Recent links of note:
“Dostoevksy and His Demons”
Gary Saul Morson, The New York Review of Books
The strangeness of Dostoevsky’s life—feigned execution, epilepsy, gambling addiction—is on par with those of his characters. Since his death, however, these biographical facts have become inextricably entwined with legend. In this essay for The New York Review of Books, Gary Saul Morson, the eminent Russian literature scholar and regular contributor to The New Criterion, notes that “The special importance Russians have traditionally assigned to literature has conferred on writers a mythic aura.” He compares the methods used by three biographers to chip away at some of those myths and traces how these tales arose in the first place. Freud, for instance, popularized several in his “Dostoevsky and Parricide” article, including the idea that the author’s epileptic fits began just after the death of his father. Morson also casts doubt on the notion that Dostoevsky’s father was murdered by serfs, a fact recorded by his daughter Lyubov, a notoriously unreliable attestant. It is a fascinating essay on biographical writing that shows the benefits of putting primary sources front and center, allowing readers to form their own conclusions.
“Riches held in great esteem: The story of a notebook of Emily Brönte's poems”
Tricia Ayrton, Times Literary Supplement
Those visiting the British Library will usually see a handwritten page from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre but, maddeningly, not one from her sister Emily’s manuscript of Wuthering Heights, which has not survived. What might be on display, however, is Emily’s notebook begun in 1844, containing handwritten poems about Gondal, the fictional island she created with her younger sister, Anne. That year, Emily began a second notebook that grew to contain thirty-one poems, but, after popping up in the early twentieth century, when several scholars produced transcriptions and took photographs, it disappeared for good in 1934. Last month, however, it was announced that it was among the items in the Honresfield Library slated to be sold in an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. Tricia Ayrton traces the history of this notebook, which has taken on a “mythic status,” through the hands of bereaved family members, journalists, academics, and shady collectors. Sotheby’s has delayed the auction to allow the UK charity Friends of the National Libraries to bid on this and other important works in the collection.
Nine years ago, in January 2012, several works of art were stolen from the National Gallery in Athens, including Picasso’s Head of a Woman (1939), which the artist had dedicated to the Greek nation in 1949, and Mondrian’s Stammer Windmill (1905). The Greek press recently reported that the Picasso and Mondrian had both been recovered in a ravine, identifying the culprit as the forty-nine year old construction worker George Sarmantzopoulos, who referred to himself online as “ArtFreak.” Helen Stoilas reports for The Art Newspaper on the thief’s own confession and account of the heist, specifically how he managed to break in, revealing shocking gaps in the museum’s security system at the time. Sarmantzopoulos’s lawyer asserts that he never intended to sell the works and is merely a passionate “art lover.” The culprit’s admission that a drawing by Guglielmo Caccia, first used to clean a hand injured during the theft, had been flushed down a toilet suggests otherwise.
“Music for a While #47: Just Perfect.” Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Solid as the Rock,” by Timothy Jacobson. On the Rock of Gibraltar.