Monday, June 23, 2003

The thought occurred to me while driving home: as dystopias go, I think Dostoevsky's Demons is more impressive than 1984. Orwell had a model to go on, the Soviet Union, while Doestoevsky basically foresaw the horror of the Soviet Union before it even got off the ground, based largely on the mid-19th century outbreak of Nihilism. Surely Orwell read Dostoevsky's book -- could it have influenced him? Maybe, maybe. Could be interesting to compare the two.

Speaking of which, all the way through reading Best Friends I kept thinking of Goethe's Elective Affinities. Don't know why exactly, except that both books are about the arrangement of variables in which people are drawn to each other. In the Berger novel, a man and his best friend's wife are drawn to each other, mainly because the best friend is out of the picture, and the two, who had previously disliked one another, are now liberated from seeing each other exclusively through the eyes of the absent party. Berger has written such a great novel abouut friendship -- about all the deceit and repressed spite it involves -- and he manages to do it in such a light sort of way. It is lethally light, as only he can be. Jamesian scrutiny and a sureness of touch that is pure Berger. I need to sit down and just wrap my head around it.

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