Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Review: Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart

Since we love Leithart’s literature study guides, I expected his latest book, Fyodor Dostoevsky to be something I could use in my homeschool.  But it isn’t.

Instead, it’s the poetic biography of a man who faced the darkest sides of humanity in himself and others, who struggled with his faith and his life, and who concluded that “Christianity…is the only refuge of the Russian land from its evils.” 

Dostoevksy’s childhood–and indeed his entire life—was difficult in many respects, but then, he was a difficult person.  However, one legacy from his childhood, a poem he memorized, centered his life:

With fainting soul athirst for Grace,

I wandered in a desert place,

And at the crossing of the ways

I saw a sixfold Seraph blaze;

He touched mine eyes with fingers light

As sleep that cometh in the night:

And like a frightened eagle’s eyes,

They opened wide with prophecies….

Using this poem, Leithart shows us Dostoevsky’s life and thought through a rambling, late-night conversation with his friend Maikov, punctuated with numerous flashbacks.  Dosteovsky wandered through the Russian literary and intellectual scene, in and out of the lives of women, into atheism and back to Christ, and from egoism to deep love for Russia. The book takes us from subversive political meetings to the firing squad, from a Siberian prison to an illicit rendez-vous in Paris, and from gambling halls to lecture halls.  In short, it shows us the mind of a very human prophet struggling with the political and religious identity of Russia and, indeed, all mankind. 

This is not the study guide I expected but much more: a deep analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky, a genius obsessed with Russia, focussed on Christ, and intimately acquainted with the brutality of man.  Dr. Peter Leithart, professor and pastor, has given the world a brilliant introduction to Dostoevsky, his writings, and his thought.

Unfortunately I cannot recommend this book for most homeschools. However, any adult wishing to understand mankind, Russia, Christianity, activism, or politics would find this compelling reading.  Of course, it is a must-read for anyone studying Dostoevsky’s work, whether personally or at a university.    

Disclosure I received a free review copy of this book from Booksneeze in order to share my honest opinions.

Fyodor Dostoevsky is my 39th book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and the first book in my personal NaNoReaMo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *