There is no writer whose work better foreshadows the micro and macro crises of our era than Dostoevsky. Take The Double, in which he foreshadows FOMO and the other experiential anxieties associated with social media, as well as the relationship we develop with our online avatars. Notes From Underground, in which he foreshadows the truther movement, the rise of the alt right and fake news. The Idiot, in which he foreshadows the spiritual emptiness of consumer society. Crime and Punishment, in which he foreshadows lone-wolf terrorism, for example Anders Breivik’s massacre in Norway in 2011. Devils, in which he foreshadows the nihilistic and-what? violence of acid attacks. Poor Folk, in which he foreshadows widening economic inequality. Diary of a Writer, in which he foreshadows fears of a clash between the East and the West. And that’s not to mention his style. The chaotic immediacy. The volatile wealth of exclamative sentences. The pugnacious wealth of interrogative sentences. The discourse markers. The non-sequiturs. The coiled emotion in each clause. He foreshadows the linguistic characteristics of self-examining, soul-baring Facebook and Tumblr posts too.
This section will use Dostoevsky as a springboard to explore the profound issues of our era and, in the process, make a claim for his unique contemporary relevance. It will feature creative responses – for example, 21st-century reimaginings of scenes from his oeuvre, parodies and inspired short stories – and critical essays. Questions considered will include: (1) How does Dostoevsky engage with psychological and societal issues similar to those facing us now? (2) What are the similarities and differences between the experiential tensions of his era and those of ours? (3) How can his style and themes be reforged today? (4) What are the weaknesses in his writing? Is it possible to eliminate them in a creative response and still label it Dostoevskian?
Experimentation with narrative form and voice is encouraged, as is interplay between contributions, that is to say, creative pieces that build on previously published critical ones and vice versa.
To launch this section of the site, we have three pieces: a Notes from the Underground-inspired piece by Peter Bloxham; rewritings of Dostoevsky in the styles of Nabokov and O’Brien by Caitlin Ingham; and a reimagining of The Double in the age of social media by Nicolas Padamsee, who has also curated this section of the site. Find them below:
This piece experiments with Dostoevsky’s style in the opening of Notes from Underground, using it to interrogate the chaos and contradictions of the post-truth era and the contemporary states of anxiety and existential distress that have become a...
In this piece, Caitlin Ingham explores the literary concept of the double, rewriting passages from Dostoevsky’s The Double in the style of Nabokov’s The Eye and Flann O’Brien's The Third Policeman. It represents an effort to emulate the writers...