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Feodor Dostoevsky

(1821-1881)

Dostoevsky, Feodor Mikhailovich (1821-81), Russian prose writer. He was born in Moscow, the second son of a physician’s seven children. His mother died in 1837 and his father was murdered by his serfs a little over two years later. After leaving a private boarding school in Moscow he studied from 1838 to 1843 at the St. Petersburg Engineering Academy. His first published work, a translation of Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, appeared in 1844, followed by his first original work, the short story Poor Folk (1846), The Double (1846), White Nights (1848), and other short prose pieces. In April 1849 Dostoevsky was arrested as a member of the Socialist Petrashevsky circle. After a macabre mock execution, he was sent to a Siberian penal servitude for four years, to be followed by four years as a soldier. During his imprisonment he underwent a religious crisis, rejecting Socialism and progressive ideas of his early years, and replacing them by a belief in the Russian Orthodox Church. His next publication, The Village of Stepanchikovo, appeared only in 1859. Then came Notes from the House of the Dead (1860-1), based on his period of imprisonment, which, along with the novel The Insulted and the Injured (1861), appeared in the journal Vremya (Time), which he founded with his brother Mikhail. In 1862 he traveled abroad, visiting England, France, Germany, and Italy. His views on Western Europe are recorded in Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (1863). In London, which he describes as ‘Baal’, center of world capitalism, he saw the Crystal Palace of the World Exhibition, an image he was to use to express the corruption of the modern scientific world in Notes from Underground and other works. Another impression reflected in his later work was his horror at the poverty of Whitechapel and the prostitutes of the Haymarket. In London he also visited Herzen and Bakunin. In 1863, his magazine Vremya (Time) was forbidden. Dostoevsky made further trips abroad throughout the 1860s. The series of brilliant works which followed, Notes from Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868), The Devils (1872), An Adolescent (A Raw Youth, 1875), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), are those on which his reputation is based. In them Dostoevsky reveals extraordinary powers of character analysis, considers profound religious and political ideas, showing himself to be a significant and powerful thinker, and develops the Russian novel, both through the use of urban settings and by his gift for narrative tension. Among English writers Dostoevsky admired Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Byron, and in particular Dickens, who had been known and translated in Russia since around 1838, they share an interest in such major subjects as the city, children, and the suffering of the innocent. Many of his works are translated into English.
See: Vasily Perov. Portrait of the Author Feodor Dostoyevsky.
 

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