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Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky
Moscow 30 Oct. 1821 - St. Petersburg 28 Jan. 1881 • Russian novelist




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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in 1821 at a Moscow hospital where his father was employed as a doctor. The family was poor, but their descent from 17th-century nobility entitled them to own land and serfs. Dostoyevsky's mother, Maria, was loving and religious; his father, Mikhail, tended toward alcoholism and violence, and his cruel behavior toward the peasants on their small estate resulted in his murder when Fyodor was eighteen years old.

Fyodor was the second of eight children. He was particularly close to his younger sister, Varvara, whose unfortunate marriage may have inspired Dostoyevsky's portraits of both Dunya and Sonya. His older brother, Mikhail, shared Dostoyevsky's literary and journalistic interests as well as his early social ideals. Together they attended secondary schools in Moscow, then the military academy in St. Petersburg, followed by service in the Russian army.

Dostoyevsky broadened his education by reading extensively in an attempt to sharpen his literary skills. As a youth he read and admired writers of all nationalities, including Dickens, Hugo, and Zola, and imitated some of Russia's literary geniuses, particularly Gogol. He also began a tortured acquaintance with Turgenev, which was to continue throughout his life.

His first novel, Poor Folk, was published in 1846. This tale of a young clerk who falls haplessly in love with a woman he cannot possess led the literary lion Victor Belinsky to proclaim Dostoyevsky as the next Gogol. Dostoyevsky's entrance into St. Petersburg literary society had begun—but his celebrity status was quickly overshadowed by his somewhat obnoxious behavior. Eventually, Dostoyevsky found another group to join, this time a circle of intellectual socialists run by Mikhail Petrashevsky. Given the reactionary climate of the time, the Petrashevsky group's revolutionary ideas were both exciting and dangerous, and, although Dostoyevsky was far from being a revolutionary, his alignment with the faction brought him to the attention of the police. In 1849 he and the rest of the Petrashevsky
group were arrested for subversion. Dostoyevsky was imprisoned at the Peter and Paul Fortress where he and others were subject to a mock execution—an understandably traumatic experience which seems to have triggered an epileptic condition that would plague Dostoyevsky throughout his life. He spent the next five years at hard labor in Siberia, where his acquaintance with the criminal community would provide him with the themes, plots, and characters that distinguish many of his greatest works, including Crime and Punishment.

Dostoyevsky returned to St. Petersburg in 1859. The next decade was filled with emotional and physical turmoil. In 1864 the deaths of his wife, Maria, and his beloved brother, Mikhail, deepened his debt and drove him to gambling. He embarked on a doomed affair with Apollinaria Suslova, who vacillated between admiring and despising him. He also witnessed the dissolution of his literary journal and formed a disadvantageous relationship with an unscrupulous publisher. Yet the 1860s were also a period of great literary fervor, and in 1865, the publication of Crime and Punishment paved the way for a series of novels—including The Idiot, The Devils, and The Brothers Karamazov—that both reclaimed his position in Russia's pantheon of great living writers, and brought stability to his personal and financial affairs. He married his stenographer, Anna Grigorievna Snitkin, with whom he fathered four children, and established himself as a leading conservative who often spoke out against revolutionary activity. In June of 1880, Dostoyevsky attended a celebration of the great novelist, Pushkin, during which he delivered a speech in praise of the writer. His words were met with great adulation, and the event marked what was perhaps the highest point of public approbation Dostoyevsky would ever attain. Little more than six months later, on January 28, 1881, Dostoyevsky died of a lung hemorrhage. His funeral, attended by nearly thirty thousand mourners, was a national event.

from: www.penguinputnam.com
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ON DOSTOYEVSKY'S BOOKSHELF

The Bible
40 different authors, ca. 1450 B.C. - ca. 95 A.D.
Particularly the New Testament (Christian ethics and so on)

Hamlet
William Shakespeare, 1602
When Hamlet's mother remarries shortly after his father's death he's suspicious. And when his father's ghost tells him that he was murdered by the queens's new husband, Hamlet swears to take his revenge.

Macbeth
William Shakespeare, 1606
Macbeth's tragedy is that of a good, brave and honourable man turned into the personification of evil by the workings of unreasonable ambition.

The Collected Poems
Lord Byron, ...
This volume comprises the complete poetic works of Byron. As well as including such works as 'Childe Harold', 'Don Juan', 'The Two Foscari', 'The Lament of Tasso' and 'The Vision of Judgement', it also contains his shorter lyrical poems.

