When in 1968 the Russians occupied my small country, all my books were banned, and at a stroke I was unable to earn my living legally. Numerous people wanted to help me. One day a theatre director came to see me to suggest that I write, under his name, a dramatic adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

So I re-read the book and found that though I might die of hunger, I couldn’t do the job. The novel’s world of excessive gestures, obscure depths, and aggressive sentimentality repelled me. I felt at once an inexplicable nostalgia for Jacques le Fataliste.

‘Would you not prefer Diderot to Dostoevsky?’ I asked my theatre director.

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