The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Illustrated by Harry Brockway

Introduced by Joyce Carol Oates

Translated by David Magarshack

First Printing

Seven of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s greatest works of shorter fiction are presented in this striking new Folio Society collector’s edition, illustrated with Harry Brockway’s wood engravings and introduced by author Joyce Carol Oates.

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Published to mark the 200th anniversary of Dostoyevsky’s birth, The Best Short Stories is the definitive collection of the author’s greatest shorter works in David Magarshack’s celebrated translation. Presented in chronological order (with one exception), the seven entries include essential stories such as ‘Notes from the Underground’ and ‘White Nights’, as well as lesser-known but equally compelling literary treasures like the autobiographical ‘The Honest Thief’. Covering themes of class, good and evil, love, philosophy and religion, each of these stories explores the psyche of the characters and myriad facets of human nature. Harry Brockway demonstrates an intuitive understanding of Dostoyevsky’s writing through his seven exquisite wood engravings which convey the beauty and pathos of each story. His artwork continues to the binding design with two engravings separated by a beautiful gold-blocked buckram spine. The edition includes Magarshack’s original introduction to his translation, while novelist and National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates draws on her vast knowledge of Russian literature in a newly commissioned introduction that is a fascinating appraisal of Dostoyevsky’s work.

Quarter-bound in blocked buckram, with printed cloth sides

Set in Ehrhardt with Latin Condensed display

272 pages

7 integrated full-page woodcut mono illustrations

Plain slipcase

9½˝ x 6¼˝

David Magarshack’s translation captures the nuance and soul of Dostoyevsky’s original Russian text like no other, and it was the only translation considered for our edition. Likewise, when it came to selecting an illustrator, it was a unanimous decision. Renowned artist Harry Brockway has worked on many Folio titles; his intricate work displaying incredible skill and understanding of the subject matter. Each of the seven engravings shows a vignette from the story it illustrates, with the facial expressions, attire and surroundings of the characters accurately and boldly depicted. Brockway’s woodcuts also decorate the binding. The edition includes Magarshack’s original introduction to the first published edition of his translation, offering a fascinating insight into the life of Dostoyevsky and the evolution of his short stories. A second, newly commissioned introduction by renowned author, Joyce Carol Oates, adds another perspective on the life and work of one of the greatest writers of all time.

Dostoyevsky might be best-known for his novels, such as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, however, it is through his shorter works that readers become most keenly aware of the magnitude of his literary influence and the interwoven themes that still resonate two centuries after publication. Social class, good and evil, love, philosophy and religion are all recurring motifs in the author’s writing; subjects explored in greater depth in some of his longer works. Known as the ‘psychological writer’, Dostoyevsky's legacy is far-reaching, from Ernest Hemingway to James Joyce and Virginia Woolf citing his work as an influence. Many of the fable-like stories in this collection feel peculiarly modern and, from the tragic human failings depicted in the ‘The Honest Thief’ to the autobiographical ‘The Peasant Marey’, each is a small masterpiece that offers a rich and rewarding reading experience.

White Nights

The Honest Thief

The Christmas Tree and a Wedding

The Peasant Marey

Notes from the Underground

A Gentle Creature

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821 and was orphaned while still in his teens. His first novel, Poor Folk (1846), was well received by literary critics, but the author’s initial success was short lived. In 1849 he was arrested because of his involvement with a group of utopian socialists and sentenced to death; this was commuted at the last moment. Thereafter he was subjected to years of penal servitude and exile. The experience radically altered his political opinions. Later he travelled around Europe, where he became addicted to gambling and grew more convinced in his anti-European views. He is best known today for his novels published in the 1860s and 1870s – Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons and The Brothers Karamazov. Throughout his lifetime, Dostoyevsky was acclaimed as a leading figure of Russian literature’s golden age, most notably after a prophetic speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial in Moscow in 1880. His complex political and philosophical views – as a Christian who sometimes criticised Orthodoxy, and a utopian socialist who was also deeply conservative and a committed Russian nationalist – are often explored in his fiction through close psychological examination of troubled, delusional and criminal characters. Dostoyevsky died at home in 1881, quoting from the Bible in his final moments. Thirty thousand people attended his funeral.

David Magarshack was a British translator and biographer of Russian authors. Born in 1899 in what is now Riga, Magarshack moved to Britain in 1920 and became naturalised in 1931. He attended University College London and graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature. After failed attempts at careers in journalism and crime fiction, Magarshack was approached by Penguin Classics editor, E. V. Rieu, to translate Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Over the next 13 years, with the help of his wife, Elsie, a Cambridge graduate of English, Margarshack went on to become of the most prolific contributors to the classics series, translating all of the Russian literature on its list. Known by some as the first modern translator, Margarshack wrote extensively on translation theory, though most of his work would remain unpublished. Best known for his translations of Dostoyevsky, he also published several novels, and biographies of Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin, Stanislavsky and Turgenev. He died in 1977.

Harry Brockway was born in Newport, South Wales, in 1958. He studied sculpture at Kingston-upon-Thames Art School and at the Royal Academy Schools in London before training to become a stonemason. Since 1989 he has worked as a stone-carver and illustrator. He uses a range of sculpting materials to create his art, including limestone, sandstone, slate, marble and wood. He has been a member of the Society of Wood Engravers since 1984 and has produced a significant body of work for Folio Society publications, including Frankenstein (2004; 2015), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (2010; 2017), Brideshead Revisited (2018) and Maigret (2018).

Joyce Carol Oates’s first novel, With Shuddering Fall, was published in 1964 when she was still in her twenties. Since then, she has published a further fifty-seven novels as well as many books of short stories, poems, plays and nonfiction. Oates read widely in nineteenth-century fiction as a girl – and has cited Dostoyevsky as an early influence – before encountering classic works of modernism as a student at Syracuse University, all of which helped to shape her own writing. Her best-received fictions include the Wonderland Quartet (1967­–71) – the third volume, them, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1970 – and Blonde (2000), a fictional treatment of the life of Marilyn Monroe, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Oates taught writing at Princeton University from 1978 to 2014. Together with her first husband she founded and edited a literary magazine, the Ontario Review, and an associated publishing house. In 2010 she was presented with the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.


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