In the fall of 1869 Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, lately a resident of Germany, is summoned back to St. Petersburg by the sudden death of his stepson, Pavel. Half crazed with grief, stricken by epileptic seizures, and erotically obsessed with his stepson’s landlady, Dostoevsky is nevertheless intent on unraveling the enigma of Pavel’s life. Was the boy a suicide or a murder victim? Did he love his stepfather or despise him? Was he a disciple of the revolutionary Nechaev, who even now is somewhere in St. Petersburg pursuing a dream of apocalyptic violence? As he follows his stepson’s ghost—and becomes enmeshed in the same demonic conspiracies that claimed the boy—Dostoevsky emerges as a figure of unfathomable contradictions: naive and calculating, compassionate and cruel, pious and unspeakably perverse.
“A provocative and ironic exploration of the relation of art and life” —Los Angeles Times
“A dark and beautifully imagined novel. Coetzee draws a brilliant portrait of an era of desperation, obsession, and hope.” —Elle
“A fascinating study of the dark mysteries of creativity, grief, relationships between fathers and sons, and of the great Russian themes of love and death.” —The Wall Street Journal
“South Africa’s most brilliant novelist…challenges us to doubt our preconceived notions not only of love but of truth itself.” —The Seattle Times