Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky
Place of Birth: Moscow, Russia
Place of Death: St. Petersburg, Russia
Table of Contents:
Writings by the Author
Prestupleniye i nakazaniye
Crime and Punishment
The Brothers Karamazov
Zapiski iz myortvogo doma
The House of the Dead
Zapiski iz podpolya
Notes from the Underground
The Diary of a Writer
Further Readings about the Author
Personal Information: PERSONAL: (Name also transliterated as Fedor, Feodor; also Mikhailovich; also Dostoevski, Dostoievsky, Dostoevskii, Dostoevsky, Dostoiewsky, Dostoiefski, Dostoievski, Dostoyevskiy, Dostoieffski) Russian novelist and short story writer. Born October 30, 1821, in Moscow, Russia; died after suffering a hemorrhage in his throat, January 29, 1881, in St. Petersburg, Russia; buried in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Leningrad; son of Mikhail Andreevich (a physician) and Maria Fedorovna (Nechaeva) Dostoevsky; married Maria Dmitrievna Konstant Isaeva (died April 15, 1864); married Anna Grigorievna Snitkina (a stenographer), February 15, 1867; children: (second marriage) Sofia, Lyubov, Fyodor, Aleksei.
EDUCATION: Military Engineering School, St. Petersburg, 1837- 43.
CAREER: Novelist, journalist, and short-story writer. Member of the Petrashevsky Circle (a radical group of socialist thinkers), 1847-1849; political prisoner at a prison labor camp in Tobolsk, Russia, 1850-54; Vremya (journal), Russia, co-owner and editor, 1861-63; Epokha (journal), Russia, co-owner and editor, 1864-65; Grazhdanin (journal; title means "The Citizen"), Russia, editor and columnist, 1871-74; Dnevnik pisatelya (monthly journal), Russia, owner, author, and publisher, 1876-77, 1881. Public Speaker.
MILITARY SERVICE: Russian Army, 1843-44, served in engineering; rank of lieutenant; and 1854-59, served in Semipalatinsk; became lieutenant.
- (Translator) Honore de Balzac, Eugenie Grandet, [Russia], 1844.
- Bednye lyudi (title means Poor Folk), [Russia], 1846.
- Dvoinik (translation published as The DoubleDouble), [Russia], 1846.
- Roman v devyati pis'makh (title means A Novel in Nine LettersNovel in Nine Letters), [Russia], 1847.
- Chuzhaya zhena i muzh pod krovat'yu (title means Another Man's Wife and a Husband under the Bed), [Russia], 1848.
- Elka i svad'ba (title means A Christmas Party and a WeddingChristmas Party and a Wedding), [Russia], 1848.
- Netochka Nezvanova, [Russia], 1849; translated as Netochka Nezvanova by Jane Kentish, Viking, 1986.
- Dyadyushkin son (novella; title means Uncle's Dream), [Russia], 1859.
- Selo Stepanchikovo (novella; title means The Friend of the FamilyFriend of the Family), [Russia], 1859.
- Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (title means The House of the DeadHouse of the Dead), [Russia], 1860-62.
- Unizhennye i oskorblennye (translations published as The Insulted and InjuredInsulted and Injured and Injury and Insult), [Russia], 1861.
- Prestuplenie i nakazanie, [Russia], 1866, translation by Jessie Coulson published as Crime and Punishment, edited by George Gibian, [New York], 1964.
- Igrok (novella; title means The GamblerGambler), [Russia], 1867.
- Idiot, [Russia], 1868.
- Vechnyi muzh (novella; title means The Eternal HusbandEternal Husband), [Russia], 1870.
- Besy (title means The PossessedPossessed), [Russia], 1872.
- Dnevnik pisatelya (title means The Diary of a WriterDiary of a Writer) (essays and short stories), [Russia], 1873-77; translated as A Writer's Diary,Writer's Diary, by Kenneth Lantz, Northwestern University Press, 1993.
