Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Fyodor Dostoevsky, the second of seven children was born on October 30, 1821, in Moscow, Russia. Shortly after his mother died of tuberculosis in 1837, he and his brother Mikhail were sent to the Military Engineering Academy in St.Petersburg. On a sidenote, while not known for certain, it is believed that Mikhail Dostoevsky was murdered by his own serfs, who reportedly became enraged during one of Mikhail's drunken fits of violence, restrained him, and poured vodka into his mouth until he drowned. Another story was that Mikhail died of natural causes, and a neighboring landowner invented this story of a peasant rebellion so he could buy the estate cheaply. Regardless of what may have actually happened, Sigmund Freud focused on this tale in his famous article, Dostoevsky and Parricide. Dostoevsky was arrested and imprisoned in 1849 for engaging in revolutionary activity against Tsar Nikolai I. On November 16 that year he was sentenced to death for anti-government activities linked to a liberal intellectual group, the Petrashevsky Circle. After a mock execution in which he was blindfolded and ordered to stand outside in freezing weather waiting to be shot by a firing squad, Dostoevsky's sentence was commuted to a number of years of exile performing hard labor at a katorga prison camp in Omsk, Siberia. The incidence of epileptic seizures, to which he was predisposed, increased during this period. He was released from prison in 1854, and was required to serve in the Siberian Regiment. Dostoevsky spent the following five years as a corporal (and latterly lieutenant) in the Regiment's Seventh Line Battalion stationed at the fortress of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.Dostoevsky suffered from an acute gambling compulsion as well as from its consequences. By one account Crime and Punishment, possibly his best known novel, was completed in a mad hurry because Dostoevsky was in urgent need of an advance from his publisher. He had been left practically penniless after a gambling spree. Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler simultaneously in order to satisfy an agreement with his publisher Stellovsky who, if he did not receive a new work, would have claimed the copyrights to all of Dostoyevsky's writing. Motivated by the dual wish to escape his creditors at home and to visit the casinos abroad, Dostoevsky traveled to Western Europe. There, he attempted to rekindle a love affair with Apollinaria (Polina) Suslova, a young university student with whom he had had an affair several years prior, but she refused his marriage proposal.

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Major works

* Poor Folk (1846)
* The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1846)
* Netochka Nezvanova (1849)
* The Village of Stepanchikovo (or The Friend of the Family) (1859)
* The Insulted and Humiliated (or The Insulted and the Injured) (1861)
* The House of the Dead (1862)
* A Nasty Story (1862)
* Notes from Underground (or Letters from the Underworld) (1864)
* Crime and Punishment (1866)
* The Gambler (1867)
* The Idiot (1868)
* The Possessed (or Demons or The Devils) (1872)
* The Raw Youth (or The Adolescent) (1875)
* The Brothers Karamazov (1880)
* White Nights (1848)
* A Christmas Tree and a Wedding (1848)
* An Honest Thief (1848)
* The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877)
* The Peasant Marey (1876)

One of the most famous novels in world literature, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1866) is a story about one man's attempt to escape the implications of a single dire act of murder. Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov or Rodya is a handsome young student who, in an attempt to save his sister Dounia from marrying just to provide for him, kills a sixty-year old pawnbroker with an axe. During the killing his sister Lizaveta enters and he murders her too, burying the both of them. The story follows Rodya as he tries to elude detection at a police summons by fainting and while another man, Nikolay the painter, is accused. Various other characters come into the equation such as Rodya's student friend Razumihin who fears his mental collapse and Zametov the police clerk who is suspicious of the fainting incident. Episodes that follow include Rodya's return to the department of investigation under Porfiry Petrovitch who tries to trap him psychologically and later lectures him pertinently on the criminal mind. We fear for Rodya and his untenable situation especially after his family receives something of a small fortune from Svidrigailov. Into this melee of strange circumstances comes Sonia - a pale girl from the streets - to whom Rodya confesses his crime. It is then a question of whether he should give himself up and if Dounia will forgive his act of foolishness. The path of Rodya's life leads through these adventures to an acceptance of religion over individualism.
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