Nabokov shows no love for Dostoyevsky and little for Tolstoy

My three favorite Russian authors are Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Nabokov which makes these two interview questions and answers amusing:

Why do you dislike writers who go in for soul-searching and self-revelations in print? After all, do you not do it at another remove, behind a thicket of art?

If you are alluding to Dostoevski’s worst novels, then, indeed, I dislike intensely The Karamazov Brothers and the ghastly Crime and Punishment rigmarole. No, I do not object to soul-searching and self-revelation, but in those books the soul, and the sins, and the sentimentality, and the journalese, hardly warrant the tedious and muddled search.

Great writers have had strong political and sociological preferences or ideas. Tolstoy was one. Does the presence of such ideas in his work make you think the less of him? I go by books, not by authors. I consider Anna Karenin the supreme masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature; it is closely followed by The Death of Ivan llyich. I detest Resurrection and The Kreuzer Sonata.

Tolstoy’s publicistic forays are unreadable. War and Peace, though a little too long, is a rollicking historical novel written for that amorphic and limp creature known as “the general reader,” and more specifically for the young. In terms of artistic structure it does not satisfy me. I derive no pleasure from its cumbersome message, from the didactic interludes, from the artificial coincidences, with cool Prince Audrey turning up to witness this or that historical moment, this or that footnote in the sources used often uncritically by the author.

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