Dostoevsky, Western Writers and Schola



The article is devoted to the review of the relations of the great Russian writer F. M. Dostoevsky, Western writers and scientists. We consider the mutual influence of Dostoevsky on Western literature and Vice versa. Dostoevsky belongs to writers whose biography is closely connected with their work. Dostoevsky's attempts to penetrate deeply into the soul are attempts to understand himself. This is why he was able to penetrate so deeply into the soul of his characters. Despite the fact that Dostoevsky was strongly influenced by Western European writers (Dickens, Schiller, Hoffman, etc.), he believed that the European way is disastrous for Russia and the great future of Russia, which will save the whole world, is possible only in Christ, in Orthodoxy, in the Church. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is a writer who created unforgettable realistic pictures of the world. Dostoevsky can be loved, admired, and hated (like Nabokov), but the fact that he is a genius writer cannot be denied.

General Information

Keywords: Dostoevsky, Writer, Works, Image, Hero, Style

Journal rubric: Linguodidactics and Innovations.Psychological Basis of Learning Languages and Cultures.

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Gubanova L.V., Petrova M.O., Vejber E.N. Dostoevsky, Western Writers and Schola [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2020. Vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 76–82. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2020070107.

Full text



Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is the Great Russian writer who created unforgettable realistic world pictures of many aspects of Russian life of the XIX century. He passionately dreamed of the advert of a new Golden age.

Ask any European or American having even a very slight idea about Russian literature; ask them who of our writers express the national spirit and they certainly name Dostoevsky.

Dostoevsky belongs to such writers, whose biography is closely connected with creativity, to such writers who could reveal themselves in works of art.

For many decades Dostoevsky ranks first with such great writers as L.N. Tolstoy and A. P. Chekhov.

Dostoevsky is one of the most widely read Russian writers abroad. His attempts to penetrate deep into his own soul are the attempts to understand himself. And that is why he managed to penetrate so deep into the mystery of a person. Revealing this mystery Dostoevsky comprehended not only his own personality but also projected his fate to the fates of his heroes.

Dostoevsky considered that the Great Future of Russia who could benefit all the mankind was possible only if all estates unite headed by the Monarch and Orthodox Church. He thought that the European path after the French Revolution of 1789 was ruinous for Russia.

He was fully confirmed in the opinion his trips abroad in 1862 - 1863 and in 1867 - 1871. As a result of this experience in 1961 he published his novel “Humiliated and insulted” in magazine “The Time”.

All early works of Dostoevsky pass under the sign of two European writers: Dickens and Hoffman.

Hoffman was one of his first passions as he was close to Dostoevsky in his interest to everything incomprehensible in the sphere of psychic life: obsession and nightmares, visions, the ambivalence boarding on the madness of genius.

When we speak about the influence of Hoffman on Dostoevsky, we can find traces of Dostoevsky’s passion in the first part of “Netochka Nezvanova” where we can see the typical Hoffman’s image in genius, drunk and crazy musician Efimov.

The 2-d part of this story begins with the awakening of Netochka in some strange rich house. This scene is already in traditions of Dickens and calls in memory the analogous pictures from “Oliver Twist”, “David Copperfield” and “Dumbly and son”. The theme of poor people united these two authors.

But the influence on Dostoevsky is much more clearly seen in the novel “Humiliated and insulted” where the side storyline is the history of Nelly Valkovskaya that factually represents the fate of Nelly Trent from “Curiosity Shop” by Dickens.

Balsac is one of Dostoevsky’s favorite writers. In 1843 Balsac spent the whole winter in Petersburg. In the connection with his visit Dostoevsky was given to translate “Eugenia Grande”. Balsac’s prose became for Dostoevsky the first school of style and artistic skill.

The apogee of Balsac’s influence on Dostoevsky was the result of creating “Crime and punishment”.

The 3-d French realist who greatly influenced Dostoevsky was Victor Hugo. In his post-prison period Dostoevsky appreciated Hugo most of all for his humanistic pathos of creativity.

According to Dostoevsky, “images and heroes of the world literature were not copied only but instilled to our organisms, to our flesh and blood. We experienced and suffered something independently as those for whom there in the West all this was native”.

In the words of Jacques Catteau - one of leading modern Dostoevsky’s researchers, “his novels abound in literary allusions and reminiscences. Any his work is not often a direct, but hidden exegesis of literature, philosophy and history. ”

It can be said that before being a genius writer, Dostoevsky had become a genius reader. His interests and sympathy cover practically the whole literary process in the world.

Dostoevsky was inspired by such geniuses as Dante, Cervantes and Shakespeare.

In Dante’s works Dostoevsky kept finding the deepest analysis of human passion, vices and virtues in their last, apocalyptic manifestation. Don Quixote was the favorite hero of Dostoevsky in the whole world literature. This hero served as the main reference point for him while creating positively lovely person in the novel “Idiot”. Don Quixote’s and Myshkin’s enthusiastic idealism equally finds the reflection in inspired speeches of both when they glorify nature and all living things as the God’s creation. The religious consciousness of both is very enlightened.

