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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

Information about the authors:

Valentina V. Borisova, DSc in Philology, Professor, Head of the Department of Russian Literature, M. Akmullah Bashkir State Pedagogical University, Oktyabrskaya revolyutsiya 3 a, Ufa 450008, Russia; Professor, Moscow State Linguistic Unversity, Ostozhenka 38, Moscow 119034, Russia.


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Sergey S. Shaulov, PhD in Philology, State Museum of the History of Russian Literature, Malaya Molchanovka 2, Moscow 121069, Russia.


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The article presents a commentary on the realia and the historicalliterary aspects of the novel The Adolescent, mostly based on the proceedings over the Kumanin inheritance. There is distinct parallelism between the case and Dostoevsky’s novel, which allows us to assume that the writer could have intentionally used this true-to-life material in his oeuvre. However, unlike the Petrashevsky case, the proceedings over the Kumanin inheritance did not become a part of Dostoevsky’s biographic myths. The two legends through history kept modifying the writer’s image, personality, and destiny in the common perception of the society. Yet, the Kumanin case failed to outrun the rival. However, if the reflection of the case in the novel is missed out, the receptive aspect of The Adolescent risks remaining considerably limited. The Kumanin inheritance appeared ‘miserable’ and ‘haunted’ due to its original criminal background associated with the activity of a criminal community in 1870 called “The Jacks of Hearts Club”. Alexander Timofeevich Neofitov was a member of the Club and the first will executor of Aleksandra Fedorovna Kumanina. It is assumed that he also became a prototype of the leader of the ‘gang’ that included Lambert, Stebelkov, and other ‘cunning fraudsters’ depicted in the novel. Another “Jack of Heart” was the knjaz Vsevolod Alekseevich Dolgorukov. At first, he became a prototype for some characters of The Adolescent, eventually, however, having sunk to the bottom and then ‘resurrected’, he became the author’s epigon. He followed Dostoevsky and reproduced the image of a Russian adolescent from a ‘random family’ to which, together with Arkady Dolgoruky and Sergei Sokolsky, belongs the protagonist of Vsevolod Dolgorukov’s novel Literary Bohemia (1890), the young Count Nagorov. Vsevolod Dolgorukov’s memoirs have much in common with the ‘notes’ of The Adolescent. How Dostoevsky’s novel affected Dolgorukov is seen through his short story Mishka The Flea, which is typologically similar to Notes from the House of the Dead and the short story The Peasant Marey. On this basis, the article concludes that the life and oeuvre of Vsevolod Dolgorukov in a certain manner manifested the realization of Dostoevsky’s hope for a meeting between the ‘Russian adolescent’ and the idea of Orthodox Christianity. From the point of view of historicalliterary commentary the article considers literature sources for The Adolescent that have not been taken into account before: the novels The Jack of Hearts Club and The Dramas of Paris by Pierre Ponson du Terrail, both popular in the second half of 19th century. The characters of Madame de Saint-Alphonse, an intriguer with compromising papers, and captain Lambert, the embodiment of all human sins, became prototypes for Dostoevsky’s heroes with the same name. This allows us to conclude that The Adolescent was deliberately contaminated by the author with historic and biographic narration, up-to-date criminal chronicles, and literature tradition for fictional purposes.

  • Keywords: F.M. Dostoevsky, realia, historical-literary commentary, case over the Kumanin inheritance, Jacks of Hearts, A.T. Neofitov, Vs.A. Dolgorukov, Ponson du Terrail.


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