- Podrostok (title means A Raw YouthRaw Youth or The AdolescentAdolescent), [Russia], 1875; translated as An Accidental Family,Accidental Family, by Richard Freeborn, with introduction and notes, Oxford University Press, 1994.
- Brat'ya Karamazovy, [Russia], 1880, translation by Constance Garnett published as The Brothers Karamazov,Brothers Karamazov, edited by Ralph Matlaw, [New York], 1976.
- The Notebooks for "Crime and Punishment,"Notebooks for "Crime and Punishment," translated by Edward Wasiolek, [Chicago], 1967.
- The Notebooks for "The Idiot,"Notebooks for "The Idiot," translated by Katharine Strelsky, [Chicago], 1968.
- The Notebooks for "The Possessed,"Notebooks for "The Possessed," translated by Victor Terras, [Chicago], 1968.
- The Notebooks for "A Raw Youth,"Notebooks for "A Raw Youth," translated by Terras, [Chicago], 1969.
- The Notebooks for "The Brothers Karamazov,"Notebooks for "The Brothers Karamazov," translated by Wasiolek, [Chicago], 1971.
- Novels, translated by Constance Garnett, [New York], 1912.
- Polnoe sobranie khudozhestvennykh proizvedenii; Dnevnik pisatelya; stat'i, edited by B. Tomashevskii and K. Khalabaev, 13 volumes, 1926-30.
- Pis'ma, edited by A. S. Dolinin, volumes 1-3, 1928-34, volume 4, 1959.
- The Short Novels of Dostoevsky,Short Novels of Dostoevsky, translated by Garnett, [New York], 1945.
- The Short Stories of Dostoevsky,Short Stories of Dostoevsky, translated by Garnett, [New York], 1946.
- Dostoevsky's Occasional Writings, translated and edited by David Magarshack, [New York], 1963.
- Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, edited by G. M. Fridlender and others, 1972.
- The Unpublished Dostoevsky, Diaries and Notebooks, 1860-1881,Unpublished Dostoevsky, Diaries and Notebooks, 1860-1881, three volumes, [Ann Arbor, MI], 1973-76.
- Complete Letters, 5 volumes, translated by David A. Lowe, Ardis, 1989-91.
- Also author of short stories, including Mr. Prokharchin, 1846; Khozyaika (translation published as The Landlady), 1847; Belye nochi (title means White Nights), 1848; Polzunkov, 1848; Slaboe serdtse (title means A Faint Heart), 1848; Chestnyi vor (title means An Honest Thief), 1848; Skvernyi anekdot (title means A Vile Anecdote), 1861; Zapiski iz podpol'ya (translation published as Notes from Underground), 1864; Neobyknovennoe sobytie, ili passazh v passazhe (title means The Crocodile, or Mauled in the Mall), 1865; Bobok, 1873; Krotkaya (title means A Gentle Creature or The Meek One), 1876; and Son Smeshnogo cheloveka (title means The Dream of a Ridiculous Man), 1877.
Dostoyevsky is considered one of the greatest writers in world literature. Best-known for his novels Prestupleniye i nakazaniye (1866; Crime and Punishment) and Bratya Karamazovy (1880; The Brothers Karamazov), he attained profound philosophical and psychological insights which anticipated important developments in twentieth-century thought, including psychoanalysis and existentialism. In addition, Dostoyevsky's powerful literary depictions of the human condition exerted a profound influence on modern writers, such as Franz Kafka, whose works further develop some of the Russian novelist's themes. The writer's own troubled life enabled him to portray with deep sympathy characters who are emotionally and spiritually downtrodden and who in many cases epitomize the traditional Christian conflict between the body and the spirit.
Dostoyevsky grew up in a middle-class family in Moscow. His father, a doctor, was a tyrant toward his family, and his mother was a mild, pious woman who died before Dostoyevsky was sixteen. Partly to escape the oppressive atmosphere of his father's household, the boy acquired a love of reading, especially the works of Nikolai Gogol, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Honore de Balzac. At his father's insistence, Dostoyevsky trained as an engineer in St. Petersburg. While the youth was at school, his father was murdered by his own serfs at the family's small country estate. Dostoyevsky rarely mentioned his father's murder, but Oedipal themes are recurrent in his work, and Sigmund Freud suggested that the novelist's epilepsy was a manifestation of guilt over his repressed wish for his father's death.
