Books: Crime and Punishment

DOSTOEVSKY: THE YEARS OF ORDEAL, 1850-1859 by Joseph Frank; Princeton; 320 pages; $25 Nearly 30 years ago, Critic Joseph Frank was preparing a series of lectures on European postwar existentialism. He thought Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground might be a good place to begin his survey. The 19th century Russian author had, after all, practically invented the isolated, sometimes criminally antisocial hero whose type kept reappearing in the works of Camus and Sartre. The more Frank read Dostoevsky, though, the less interested he became in contemporary writers. Notes from Underground, not to mention the towering achievements of The Brothers Karamazov and Crime...

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