Among Dostoevsky’s later novels, The Adolescent occupies a very special place: published three years after The Devils and five years before his final masterpiece, The Karamazov Brothers, the novel charts the story of nineteen-year-old Arkady – the illegitimate son of the landowner Versilov and the maid Sofia Andreyevna – as he struggles to find his place in society and “become a Rothschild” against the background of 1870s Russia, a nation still tethered to its old systems and values but shaken up by the new ideological currents of socialism and nihilism.
Both a Bildungsroman and a novel of ideas, dealing with themes such as the relationship between fathers and sons and the role of money in modern society, The Adolescent – here presented in a brand-new translation by Dora O’Brien – shows Dostoevsky at his finest as a social commentator and observer of the workings of a young man’s mind.
The Adolescent really is an unjustly neglected book. As a study of the coming of age of a confused young man, it couldn’t be bettered for capturing his mindset; and as the saga of a truly dysfunctional Russian family it can’t be faulted.
Shiny New Books
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81) is considered one of the greatest writers of all time. His works include such seminal novels as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Karamazov Brothers.