Dostoyevsky graduated from engineering school but chose a literary career. His first published work, a translation of Balzac's novel Eugenie Grandet, appeared in a St. Petersburg journal in 1844. Two years later, he published his first novel, Bednye lyudi (1846;Poor Folk), a naturalistic tale with a clear social message as well as a delicate description of life's tragic aspects as manifested in everyday existence. The twenty-four-year-old author became an overnight celebrity when Vissarion Belinsky, the most influential critic of the day, praised Dostoyevsky for his social awareness and declared him the literary successor of Gogol. Dostoyevsky joined Belinsky's literary circle but later broke with it when the critic reacted coldly to his subsequent works. Belinsky judged the novel Dvoynik (1846;The Double) and the short stories Gospodin Prokharchin (1846;Mr. Prokharchin) and Khozyayka (1847; The Landlady) as devoid of a social message.
In 1848 Dostoyevsky joined a group of young intellectuals, led by Mikhail Petrashevsky, which met to discuss literary and political issues. In the reactionary political climate of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, such groups were illegal, and in 1849 the members of the so-called Petrashevsky Circle were arrested and charged with subversion. Dostoyevsky and several of his associates were imprisoned and sentenced to death. As they were facing the firing squad, an imperial messenger arrived with the announcement that the Czar had commuted the death sentences to hard labor in Siberia. This scene was to haunt the novelist the rest of his life. Dostoyevsky described his life as a prisoner in Zapiski iz myortvogo doma (1862; The House of the Dead), a novel demonstrating both an insight into the criminal mind and an understanding of the Russian lower classes. While in prison the writer underwent a profound spiritual and philosophical transformation. His intense study of the New Testament, the only book the prisoners were allowed to read, contributed to his rejection of his earlier liberal political views and led him to the conviction that redemption is possible only through suffering and faith, a belief which informed his later work.
Dostoyevsky was released from the prison camp in 1854; however, he was forced to serve as a soldier in a Siberian garrison for an additional five years. When Dostoyevsky was finally allowed to return to St. Petersburg in 1859, he eagerly resumed his literary career, founding two periodicals and writings articles and short fiction. The articles expressed his new-found belief in a social and political order based on the spiritual values of the Russian people. These years were marked by further personal and professional misfortunes, including the forced closing of his journals by the authorities, the deaths of his wife and his brother, and a financially devastating addiction to gambling. It was in this atmosphere that Dostoyevsky wrote Zapiski iz podpolya (1864; Notes from the Underground) and Crime and Punishment. In Notes from the Underground Dostoyevsky satirizes contemporary social and political views by presenting a narrator whose notes reveal that his purportedly progressive beliefs lead only to sterility and inaction. Dostoyevsky's portrayal of this bitter and frustrated Underground Man is hailed as the introduction of an important new type of literary figure. Crime and Punishment brought him acclaim but scant financial compensation. Viewed by critics as one of his masterpieces, Crime and Punishment is the novel in which Dostoyevsky first develops the theme of redemption through suffering. The protagonist Raskolnikovwhose name derives from the Russian word for schism or splitis presented as the embodiment of spiritual nihilism. The novel depicts the harrowing confrontation between his philosophical beliefs, which prompt him to commit a murder in an attempt to prove his supposed superiority, and his inherent morality, which condemns his actions.
