In his preface to The Brothers Karamazov, published in 1879-80 and surely the grand finale of the nineteenth-century Russian novel, Dostoevskii as author introduces Alesha as his hero, a hero for the present. The author thereby follows a line of European Romanticism that sees the hero as conveying his time and place, not just literally but also symbolically for others. As Dostoevskii goes further, into the future, he argues that such a hero, though strange, “carries within him sometimes the core of the universal” which his other contemporaries have been torn away from. One could not imagine a woman writer speaking to the universal or prophesying in this unambiguously assertive manner (except in sorrow), much less inventing a heroine to incarnate such prophecy. The heroine of her time in Russia, perhaps because she would have had to be similarly exceptional without any irony on the part of her author, remains unwritten. Women lived within a tradition of total truth, which included their own reality as defined by male writers in the Russian novelistic canon from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn.
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