Youthful reading: Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky

Richard Crary quotes Thomas Bernhard on two titans of nineteenth century thought
A portait of Dostoyevsky by Vasily Grigorievich (detail). Image: Corbis
Richard Crary has written an interesting post on youthful reading, and recounts some of Thomas Bernhard's reflections on Dostoyevsky:
In the final section of his great memoir, Gathering Evidence, Thomas Bernhard recalls his first encounter with Dostoevsky's Demons. He calls it "elemental". Some of us have approached that book and found it decidedly not elemental, for us. But Bernhard was 19 years old, I believe, when he read Demons. For him, at that age, no doubt it indeed was elemental. And what mattered for him later in life, in his own writing, was not what Dostoevksy might have had to say for him or to him in his 30s or 40s or 50s, but what it meant to read Demons when he was 19. Perhaps, if he had not read Demons, or any other Dostoevsky, until his mid-30s--perhaps it would have meant little to him. But that experience, that encounter, that elemental reading at the age of 19--he owed a certain kind of loyalty to that. Indeed, though at the age of 39 I've so far tried and failed to make my way into Demons, I nevertheless remember fondly my experience, at 24, reading The Brothers Karamazov. Yes, I was proud of myself for plowing through such a dense book, but also I was invigorated by the experience, wanted to talk about it, was on fire, in a sense, with the ideas. [Read more]