The Four Deaths and One Resurrection of Fyodor Mikhailovich

A new book from Zoran Živković is always welcome here, though the latest one does take me a little out of my comfort zone. It is called The Four Deaths and One Resurrection of Fyodor Mikhailovich, and the Fyodor Mikhailovich of the title is, of course, the man better known to Westerners as Dostoevsky. Živković is fond of books that comprise several short stories with a linking theme, which he calls “mosaic novels” rather than “fixups”, a much nicer title. This book comprises four stories, and poor Dostoevsky dies in all of them.

Živković is a massive Dostoevsky fan, so it doesn’t surprise me that this book exists. What concerned me on receiving it (and Živković is one of the few authors who still regularly sends me copies of his new books) was that I know almost nothing about the great man. I wondered if this would impair my enjoyment of the book.

I’m happy to say that it mostly didn’t. The first story is a science fiction tale of parallel universes, inspired by Dostoevsky’s novel, The Double. Interestingly that novel got a scathing review from the Russian literary critic, Belinsky, who felt it was too fantastical for serious fiction. We feel your pain, Fyodor Mikhailovich, we really do.

Story 2 is a detective piece about a possible murder in the restaurant car of a train. I think I probably enjoyed it more because I haven’t read Dostoevsky and therefore had no hope of guessing the denouement. Story 3 is a hilarious rant about the state of modern publishing, told by an AI copy of Dostoevsky who has been created, at great expense, to continue the great man’s career.

The story which requires the most knowledge of Dostoevsky is the final one, which delves deeply into various incidents in his life. However, I found that there was much interesting history to be uncovered, and was happy to start reading about Dostoevsky’s life having been primed to do so by Živković.

I should note that Cadmus Press has once again treated us to a beautiful cover by Youchan Ito. Randall A. Major has done a fine job of turning Živković’s Serbian original into very readable English.

book cover
Title: The Four Deaths and One Resurrection of Fyodor Mikhailovich
By: Zoran Živković
Translator: Randall A. Major
Publisher: Cadmus Press
Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
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