Vol 8, No 1 (2012) Dostoevsky’s New Testament: The Significance of Random Reading


Kristian Mejrup


The Bible was a lifelong companion for Dostoevsky, who often read it and sometimes annotated it. But what meaning lies in the marking of a text? The first critic to examine the markings in Dostoevsky’s Bible was the Norwegian professor in Russian literary history, Geir Kjetsaa. He did so in the early 1980s and wrote a book on the subject. This essay will discuss Kjetsaa’s method of reading Dostoevsky on the basis of the annotations. Kjetsaa’s analyses are intriguing but not immune to criticism, as too much focus on the markings tends to neglect the significance of the randomly read passages. After a short introduction (1) I will closely examine Kjetsaa’s analysis of Dostoevsky’s novels (2), and then add my own critical remarks (3). Finally I will compare Kjetsaa’s reading of Dostoevsky with theological readings of him (Romano Guardini and Karl Barth/Eduard Thurneysen). Unlike Kjetsaa, the theologians were unaware of the markings in Dostoevsky’s Bible. The overall question of the essay is, then: how do we approach Dostoevsky’s use of the Bible in the light of his annotations to the New Testament, and when numerous voices clamour to inform us how they should be read?


Dostoevsky; Geir Kjetsaa; random reading


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