When Trifonov Read Dostoevsky: Ideology, Avarice, and Violence in Late Soviet Culture

Authors

  • Benjamin Sutcliffe Miami University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.13136/1013-2309/1008

Abstract

Moscow author Iurii Trifonov (1925-1981), famous for his insightful portrayal of the Brezhnev-era intelligentsia, was fascinated by how the ideas of Fedor Dostoevsky could comment on 1970s society. The ties between these two authors are more than an intriguing episode in literary history; they reveal the contradictions between ideology, action, altruism, and avarice underlying late socialism. Trifonov’s celebrated House on the Embankment (Dom na naberezhnoi, 1976) depicts a greedy protagonist who, in the final years of Stalinism, secures a career by betraying his mentor as well as his fiancée. The novella refutes the assumptions that the ends justify the means, a Dostoevskian motif influencing Trifonov’s less-known Impatience (Neterpenie, 1973). This historical novel, which praised the 1881 assassination of Aleksandr II, defends bloodshed in the struggle that eventually toppled tsarism. These two works offered dramatically divergent readings of Dostoevsky, a figure cautiously celebrated in the USSR during the 1971 sesquicentennial of his birth.

Keywords: Trifonov, Dostoevsky, commemoration, late Soviet culture

Author Biography

Benjamin Sutcliffe, Miami University

Professor of Russia and Havighurst Center Faculty Associate

References

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Published

30.12.2021

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