Joseph Frank (right) swaps stories with Chicago University comparative literature professor Haun Saussy during an informal faculty gathering at Stanford University in 1999. Frank, whose five-volume biography of 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is regarded as a masterpiece of biographical history and literary criticism, died last Wednesday in California at the age of 94.© Photo Gregory Freidin
March 4 (RIA Novosti) – Colleagues paid tribute Monday to Joseph Frank, the US writer and literary critic whose five-volume biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky is widely regarded as the preeminent work on the 19th-century novelist and a penetrating historical critique of the Russian author’s times.
“He belonged to the era of titanic struggles and was one of the last lone titans himself,” Gregory Freidin, a professor of Slavic languages and literature and a colleague of Frank’s at Stanford University, said in a message of remembrance for colleagues and friends.
“Above the fray, he wrestled for theodicy amid the endless war, hot and cold, of communism/fascism and western democracy. Dostoevsky was his alter ego. The mantle of a prophet—a secular prophet—was his, too. He wore it lightly. With his passing, the world feels a diminished place,” Freidin said in the message, which was provided to RIA Novosti.
Frank, born Joseph Nathaniel Glassman in Manhattan on October 6, 1918, lived in Palo Alto, California, where he died Wednesday of pulmonary failure, The New York Times reported, citing his daughter, Isabelle.
Noted literary critic Morris Dickstein, professor of literature and theater and City University in New York, paid tribute to Frank by republishing his 1976 review of the first volume of Frank’s epic Dostoevsky biography.
“From its auspicious beginning, dealing with Dostoevsky’s little known early years through his imprisonment and mock execution in 1849, Frank’s book proved to be a masterful work of cultural biography,” Dickstein wrote.
“It explored the young writer’s Russian milieu in a way that had never been attempted in English. Indeed, this biography … is certainly the most ambitious book on Dostoevsky undertaken in any language.”
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