not a great writer, but a rather mediocrenone—with flashes- of excellentnhumor, but, alas, with wastelands ofnliterary platitudes in between.nA bit later in his discussion (and he wasnalways acutely aware that his assessmentnof Dostoyevsky was not widely shared),nNabokov came closer to formulating hisngenuine objection. Dostoyevsky’s world,nhe complained, “is created too hastilynwidiout any sense of that harmony andneconomy which the most irrational masterpiecenis bound to comply with (innorder to be a masterpiece).” And in factnDostoyevsky’s world is not at all “harmonious.n” One critic has called his workn”the novel of discord”; chaos and disordernalways seethe below the surface,nand it is difficult for the reader to arrive atnthe “tmth” of his world. Dostoyevsky’snuniverse is the artistic progeny of the uncertaintynprinciple in physics, a world innwhich people are permanently plaguednby doubt, where they find no final answers.nHarmony implies a state of rest,nthe most appropriate arrangement ofnreality possible under given conditions,nan arrangement we readily recognize asnthe best feasible one.nIn 1947 Diana Trilling reviewed Nabokov’snnovel Bend Sinister, “about anprofessor of philosophy in an unnamedncountry who is destroyed by the tyrannicalngovernment that has come to power.”nShe disliked Nabokov almost as much asnNabokov detested Dostoyevsky, primarilynbecause he wrote “in a claustrophobicnstyle in which the reader’s mind is allowednto do no work of its own and whichnleads us by meaningless associations intonblind alleys where it traps us in boredom.n” Mrs. Trilling may have caught annimportant facet of Nabokov’s mindset.nAlthough he was a convinced anticommunistnall his life, his oudook still sharednwith the totalitarian viewpoint a predilectionnfor artistic harmony and moralncertainty. It may be no accident thatnmany of the writers he liked are also thosenin greatest favor in the Soviet Union today,nand the ones he disliked tend to benout of favor in that same country (GorkynS6inChronicles of Culturen—whom Nabokov disliked—is an exceptionnto this generalization, but herenpurely political considerations are paramount).nLike the radical 19th-centurynRussian critics, Nabokov sought airation^nal ordering of reality as the ideal, andnDostoyevsky argued powerfully againstnthe very possibility of any such ordering.nConsequently Nabokov found it necessarynto denigrate Dostoyevsky as a composernof platitudes. He was not.nIhe ineluctable conflict between thenpoetic mind and the totalitarian state is anrecurring theme mNightingaleFever, bynRonald Hingley of St. Antony’s College,nOxford, a prolific literary historian andntranslator (he edited and translated thennine-volume Oxford Chekhov). Thisnbook is a poetic and biographical study ofnBoris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, AnnanAkhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, fournof the finest poets in world literature ofnthis century (I consider a few poems appendednto Dr. Zhivago the most powerfillnreligious poetry of this century, and itnwas written by a Jew converted to Christianitynliving in an officially atheisticnstate where all religious belief is cmellynpersecuted). All four were born betweenn1889 and 1892 and belonged to thatnremarkable poetic generation whichnreached maturity about the time ofnWorld War I and die October Revolution.nOf these four, Pasternak came clos­nnnest—in the 1930’s—to placing his poeticngift at the service of Stalinist tyranny. Hendrew back from that abyss just in time.nBut he was always much better off materiallynthan any of the other three until thenvery end of his life, when he incurred thenwrath of the authorities by publishingnDr. Zhivago abroad.nAll four poets faced a cruel moral dilemmanin deciding how to respond personallynto the regime’s artistic demands.nMandelstam brought the fury of the authoritiesnupon himself with an unpublishednpoem mocking Stalin the dictator.nIn 1936, sick and in exile, Mandelstamntried to betray his own nature by composingnan ode designed to glorify thatnsame dictator, in the hope that it wouldnwin him release from an intolerable situation.nBut he simply was incapable ofnwriting poetry based on lies. Mandelstamncould compel himself no further innthat direction than ambiguity, and henconcluded the ode with lines very unlikenthose characteristic of tributes to thenLeader of the Peoples:nBulges of human heads recede intonthe distance.nMine dwindles too, and soon I’llndisappear from notice.nYet in my gentle books, in littlenchildren’s laughter.nShall I be resurrected and proclaimnthe sunshine.nMandelstam was arrested by the secretnpolice in 1938 and apparently died innDecember of that year in Vladivostok.nNo one has any idea where his grave isnlocated.nMarina Tsvetaeva, the poetess of lostncauses in love and politics—she was sonfoolhardy as to write poetic tributes tonthe anticommunist forces at a time whennthey had clearly lost the battle fornRussia’s soul—chose the path of impoverishednEuropean exile, but could notnfollow it to the end. In 1939 she returnednto Moscow but found conditions there sonimpossible that she took her own life innAugust of 1941.nLike Pasternak, Akhmatova con-n