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Donald Rayfield, 19 July 1984

Dostoevsky. Vol II: The Years of Ordeal 1850-1859 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 86051 242 8
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The Village of Stepanchikovo 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ignat Avsey.
Angel, 255 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 946162 06 9
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... Dostoevsky in the 1840s, a caustic and iconoclastic rising star, was the subject of Joseph Frank’s first volume of biography and critique, The Seeds of Revolt. This volume stood out from many rival studies for the thoroughness of its research, the generosity of its approach (to Dostoevsky and to other critics), its intelligent judgment of Dostoevsky’s psychology and literary intentions, and, rarest quality of all in the Dostoevsky industry, for its sheer readability ...

Tongues Wagged

Donald Rayfield, 20 February 1997

Dear Writer, Dear Actress: The Love Letters of Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper 
selected, translated and edited by Jean Benedetti.
Methuen, 202 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 413 70580 3
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... When The News seeped out that Anton Chekhov, the most sought after of Russia’s eligible bachelors, had, in Moscow on 25 May 1901, married a Lutheran actress, Olga Knipper, at least a dozen women exclaimed: ‘Why not me?’ There were the painters: Maria Drozdova dropped her brushes and her palette when she heard the news, exclaiming that she thought God had reserved Chekhov as a reward for her modesty and that she hated Knipper; Aleksandra Khotiaintseva, who had entertained him when they were staying in Nice in 1898 and whom Chekhov’s youngest brother wanted him to marry, kept her disappointment to herself ...

Two Sad Russians

Walter Kendrick, 5 September 1985

The Confessions of Victor X 
edited by Donald Rayfield.
Caliban, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 9780904573947
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Novel with Cocaine 
by M. Ageyev, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Picador, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1985, 0 330 28574 2
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... to me more and more gloomy.’ So it probably turned out, though we have no sure way of telling. Donald Rayfield thinks that the tone of Victor’s last pages suggests impending suicide, but there is no record of him after his Confessions end. Even the publication of a frank sexual memoir – the best way, ...

A Snack before I Die

James Wood, 21 August 1997

Anton Chekhov: A Life 
by Donald Rayfield.
HarperCollins, 674 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 00 255503 4
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... his writing, which is rebellious, brutal, despairing and unhappily comic, gives no excuse for it. Donald Rayfield’s biography, the fullest to appear in English, clouds the icon. Rayfield’s Chekhov is still charming, tactful and decent. He is still the man who bought new books for the library of his hometown, who ...

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