This book was singlehandedly responsible for getting me into Russian literature. I came across a battered paperback copy in my high school library (a terrible translation, mind you, with the title still as “The Possessed” instead of “Demons”) and was immediately sucked in. Now I’m a huge Russian lit nerd. Dostoevsky, I blame you!
Dostoevsky’s work is, of course, masterful. In this novel, he tells the story of a socialist revolutionary terrorist cell that forms within a community. In order to cement the group together, its leaders plan a murder. Rather than working as intended, the murder tears the group apart and it destroys itself from within. The characters are memorable–Stavrogin, constantly challenging society and acting like a charismatic 19th century version of an internet troll, Pyotr Verkhovensky, the evil genius who forms the brains behind the terrorist cell. Characters are well developed, and can be read not only on the surface but also as representing the different clashes of ideas occurring in Russia at the time, and the novel itself was based on a historical event.
Without going into too much depth (I wrote my undergrad thesis on this book, so I really could talk all day about it), I would recommend this book to anyone who likes Russian literature. I also think that it’s extremely relevant today, as it’s one of the few fictional accounts of the inner dynamics of a terrorist group.