky's original drafts, Stavrogin visited for guidance, and revealed some of the disturbing events of his past. Their interview has little effect on Stavrogin, but provides the reader a better understanding of his background. However, this chapter was not accepted by the censors and Dostoevsky excised it from the original version, in which Bishop Tikhon is not mentioned. Most modern editions of The Possessed include this chapter, called "Stavrogin's Confession" or "At Tikhon's" in an appendix.

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (Russian: Михаил Александрович Бакунин, Michel Bakunin on the grave in Bern), (May 18 (30 N.S.), 1814 – June 19 (July 1 N.S.), 1876) was a well-known Russian revolutionary, and often considered one of the “fathers of modern anarchism. Born in the Russian Empire to a family of Russian... Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (also Sergei Nechaev, Сергей Геннадиевич Нечаев), born October 2, 1847, died either November 21 or December 3, 1882) was a Russian revolutionary figure associated with the Nihilist movement and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including political violence. ...

Ideologies

'Demons' is often noted for the range of clashing ideologies present in the novel. As in most Dostoevsky works, certain characters are descriptive of specific philosophies.

  • Nihilism, embodied by Pyotr Verkhovensky, is an extreme ideology that demands the destruction of the current social order. A description of Verkhovensky's philosophy of political change is posited as "the method of a hundred million heads," referring to the predicted death toll.
  • Shigalyovism is a philosophy specific to the book and particularly of the character Shigalyov. Very similar to barracks communism, Shigalyovism demands that ninety percent of society be reduced to a condition of inhuman slavery so the other actually useful ten percent of society is free to make progress.
  • Conservatism is embodied by the provincial governor Andrei Antonovich Von Lembke, and is shown to be incapable of dealing with subversive extremism.

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position which argues that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. ... Barracks communism (barracks socialism) is the term coined by Karl Marx to refer to primitive egalitarian concepts of communism with bureacratic reglamentation of all aspects of social activity. ...

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The British Broadcasting Corporation, which is usually known as the BBC, is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world in terms of audience numbers, employing 26,000 staff in the United Kingdom alone and with a budget of more than GB£4 billion. ... Not to be confused with Public Broadcasting Services in Malta. ... The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about movies, actors, television shows, production crew personnel, and video games. ... La femme publique (The Public Woman) is a French drama film inspired from Dostoevskys novel The Devils and directed by Andrzej Żuławski with Valérie Kaprisky and Francis Huster as the main actors. ... The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about movies, actors, television shows, production crew personnel, and video games. ...

References

  1. ^ The introduction of Demons Trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Classics, 1995
  2. ^ An Intellectual Tradition: Dostoyevsky and Alex Solzhenitsyn In an elaborately researched monograph, Russian scholar and political philosopher, Nicholas Rzhevsky, unequivocally confirms that Dostoyevsky created a unique religious synthesis and conservative intellectual tradition in late nineteenth-century Russian history (Cf. his Russian Literature and Ideology: Herzen,Dostoyevsky, Leontiev, Tolstoy , Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1983, pp. l3-14; 22; 65-95; 149-154)
  3. ^ Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Demons. Trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Classics, 1995. Page xiii.

See also

Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union. ... The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (the Ekumen universe). ... To immanentize the eschaton means trying to bring about the eschaton (transcendent, spiritual, or future; the end of days, see eschatology) in the immanent (present or material) world. ... Standalone copy of the chapter The Grand Inquisitor Wikisource has original text related to this article: The Grand Inquisitor The Grand Inquisitor is a parable told by Ivan to Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoevskys novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880). ...

External links

The works of Fyodor Dostoevsky
v  d  e
Major Works: Poor Folk | The Double: A Petersburg Poem | Netochka Nezvanova | The Village of Stepanchikovo | The Insulted and Humiliated | The House of the Dead | A Nasty Story | Notes from Underground | Crime and Punishment | The Gambler | The Idiot | The Possessed | The Raw Youth | The Brothers Karamazov
Short stories: "White Nights" | "A Christmas Tree and a Wedding" | "An Honest Thief" | "The Peasant Marey" | "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" | "A Gentle Creature" | "A Weak Heart"
Other: "The Grand Inquisitor" | Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov

Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. ... It has been suggested that Cultural depictions of Fyodor Dostoevsky be merged into this article or section. ... Poor Folk was first novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which he wrote over the span of nine months. ... The name Netochka Nezvanova, which can be translated roughly as nameless nobody, is widely believed to be a pseudonym taken from the name of the eponymous title character in Fyodor Dostoevskys early unfinished novel. ... The Village of Stepanchikovo is a book written by Fyodor Dostoevsky and first published in 1859. ... The Insulted and Humiliated (also known as The Insulted and the Injured) is a novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in 1861, is a book about the huge contradictions present in life. ... The House of the Dead is a novel published in 1862 by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Notes from Underground (also translated in English as Notes from the Underground or Letters from the Underworld) (1864) is a short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... Crime and Punishment (Russian: Преступление и наказание) is a novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments in 1866,[1] and was later published as a novel. ... The Gambler is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian General. ... Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of The Idiot The Idiot is a novel written by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1869. ... For the theatrical adaptation by Albert Camus, see The Possessed (play). ... The Raw Youth or The Adolescent (Russian: Подросток), is a novel of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы in Russian, ) is the last novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, generally considered the culmination of his lifes work. ... White Nights is a short story written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, originally published in 1848. ... A Christmas Tree and a Wedding is a short story by Dostoevsky. ... An Honest Thief is an 1848 short story by Dostoevsky. ... The Peasant Marey is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1876. ... The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1877. ... A Gentle Creature, sometimes also translated as The Meek One, is a short story written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1876. ... Standalone copy of the chapter The Grand Inquisitor Wikisource has original text related to this article: The Grand Inquisitor The Grand Inquisitor is a parable told by Ivan to Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoevskys novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880). ... Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Russian: Родион Романович Раскольников) is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. ...

Footnotes

  1. ^ The introduction of Demons Trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Classics, 1995
  2. ^ An Intellectual Tradition: Dostoyevsky and Alex Solzhenitsyn In an elaborately researched monograph, Russian scholar and political philosopher, Nicholas Rzhevsky, unequivocally confirms that Dostoyevsky created a unique religious synthesis and conservative intellectual tradition in late nineteenth-century Russian history (Cf. his Russian Literature and Ideology: Herzen,Dostoyevsky, Leontiev, Tolstoy , Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1983, pp. l3-14; 22; 65-95; 149-154)
  3. ^ Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Demons. Trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Classics, 1995. Page xiii.

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