Eugénie Grandet
Honoré de Balzac, 1833
One of the the earliest and most famous novels in Balzac's Comedie Humaine. Eugénie's emotional awakening brings her into direct conflict with her father, whose cunning and financial success are matched against her determination to rebel.

Bleak House
Charles Dickens, 1852-1853
A savage, but often comic, indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' s most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums.


David Copperfield
Charles Dickens, 1849-1850
The 'widow and orphan novels'.
Portrait of the artist as an outcast.

The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Gogol, 1835-1840
In these tales Gogol guides us through the elegant streets of St Petersburg. Something of the deception and violence of the city's creation seems to lurk beneath its harmonious facade, however, and it confounds its inhabitants with false dreams and absurd visions.

Les misérables
Victor Hugo, 1862
France in the first quarter of the 19th century: Jean Valjean, a poor man, steals a loaf of bread and then spends years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal. In later years he rises to become a respectable member of society; but policeman Javert will not allow him to forget his past.

BOOKS BY FYODOR M. DOSTOYEVSKY:

Crime and Punishment
1866
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.
WHAT TO READ AFTER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT?

CLASSIC PSYCHOLOGICAL CRIME NOVELS
The Talented Mr Ripley
Patricia Highsmith, 1956
Ripley wanted out. He wanted money, success, the good life - and he was willing to kill for it. This is the first novel to feature Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero, Tom Ripley.

A Judgement in Stone
Ruth Rendell, 1977
Four members of the Coverdale family died in the space of 15 minutes on St Valentine's Day. Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper, shot them down on that Sunday evening while they were watching opera on television, and was arrested two weeks later. But the tragedy neither began nor ended there.

Killing Me Softly
Nicci French, 1999
Alice is a young woman who has all she wants from life: a group of close friends, a loving boyfriend, a successful career. Then one day she meets a stranger, and gives up her ordered existence for a passionate affair that leads her into deception and a dark, secret, dangerous realm of experience.

GUILT AND ATONEMENT
The Secret History
Donna Tartt, 1992
The Secret History tells of a small circle of friends at an esteemed college in New England, whose studies in Classical Greek lead them to odd rituals, shocking behavior - and murder.

The Fall
Albert Camus, 1956
Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader' s own complacency.

Old People and the Things that Pass
Louis Couperus, 1906
'The Hague novels'
Three very old people are bound together by a secret, which they believe is known only to them. But unfortunately, this isn't the case.

KINDRED (19TH-CENTURY) SPIRITS
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
In seeking to discover his inner self, the brilliant Dr Jekyll discovers a monster.

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
The tale of a passionate woman in 17th-century Boston who challenges the system of moral authority and places belief in the higher law of her own heart.

KINDRED (RUSSIAN) SPIRITS
A Hero of Our Time
Mikhail Lermontov, 1840
Lermontov's only novel examines a weary and cynical man trapped in the futility of his age.

Despair
Vladimir Nabokov, 1934
In this tale, Hermann, a German chocolate manufacturer, stumbles across a man he believes to be his double and starts plotting to turn this accidental encounter to his advantage.

[Andegraund, ili Geroj nashego vremeni]
Vladimir Makanin, 1998
Petrovich, a hopelessly unpublished writer, goes underground in an effort to 'protect his art' from corruption.

Notes from the Underground
1866
The first novel from Dostoevsky's mature 'second period' works, divided in two parts, presents an unnamed protagonist, a twisted angry student, and his worldview. It is one proud man's cry for help and perverse rejection of the world around him.


The Idiot
1868
The saintly Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from a Swiss sanitorium and finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth, power and sexual conquest.
Demons
1871-1872
A powerful political tract and a profound study of atheism, depicting the disarray which follows the appearance of a band of modish radicals in a small provincial town. (Also published as The Possessed and The Devils)
The Brothers Karamazov
1880
Three sons find their violent and vengeful lives exposed when their despicable father is murdered, and each man struggles to come to terms with his guilt over his involvement in the crime.
The Double
1846
Mr Golyadkin is a rather middling man, a somewhat insignificant government official. Then one day he meets his ‘double’ - a man with the same name, face and background.
The Village of Stepanchikovo
1859
A compelling comic exploration of petty tyranny.
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