In 1867, Dostoyevsky fled to Europe with his second wife to escape creditors. Although they were distressing due to financial and personal difficulties, Dostoyevsky's years abroad were fruitful, for he completed one important novel and began another. Idiot (1869; The Idiot), influenced by Hans Holbein's painting Christ Taken from the Cross and by Dostoyevsky's opposition to the growing atheistic sentiment of the times, depicts the Christ-like protagonist's loss of innocence and his experience of sin. Dostoyevsky's profound conservatism, which marked his political thinking following his Siberian experience, and especially his reaction against revolutionary socialism, provided the impetus for his great political novel Besy (1871-72; The Possessed). Based on a true event, in which a young revolutionary was murdered by his comrades, this novel provoked a storm of controversy for its harsh depiction of ruthless radicals. In his striking portrayal of Stavrogin, the novel's central character, Dostoyevsky described a man dominated by the life-denying forces of nihilism.
Dostoyevsky returned to Russia in 1871 and began his final decade of prodigious literary activity. In sympathy with the conservative political party, he accepted the editorship of a reactionary weekly, Grazhdanin (The Citizen). In his Dnevnik pisatelya (1873-1877; The Diary of a Writer), initially a column in the Citizen but later an independent periodical, Dostoyevsky published a variety of prose works, including some of his outstanding short stories. Dostoyevski's last work was Bratya Karamazovy (1880; The Brothers Karamazov), a family tragedy of epic proportions, which is viewed as one of the great novels of world literature. The novel recounts the murder of a father by one of his four sons. Initially, his son Dmitri is arrested for the crime, but as the story unfolds it is revealed that the illegitimate son Smerdyakov has killed the old man at what he believes to be the instigation of his half-brother Ivan. Ivan's philosophical essay, The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, is a work now famous in its own right. Presented as a debate in which the Inquisitor condemns Christ for promoting the belief that mankind has the freedom of choice between good and evil, the piece explores the conflict between intellect and faith, and between the forces of evil and the redemptive power of Christianity. Dostoyevsky envisioned this novel as the first of a series of works depicting The Life of a Great Sinner, but early in 1881, a few months after completing The Brothers Karamazov, the writer died at his home in St. Petersburg.
To his contemporary readers, Dostoyevsky appeared as a writer primarily interested in the terrible aspects of human existence. However, later critics have recognized that the novelist sought to plumb the depths of the psyche, in order to reveal the full range of the human experience, from the basest desires to the most elevated spiritual yearnings. Above all, he illustrated the universal human struggle to understand God and self. Dostoyevsky was, Katherine Mansfield wrote, a being who loved, in spite of everything, adored life, even while he knew the dank, dark places.
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Amsenga, B.J., Editor, Miscellanea Slavica: To Honour the Memory of Jan M. Meijer, Rodopi, 1983.
- Bakhtin, M. M., Problemy tvorchestva Dostoevskogo, [Moscow], 1929, translation by R. W. Rostel published as Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, University of Michigan Press, 1973.
- Baring, Maurice, Landmarks in Russian Literature, Methuen, 1960.
- Beach, Joseph Warren, The Twentieth Century Novel: Studies in Technique, Appleton-Century, 1932.
- Belknap, Robert L. The Structure of "The Brothers Karamazov," Mouton, 1967.
- Berdyaev, Nicholas, Dostoevsky, Meridian, 1957.
- Blackmur, R.P., Eleven Essays in the European Novel, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964.
- Bowers, Fredson, Editor, Lectures on Russian Literature, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.
- Buber, Martin, Israel and the World: Essays in A Time of Crisis, Schocken, 1948.
- Camus, Albert, The Possessed: A Play in Three Parts,
- Carr, Edward Hallett, Dostoevsky (1821-1881): A New Biography, Allen & Unwin, 1931.
- Dolan, Paul J., Of War and War's Alarms: Fiction and Politics in the Modern World, Macmillan, 1976.
- Dostoevskaya, A. G., Vospominaniya, [Moscow], 1925, translation by Beatrice Stillman published as Reminiscences, Liveright, 1975.
- Erlich, Victor, Editor, Twentieth-Century Russian Literary Criticism, Yale University Press, 1975.
- Fanger, Donald, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism, a Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens and Gogol, Harvard University Press, 1965.
- Farrell, James T., The League of Frightened Philistines and Other Papers, Vanguard, 1945.
- Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, Princeton University Press, 1976.
- Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859, Princeton University Press, 1983.
- Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865, Princeton University Press, 1986.
- Gide, Andre, Dostoevsky, New Directions, 1949.
- Gissing, George, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study, Dodd Mead, 1904.
- Goldstein, David I., Dostoyevsky and the Jews, University of Texas Press, 1981.
- Guerard, Albert J., The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Oxford University Press, 1976.
- Holquist, Michael, Dostoevsky and the Novel, [Princeton], 1977.
- Howe, Irving, Politics and the Novel, Horizon Press, 1957.
- Huneker, James, Ivory Apes and Peacocks, Scribners, 1938.
- Jackson, Robert L., Dostoevsky's Quest for Form, [New Haven], 1965.
- Jackson, Robert L., editor, Twentieth Century Interpretations of "Crime and Punishment," Prentice-Hall, 1974.
- Jackson, Robert L., The Art of Dostoevsky, Princeton University Press, 1981.
- Jackson, Robert L., Dostoevsky: New Perspectives, Prentice-Hall, 1984.
- Jenson, Peter Alberg, et al., Editors, Text and Context: Essays to Honor Nils Ake Nilsson, Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1987.
- Jones, Malcolm V., Dostoevsky: The Novel of Discord, Barnes & Noble, 1976.
- Jones, Malcolm V., and Terry, Garth M., Editors, New Essays on Dostoevsky, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
- Jones, Peter, Philosophy and the Novel, Clarendon Press, 1975.
- Laing, R.D., Self and Others, Pantheon, 1969.
- Lavrin, Janko, Dostoevsky: A Study, Macmillan, 1947.
- Lednicki, Waclaw, Russia, Poland, and the West: Essays in Literary and Cultural History, Roy Publishers, 1953.
- Linner, Sven, Starets Zosima in "The Brothers Karamazov": A Study in the Mimesis of Virtue, Almqvist and Wiksell, 1975.
- Magarshack, David, Dostoevsky, Secker & Warburg, 1962.
- Maugham, W. Somerset, The Art of Fiction: An Introduction to Ten Novels and Their Authors, Doubleday, 1955.
- Miller, Robin, Dostoevsky and "The Idiot," Harvard University Press, 1981.
- Mirsky, D.S., A History of Russian Literature, Knopf, 1949.
- Mochul'skii, K. D., Dostoevskii, zhizn' i tvorchestvo, [Paris], 1927, translation by Michael Minihan published as Dostoevsky, His Life and Work, Princeton University Press, 1967.
- Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism, Gale, Volume 2, 1982, Volume 7, 1984, Volume 21, 1989, Volume 33, 1992, Volume 43, 1994.
- O'Connor, Frank, The Mirror in the Roadway, Knopf, 1956.
- O'Toole, L. Michael, Structure, Style, and Interpretation in the Russian Short Story, Yale University Press, 1982.
- Passage, Charles E., Dostoevski the Adapter: A Study in Dostoevski's Use of the Tales of Hoffmann, University of North Carolina Press, 1954.
- Peace, Richard, Dostoyevsky: An Examination of the Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1971.
- Perlina, Nina,Varieties of Poetic Utterance: Quotation in "The Brothers Karamazov," University Press of America, n.d.
- Poggioli, Renato, The Kafka Problem, Octagon, 1963.
- Powys, John Cowper, Dostoievsky, John Lane The Bodley Head, 1946.
- Priestly, J.B., Literature and Western Man, Heinemann, 1960.
- Pritchett, V.S., In My Good Books, Kennikat Press, 1970.
- Proust, Marcel, Marcel Proust on Art and Literature: 1896-1919, Meridian, 1958.
- Rahv, Philip, Literature and the Sixth Sense, Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
- Reeve, F.D., The Russian Novel, McGraw-Hill, 1966.
- Rowe, William Woodin, Dostoevsky: Child and Man in His Works, New York University Press, 1968.
- Rozanov, Vasily, Dostoevsky and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, Cornell University Press, 1972.
- Seduro, Vladimir, Dostoevsky in Russian Literary Criticism, 1846- 1956, Columbia University Press, 1957.
