They say that the novel is dead. I don’t think that’s true. However, I think it is acutely accurate that the novels which writers like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky wrote won’t be written again. Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, strong and distinctive voices of the past will forever resound in our ears and their tales will flicker into life on our television screens. But those works will not be repeated.
I am a passionate reader. Sometimes it hurts that I am unable to read more, because of the fleeting minutiae of life that interferes, hinders me from imbibing the offerings from the past, be it fiction or non-fiction.
There is something about these two great Russian writers that I find puzzling, intriguing, rapturously rewarding and it echoes in the realities of writers today. Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were contemporaries. And they form what I call the Tolstoy-Dostoyevsky Spectrum.
On the one hand Tolstoy came from a privileged background, he preferred stories that erred towards genteel fantasy and he didn’t plan a thing: characters appeared and shaped themselves on the page. Dostoyevsky, ill and penniless, preferred stories that were planned, plotted and pruned before he even lifted the pen to write his first draft and he wrote in a fashion so dark…he was almost luxuriating in degeneration, blood, hate, and war.
They were contemporaries and yet not only does their subject matter differ, but their styles do too and their lives were so different that they could have lived on different planets. And these two men are amongst the greatest Russian writers – nay, the world.
So if you are sitting there, your eyes flickering from side to side as you read these words I want you to be clear that if you know that there is such a thing as the Tolstoy-Dostoyevsky Spectrum then you’ll find that you can write anything in any way that you want. After all, they did.