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Originally published in English as A Raw Youth, The Adolescent is markedly different in tone from Dostoevsky’s other masterpieces. It is told from the point of view of the 19-year-old protagonist, whose immaturity, freshness, and naievete are unforgettably reflected in his narrative voice. The illegitimate son of a landowner, Arkady Dolgoruky was raised by foster parents and tutors, and has scarcely ever seen his true father, Versilov, and his mother, Versilov’s peasant common-law wife. Arkady goes to Petersburg to meet this “accidental family” and to confront the father who dominates his imagination and whom he both condemns and longs to impress. Having sewn into his coat a document that he believes gives him power over others, Arkady proceeds with an irrepressible youthful volatility that withstands blunders and humiliations at every turn.
Dostoevsky masterfully depicts adolescence as a state of uncertainty, ignorance, and incompleteness, but also of richness and exuberance, in which everything is still possible. His tale of a youth finding his way in the disorder of Russian society in the 1870s is a high and serious comedy, that borders on both farce and tragedy.
“In the variety of its happenings, the assortment of its characters, the intensity of its passions, and the effect of its conflicts, The Adolescent is the most captivating of all Dostoevsky’s novels.” —Konstantin Mochulsky, author of Dostoevsky, His Life and Work