- Seduro, Vladimir, Dostoevsky's Image in Russia Today, Nordland, 1975.
- Sewall, Richard, The Vision of Tragedy, Yale University Press, 1980.
- Short Story Criticism, Gale, Volume 2, 1989.
- Slonim, Marc, The Epic of Russian Literature, Oxford University Press, 1950.
- Slonim, Marc, Three Loves of Dostoevsky, Rinehart, 1955.
- Steiner, George, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism, Knopf, 1959.
- Tate, Allen, On the Limits of Poetry: Selected Essays 1928-48, Morrow, 1948.
- Terras, Victor, The Young Dostoevsky (1846-1849), Mouton, 1969.
- Terras, Victor, A Karamazov Companion: Commentary on the Genesis, Language and Style of Dostoevsky's Novel, University of Wisconsin Press, 1981.
- Thompson, Diane Oenning, "The Brothers Karamazov" and the Poetics of Memory, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
- Trace, Arthur, Furnace of Doubt: Dostoevsky and "The Brothers Karamazov," Sherwood Sugden & Company, 1988.
- Trilling, Lionel, Speaking of Literature and Society, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.
- Troyat, Henri, Firebrand: The Life of Dostoevsky, Roy Publishers, 1946.
- Tyler, Parker, Every Artist His Own Scandal: A Study of Real and Fictive Heroes, Horizon Press, 1964.
- Warner, Rex, The Cult of Power: Essays by Rex Warner, Lippincott, 1947.
- Wasiolek, Edward, editor, "Crime and Punishment" and the Critics, Wadsworth, 1961.
- Wasiolek, Edward, Dostoevsky, The Major Fiction, Harvard University Press, 1964.
- Wellek, Rene, editor, Dostoevsky, A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1962.
- Wilson, Colin, The Outsider, Houghton Mifflin, 1956.
- Wilson, Edmund, The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties and Thirties, Farrar, Straus, and Young, 1952.
- World Literature Criticism, Gale, 1992.
- Yarmolinsky, Avrahm, Dostoevsky: His Life and Art, S.G. Phillips, 1965.
- Zander, L.A., Dostoevsky, SCM Press, 1948.
- Zweig, Stefan, Three Masters: Balzac, Dickens, Dostoeffsky, Viking, 1919.
- American Imago, April, 1947; Spring, 1959.
- Canadian Slavonic Papers, 10, Number 1, 1968.
- Chimera, Winter, 1943.
- College English, December, 1955.
- Commentary, February, 1987; June, 1992.
- Cross-Currents, Fall, 1952.
- Economist, July 9, 1988.
- Explicator, Fall, 1981; Spring, 1982; Fall, 1982.
- Hudson Review, Spring, 1948; Summer, 1960.
- Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Winter, 1968.
- Journal of American Folklore, July-September, 1956.
- Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, November-December, 1937.
- Journal of Religions, April, 1956.
- Literature and Psychology, 22, Number 1, 1972.
- London Mercury, November, 1927.
- Michigan Quarterly Review, Fall, 1983.
- Minnesota Review, January-April, 1965.
- Modern Fiction Studies, Autumn, 1958.
- National Review, May 22, 1987.
- New Republic, June 15, 1915; April 27, 1987; December 5, 1988; March 6, 1989; October 12, 1992.
- New York Review of Books, January 17, 1991; June 13, 1991.
- New York Times Book Review, June 14, 1987; February 21, 1988; June 4, 1989; April 26, 1992; February 27, 1994.
- Psychoanalytic Review, April, 1930.
- Russian Literature Triquarterly, Fall, 1971.
- Russian Review, January, 1951; April, 1971.
- Slavic and East European Journal, Spring, 1966; Spring, 1973.
- Slavonic and East European Review, May, 1949.
- Soviet Literature, December, 1981.
- Studies in Short Fiction, Fall, 1973.
- Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Fall, 1972.
- Yale Review, December, 1977.
Source Database: Literature Resource Center