Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I love reading Russian literature, and probably my most frequently read Russian author is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He had a rough but courageous life, perhaps not making some of the best choices, but certainly succeeding in pouring out his struggles, and the struggles of the Russian people of the era into his writing.

He was born on November 11, 1821 in Moscow. He left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute, then became well-off for a while working as an engineer and translating books. Poor Folk, his own first novel was written in 1846.

In 1849, however, he was arrested for being a member of the Petrashevsky Circle, a secret society of liberal utopians that also functioned as a literary discussion group. (See Wikipedia.) Though sentenced to the firing squad, a last minute pardon from Tzar Nicholas reduced the sentence to four years hard labor in Siberia. It was here that Dostoyevsky's seizures worsened and he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Dostoyevsky's life seems to have been filled with bitterness. He had a gambling addiction, and went through several stormy relationships. He struggled financial and was in poor health. He had trouble with the authorities, and drank. But in spite of all this misery, his writing was prolific.

He is best known for his deeply probing questions about life, posed through his many colorful literary characters. Often his psychological intensity gives the reader the impression that Dostoyevsky himself was living on the brink of madness. Add to that his desperate search for the divine, epitomized in his final masterwork The Brothers Karamazov which perhaps brought together so many elements of himself—sorrow, frustrations, yearnings, and his own personal suffering. He died on February 9, 1881 in Saint Petersburg.

Dostoyevsky's books are not always easy to read. They are often brutal and discomforting, and their intensity can be draining. Yet he also had a humorous side— dark humor, I might add. Certainly, for anyone wanting to explore great world literature, Dostoyevsky's writings are mandatory.

Books by Dostoyevsky

Fiction
The Double
The Eternal Husband
The Gambler
The House of the Dead
The Idiot
Notes From the Underground
Poor Folk
The Possessed

Collections
White Nights and Other Stories

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