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Publisher's Summary

Exiled to four years in Siberia, but hailed by the end of his life as a saint, prophet, and genius, Fyodor Dostoevsky holds an exalted place among the best of the great Russian authors. One of Dostoevsky’s five major novels, Devils follows the travails of a small provincial town beset by a band of modish radicals - and in so doing presents a devastating depiction of life and politics in late 19th-century Imperial Russia. Both a grotesque comedy and a shocking illustration of clashing ideologies, Dostoevsky’s famed novel stands as an undeniable masterpiece.
©1992 Michael R. Katz (P)2013 Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

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By Lawrence on 09-06-13

Excellent translation and narration

"Devils" (formerly translated as "The Possessed," and sometimes translated as "Demons") is one of Dostoevsky's four great long novels, the others being "Crime and Punishment," "The Idiot," and "The Brothers Karamazov."

First, don't by the version narrated by Patrick Cullen and titled "The Possessed." The narration is poor and the translation is the outdated one by Constance Garnett.

"Devils" is a very political novel and was intended to be so. In order to appreciate it, you should do a little research on the 1869 murder by the Russian revolutionary Nechayev. One of the two lead characters, Peter Stephanovich Verkhovensky, a creepy Charles Manson type, is based on Nechayev. The Wikipedia article on "Demons" is short and informative. It also helps to know a little about Dostoevsky's background because several elements are autobiographical. Last, you might want to print a list of characters because, like all Russian novels, the many patronymic names can be confusing, especially if you're listening. If you do these things you'll experience the full effect.

The plot centers on some brutal, political murders. The setting is the run-up to the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin and company didn't come out of nowhere. Trouble had been brewing in Russia for some time. "Devils" places events in context. Like all of Dostoevsky's works, the plot is deeply psychological, though there is quite a bit of dry humor and irony (items that are often missed in Dostoevsky's works because the original translator, Constance Garnett, tended to homogenize his phrases). If you're into this thing, "Devils" is a gripping novel.

The narrator is the very accomplished George Guidall. I've listened to many of his readings, such as his outstanding performances in "Crime and Punishment" and "Don Quixote." George is perfect for "Demons." His sharp characterizations, timing, and overall feel are perfect. He has a Slavic background and takes great pride in reading the Russian greats.

Last, I can't say enough good things about this 1992 translation by Russian Studies Professor Michael R. Katz of Middlebury College. Professor Katz reinserts Dostoevsky's intentionally quirky sentence structure which was sadly washed out by earlier translators. I've read that some critics think Doestoevsky wasn't a great stylist as was Tolstoy and others. In my opinion, that's only because early translators failed to pick up his nuances. Dostoevsky was a very careful writer. Many of his supposedly awkward sentences, when carefully translated, reveal great wit and style. I compared Professor Katz's translation to others, such as the acclaimed translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, and feel that Professor Katz's is the best going.

"Devils" is a great listen if you're willing to put in the time and effort.

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46 of 48 people found this review helpful


By G. Butera on 03-15-14

One of Dostoevsky's best

Would you consider the audio edition of Devils to be better than the print version?

This is like comparing apples and oranges.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Devils?

Stavrogin's confession. Pyotr Stepanovich's death scene.

Have you listened to any of George Guidall’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

George Guidall's reading is superb. I listened to his reading of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and thought this reading every bit as good as that. He imbues his characters with all the life and inner tension that make Dostoevsky's writing so engrossing.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not a chance. It's too rich and complex to be taken in all at once.

Any additional comments?

Devils takes a long time to really get going as a novel. Dostoevsky was well aware of this problem, but doesn't seem to have found a solution, although he himself may have been satisfied with the final result. Don't give up on it, though. By the 1/3 mark, the novel finally hits its stride and never lets up until the end. There are enough haunting and beautiful scenes, not to mention some harrowing and grotesque ones, to make this one of Dostoevsky's most memorable novels.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Irene Manion on 11-19-16

Outstanding reading

This very long book was brought to life by the excellent reading. Beautifully read and one that I would never have finished reading if it were not read to me as an audio book. I finally have an understanding of the genius of Dostoyevsky.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful


By MR J. on 02-28-17

Complex, intriguing classic

Probably the hardest to follow of his 4 post-Siberia novels - recommend a character list to refer to. Still, insightful and deep, fascinating group of characters but overall quite "gloomy" given the lack of any fully likeable heroes. Narration is OK - not as distinctive as Constantine Gregory.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Brendan on 07-02-17

Disquieting character descriptions

What did you like most about Devils?

It seems that the evils of human nature do not extend from their animal spirit, but their petty vindictiveness. The series was disquieting as it showed the outworking of lies, self-deception and petty fighting leading to greater life tragedy.

What about George Guidall’s performance did you like?

Guidall's performance was great, but at times the reading felt a little slow. I generally speed it up to 1.25 to get through the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

"We will tie the 4 together with the blood of the 5th" -- I instantly thought of Saddam Hussein's 1979 coup and the use of a similar strategy.

Any additional comments?

I'm certainly tempted to read some of Dostoevsky's other works now.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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