Champion of the humiliated and insulted or xenophobic satirist?
Although Dostoevsky’s name rarely triggers associations with humour among western readers, the writer entertained his Russian contemporaries by making fun of the German minorities. Folklore studies illustrate that the Russian collective consciousness perceived the German nation with mixed feelings. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the German character had become a trustworthy source of literary satire. Dostoevsky, often accused of ‘xenophobia’ as a political thinker, uses an original combination of literary techniques to systematically deride the Germans as a nation. A descriptive translation study, illustrated with examples from The Humiliated and Insulted, shows that this derision was largely and at least partly deliberately softened by his early German and Dutch translators. In so doing, they both supported and completed the systematic depiction of Dostoevsky as a tragic humanist, which dominated the critical dimension of his early European reception.