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(1916). Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends. Translated by Ethel Colburn Mayne. The Macmillan Company, New York.. Psychoanal. Rev., 3(2):236-237.

(1916). Psychoanalytic Review, 3(2):236-237

Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends. Translated by Ethel Colburn Mayne. The Macmillan Company, New York.

One is privileged in a book like this to turn aside from a formal review and call attention rather to points of special psychoanalytic interest. The translator of these letters allows us to do this for she presents her selection of letters without comment or explanation, merely supplemented by certain illuminating characterizations from several of Dostoevsky's contemporaries. We learn then to know the man as he reveals himself in this intimate and genuine manner.

Dostoevsky shows his greatness in his simplicity and directness of thought, his fearless utterance of truth as he saw it and his insight led him to recognize truth in that which is ordinarily regarded as “fantastic and lacking in universality.” He saw the psychic reality which underlay even extraordinary facts and discovered here the “inmost essence of truth.”

Faults in his personality glaringly reveal themselves but they speak for the bitter struggle of his life and arouse compassion and sympathetic understanding. The letters show us the mutual influence of bitter outward circumstances and inner psychic maladjustment. Poverty reaching even to absolute want was his lot until late in life. Participation in the comparatively harmless activities of a circle of contemporaries which freely discussed government actions caused his arrest and sentence to death, a sentence remanded at the very moment of execution and altered to banishment to Siberia where he spent four years in a vile prison working in chains side by side with the lowest criminals. This period was followed by dreary, distasteful years in military service still in Siberia while after his return to St. Petersburg he was driven by his debts into a long and bitter exile in various European countries.

These external troubles embittered an already morbid nature and exaggerated both his physical illness and mental sufferings.

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