421 CHRONICLESnterton, has observed that in a secularnage people don’t believe nothing, theynbelieve anything. The book our groupnwas supposed to be discussing begannwith a great deal of blather about whatn”modern man” would and would notnbelieve. Its version of modern man wasnheavily influenced by 19th-centurynscientism; he looked, as a matter ofnfact, rather like a Continental theologian.nBut I’ve got news for the book’snauthors. Last I heard, modern man wasnout on the West Coast waiting for thenharmonic convergence.nThe decay of orthodoxy leaves anvacuum that certainly can’t be filled bynthe desiccated rationalism of the CommonnCatechism. And the amorphous,nnonjudgmental, sentimental quasireligionnof my liberal friends can’t saynwhy it shouldn’t be filled by the cult ofnSt. Elvis.nJohn Shelton Reed is a sociologist atnthe University of North CaroUna,nChapel Hill. His birthday is Januaryn8, the same as Elvis’. They’re bothnCapricorns.nLetter From Albionnby Andrei NavrozovnThe Writer as a Young LiarnRecently, someone asked me to reviewnSelected Letters of Fyodor Dostoyevsky,nbut so far nothing has comenof it. The book, published by RutgersnUniversity Press, is the fruit of manynyears’ work under the direction ofnJoseph Frank, author of the voluminousnDostoyevsky biography. It containsna selection of 152 letters, cullednfrom the four-volume Soviet edition ofn935.nI have now read the selection, togethernwith all the letters in the originalnRussian, and I am starting on thenDiary. So far, however, I have beennunable to form any original impressionnof the writer, save one: in his youth,nDostoyevsky was a pathological liar.nBut more of this later, perhaps. For thentime being, I invite the reader to joinnme and the 2 3-year-old Fyodor in St.nPetersburg. It is September 1844.nFor the past six years, since henbecame a student at the Academy ofnMilitary Engineering, almost every letternDostoyevsky has written has to donwith money, an interest that wouldnremain with him for the rest of his life.nJuly 3, 1837: 30 rubles, 12 rubles.nSeptember 6: 14 rubles. October 8:n950. December 3: 70, 300. Februaryn4, 1838: 50, 300. June 5: 25. Augustn9: 40. March 23, 1839: 60, 100. Well,nperhaps it is reasonable for a student,nfar from his parents’ house, to writenhome asking for money, even despitenthe fact that the old man, recentlynwidowed, was barely able to make thenends meet. But what for? June 5,n1838: “Absolutely all my new friendsnhave bought themselves their ownnshakos, and my general-issue mightnhave offended the Tsar” during a paraden(he forgets mentioning earlier thatnthe parade in question had involved antotal of 140,000 troops).nWriting to his son from the familynestate on May 27, 1839, Mikhail Dostoyevskynpleaded: “From the beginningnof spring until now, not a singlenraindrop, not even dew. The heat, thenhorrible winds have ruined everything.n. . . What threatens us is not just bankruptcy,nbut real starvation! After this,nwill you reproach your father for sendingnyou so little? … 1 enclose thirtyfivenpaper rubles, or 43 rubles 75nkopeks by the present exchange rate.nPlease use it sparingly, since, I repeat, Inwill not be able to send you anythingnagain soon.” According to JosephnFrank, “so far as one can judge, Dostoyevskynnever wrote home for fundsnwithout eventually receiving the sumnrequested.” Mikhail Dostoyevsky’snplea was written in response to hisnson’s demand for money he “absolutelynneeded” to buy, in particular, antrunk in which he wanted to keep hisnpossessions, along with other sundriesn(e.g., a subscription to the Frenchn”book club” of the time). MikhailnDostoyevsky died on June 8, 1839,nunder mysterious circumstances (possiblynmurdered by his serfs). Thus, accordingnto Professor Frank, “his despairingncommunication to his sonnwas, literally, his last testament, andnDostoyevsky must have received it almostnsimultaneously with the news ofnhis father’s death.”nNow, five years after his father’sndeath, young Dostoyevsky directs hisnenergies to the person of Peter Karepin,na wealthy, middle-aged gentlemannwho, upon marrying Fyodor’snsister, became the trustee of the Dos­nnntoyevsky estate and the family’s legalnguardian. Fyodor receives an ofEcer’snsalary, along with regular paymentsnfrom the estate, but he is far fromnpleased. He writes to his brother onnSeptember 30, 1844, that he is “in anhellish predicament.” He has decidednto quit military service (“I resignednbecause I just had to resign”): “Life isnbleak if one’s best time is wasted.”nNo one knows that I am leavingnthe service. If I leave right now,nwhat shall I do? I haven’t got ankopek to buy clothes. Mynresignation becomes effectivenOctober 14. If those Moscownpigs [i.e., the trustees] don’tncome through with the moneynin time, I’m done for. I shall bendragged off to jail for sure (nondoubt about it). It’s really comic.nDostoyevsky’s answer to the “hellishnpredicament” is to attempt extortingn1,000 silver rubles from the prudentnMr. Karepin in exchange for a promisento renounce all future claims on thenestate. Naturally, Mr. Karepin (perhapsnon the basis of the young man’s “tracknrecord” to date) does not want to believenhim, doubting both the genuinenessnof the need and the legality of thenpromise. I have dug up one of Karepin’snletters to Dostoyevsky, and, sincenit is unavailable in English, I translate itnhere nearly in full, retaining the syntacticnoddities of the original.n”Dear brother,” Karepin writes to hisnbrother-in-law, “I send you 50 silvernrubles; in return for the arrogance, andnthe rudeness, with which your lettersnare filled, I enclose two accounts — onenfor last year’s silver, and the other fornthis year’s assignations; finally, my conclusionnas to which of you has receivednthe most money. As you will see, younhave been sent the most, Andrei receivednlittle, and Nicholas nothing at all.nThere was perhaps good reason for this,nas you had to be set up during your firstnyear out of the Academy; after that,nclearly, one brother has no right tondraw more than another, not to mentionnyour sisters. Your father’s estatenyields, as we have seen from the experiencenof the past three years, approximatelyn4,000 paper rubles, dependingnon the harvest or the market price ofnthe produce. From this we must subtractnthe trustees’ fee, payment of privatendebt to Mr. Marcus, to whomn