Notes on Dostoevsky 3
The dialogue between Gogol and Dostoevsky was not only restricted to literature, but also ironically extended to the sphere of history and biography.
In 1846 Gogol published Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends, a strange mix of sermons, passages from letters to friends, essays on literature, social and religious topics, violently reactionary and stridently conservative. Gogol himself saw it as the summation of his life’s work, and his masterpiece. The work caused a storm of controversy, and increased the divide between the Slavophiles, who saw Russia’s destiny as a separation from Europe, and the Westernizers, who saw Russia’s way forward as adopting European modernity. The foremost critic of the day, Belinsky, wrote a stinging attack on Gogol’s book, taking the opportunity to lambast the autocratic Russian state and the monolithic Orthodox Church, and Belinsky’s review was promptly banned by the Tsar.
It was for reading this banned letter aloud at the meeting of the Petrashevsky circle that Dostoevsky was arrested and imprisoned.