Dostoevsky considered Shakespeare’s tragedies to be the highest fruit of all the mankind as it was, “the form of achieved beauty”. In his works Dostoevsky always relied on Shakespeare’s eternal images, his principles of building scenes and monologues. Shakespeare’s combinations of high tragedy and grotesque were close to Dostoevsky. “Dostoevsky and Shakespeare - the phenomena that are most related, wrote L.S. Vygotsky. While reading both you feel the tragic abyss not in the consciousness, but in the artistic sensation.”

Dostoevsky also closely studied the works of French enlightment. He had complicated connections of attraction and repulsion with Voltaire, G.-G. Rousseau and Diderot.

Dostoevsky considered Rousseau as a preacher of Western democracy with his call for freedom, equality and fraternity.

Rousseauism was some kind of implementation of the idea of European civilization in contrast to the idea of Russian - Orthodoxy. But at the same time Dostoevsky took a lot from Rousseau as from a writer. A confessional form of “Notes from the underground” by its characteristic tone of ecstasy clearly went back to Rousseau’s “Confession”.

Voltaire’s philosophical stories and poems were very close to Dostoevsky. Many arguments of “pro” and “contra” as to God’s existence in Voltaire’s works Dostoevsky put into the mouth of Ivan Karamazov.

From Diderot Dostoevsky took a special form of a subtly witty, but cynically reduced philosophical dialogue, a remarkable example of which was “Cousin Ramon”. Confessions of Marmeladov, Stavrodin and a talk of a devil with Ivan Karamazov are given in the same stylistic manner.

As to Hemingway, one of the famous foreign figures, he read Dostoevsky in translations. In America taste for Dostoevsky’s works was instilled by the translator, whose name was Constance Harriet. In that country there was a joke that the Americans liked not Russian classic, but Harriet. Hemingway confessed that even “ennobled” translation didn’t save the style of novels. But the idea, the spirit remained - the texts incredibly strong impacted on readers.

Franz Kafka, one of the shadowy writers, felt a kinship with Dostoevsky. He wrote to his lover Felicia Bauer that Dostoevsky was one of four writers in the world, with whom he felt a real “blood relationship”. With delight he read to his friend Max Brod parts from the novel “Teenager”. And Max Brod in his memories noted that namely the 5-th chapter in this Dostoevsky’s novel predetermined a peculiar style of Kafka.

Dostoevsky was highly appreciated not only by Western writers but by Western scholars as well.

Thus, Albert Einstein in his correspondence with a physicist Paul Ehrenfest called “The brothers Karamazov” the most poignant book that ever fell into his hands.

Sigmund Freud was interested not so in the artistic advantages of the Russian classic, but in his ideas. Freud put Dostoevsky in one row with Shakespeare.

Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher who learned from Dostoevsky, remarked that his acquaintance with Dostoevsky’s works was the happiest discovery in his life. He considered Dostoevsky a genius in tone with his worldview, a genius he had learned a lot. Especially he admired “The Notes from underground”. He wrote that while reading this book the instinct of kinship immediately began to speak. But, admiring, Nietzsche noted that he was not close to “Russian pessimism” and called Dostoevsky “a champion of the morality of slaves” and many writer’s conclusions were in contrast to his own “hidden instincts”.

And now some quotes by different famous men.

“At the age of 15 I attacked Dostoevsky and that was the true revelation. At once I felt that touched something enormous and rushed to read everything he wrote, book after book, as I read Balsac before”

Antoine de Saint Exupery.

“I read Dostoevsky even in poor translations. Later I read him in French, he was translated by Russians and that was much better”.

Gabriel Garcia Marques.

“Dostoevsky gave me more than any thinker, more than Gauss”.

Albert Einstein.

“In the works by Dostoevsky every hero again and again solves his own problems, sets
himself boundary pillars of good and evil by bloody hands. Every hero embodies his chaos and
peace. Every his hero is a servant, a Herald of New Christ, Martyr and Herald of the third Kingdom.
The primordial chaos wanders in them, but the dawn of the 1-st Day is breaking, that gave Light to
the Earth and the premonitions of the 6-th Day, the Day when a New Person will be created. His
heroes pave the ways for a New World. A novel by Dostoevsky is a myth of a New Person, his birth
from the bosom of the soul”.

Stefan Zweig (from essay “Dostoevsky ”).

You can like Dostoevsky, admire him, hate him (as Nabokov), but it is impossible to deny the fact that he was a GENUIS.



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Information About the Authors

Larisa V. Gubanova, PhD in Psychology, доцент, Associate Professor of the Department of Linguodidactics and Intercultural Communication, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Marina O. Petrova, Student of the Institute "Foreign Languages, Modern Communications and Management", Moscow State University of Psychological and Education (MSUPE), Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Evgeniya N. Vejber, Student of the Institute "Foreign Languages, Modern Communications and Management", Moscow State University of Psychological and Education (MSUPE), Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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