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revistas electrónicas de la Universidad de Granada

On Dostoevsky’s Shoelaces and the Vicissitudes of Literary History

Michael Andrew Nicholson

Resumen


The article relates broadly to the English reception of Russian literature at the beginning of the twentieth century, and to the friendship between celebrated representatives of two generations of intermediaries and historians of Russian literature for the English, Maurice Baring and Dmitry Svyatopolk-Mirsky. More specifically it focuses on Baring’s recollection of an encounter in 1907 during which the young Mirsky allegedly expressed his passionate admiration for Dostoevsky and declared Tolstoy unworthy to untie Dostoevsky’s shoelaces. Baring’s own high regard for Dostoevsky had been manifest years before the Dostoevsky “craze” swept England in the teens of the century. Mirsky’s celebrity dates from the 1920s when, after Revolution and Civil War and aided by Baring, he lived in emigration in London, earning renown as author of arguably the finest history of Russian literature ever written for the English reader. However, Mirsky’s consistent opinion of Dostoevsky and his assessment of the relative eminence of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in the writings of those years, far from cementing a bond with Baring, seem almost diametrically opposed to the latter’s recollection of their first encounter some 15 years before.  Nevertheless, traces of the lost Dostoevskyphile youth of Mirsky offer tentative vindication of Baring’s version. At the same time, though alien to the works by which Mirsky is best known, the exalted tenor of the surviving piece of juvenilia points obliquely ahead. It is macabrely suggestive of the expression of Mirsky’s growing Marxist and Leninist certainty from the late 1920s on, and of the faith or vision that in the 1930s took him back to the Soviet Union and his death.


Palabras clave


Maurice Baring, Dmitry Svyatopolk-Mirsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, English reception of Russian literature, Twentieth-century literary criticism

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Este trabajo está licenciado bajo la licencia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 .

ISSN: 1579-8372 | eISSN: 2255-517X