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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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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lawrence
  • 06-09-13

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 The narration is poor and the translation is the outdated one by Constance Garnett.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.

73 of 75 people found this review helpful

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  • G. Butera
  • 15-03-14

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.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 13-02-14

I loved the Devil(s) out of the Possessed

How the Hell do I adequately review this? Once someone hits a certain genius with writing (or other forms of art), it is impossible to really grade their art. How could one grade Beethoven's great symphonies? Is Demons/Devils/the Possessed better than Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot? Tell me, do you prefer Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?

Dostoyevsky is writing the gospels man*. Greatness is not a bolus of achievement or a gout of acclaim. It just is. Each of Dostoyevsky's big novels is a piece that is both infinitely frustrating and beautifully perfect at the same time. There was probably more to love (for me) in Brothers Karamazov, but it didn't flow as easily as Demons, but still gah, still I think I love Demons more. No, Brothers K. No. Gah!.

Desert Island book? Forced to pick? To HELL with you I'm taking both or trade my food of foot or future for the second (sealed) book. IT IS that good.

Demons is what you get when you mix a writer who is a philosopher on par with the thinking greats, a writer who is a psychologist on par with the behavioral greats, a writer who is a preacher on par with the moral greats. Oh, and you better damn sure make this writer is hypergraphic.

OK. I'm going to have to calm down, let this stew and seep, think some, sip some, and return and revise. This captures some of the energy I felt closing this book, but doesn't even come close to demanding from me what this book deserves.

* Yes, I kept thinking vaguely of the Big Lebowski as I read this.

37 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • pibinca
  • 21-02-15

amazing reader!

What did you like about this audiobook?

Beautiful, expressive, yet understated reading that does full justice to the irony in the writing. A troubling book that's political satire, dark comedy and a full parade of drama queens! Prescient of the horrors to come in Russia. Totally absorbing.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Vicki In Crete
  • 13-05-14

delicious

I am enjoying the performance of this book so much. I'm smirking and giggling and laughing out loud. Bravo to George Guidall!
Will I ever read Dostoevsky again or simply enjoy listening!!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard T. Whalen
  • 27-05-17

Almost interesting

Was looking for a long book to pass the time during my commute. Read "The Brothers K" and enjoyed it so thought I'd try "Devils". All the way through I kept waiting for the story to grab hold of me but it never did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Joel A. Griska
  • 03-10-16

Excellent!!!

Dostoevsky's description of his character's response to their reality remains superb in this novel as in his other great novels

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • GeorgeBoteaIII
  • 06-02-15

Prophetic

Dostoevsky is a master of seeing into the human soul. The way he portrays those precursors to the Bolsheviks give me an eerie feeling. When he describes the ultimate goal of the Devils that descended upon the little town, it was almost as if he was describing the general moral decay we see in our own society.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • E. Scott
  • 13-07-16

What is happening?

I'm seven hours in, and so far I get the sense that FD is playing a joke on the reader. Listening to this is like watching an interminable Seinfeld episode being broadcast in a language you don't know with no subtitles. Normally I'd be all about satire, but never has a story been more expertly crafted to lead the reader into hopeless confusion. Since it's FD, I have to believe it was intentional, but that doesn't make it palatable.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • DFK
  • 30-07-18

I’m disappointed

I tremendously enjoyed two of Dostoevsky’s works: Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Though I did not particularly like The Idiot, I was impressed enough by the other two that considering that some people say that Devils is one of Dostoevsky’s master works, along with Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov (and The Idiot) I was hoping for something totally engaging. This was not. The story drags with some violence thrown in, more and more as we get to the end. I didn’t see any depth to why the psychopathic characters are the way they are. One could venture some hypotheses about how they became so violent and amoral, regardless of whatever cause they think they are acting for. But Dostoevsky doesn’t really give a clue. So as not to spoil it for those who might want to listen to this book, nevertheless (or considering that some people seem to like it), I won’t say more about what these characters do. The performance was good - I’ve enjoyed this narrator more for some of Umberto Eco’s books, but maybe because those books were so good. Here I felt that the different characters were not always distinctive enough.