Magazine April 5, 2021, Issue

Mikhail Bakhtin: Philosopher of Dialogue

A statue of Fyodor Dostoevsky in Dresden, Germany (Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)
Mikhail Bakhtin: The Duvakin Interviews, 1973, edited by Slav N. Gratchev and Margarita Marinova, translated by Margarita Marinova (Bucknell University Press, 340 pp., $19.95)

Mikhail Bakhtin, Russia’s greatest literary critic and arguably its most important philosopher, studied ancient Greek and Latin literature and neo-Kantian philosophy before turning his attention to the Russian classics. So great is the prestige of literature in Russia that philosophers often express their ideas as commentaries on a great writer, and so Bakhtin’s first masterpiece, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929; expanded edition 1963), can be read either as the most insightful book ever written about Dostoevsky or as an essay on ethics and human nature elucidated with examples from Dostoevsky’s fiction. In the present volume, Bakhtin asserts that he always

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This article appears as “Philosopher of Dialogue” in the April 5, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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Gary Saul Morson — Mr. Morson, the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor at Northwestern University, has written numerous books on Russian authors. His latest book, co-authored with Morton Schapiro, is Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us.

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