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Portrait by Vasily Perov (1872)
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky|
November 11, 1821
Moscow, Russian Empire
February 9, 1881 (aged 59)|
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, essayist|
Notes from Underground|
Crime and Punishment
The Brothers Karamazov
Mariya Dmitriyevna Isayeva (1857–64) [her death]Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina (1867–1881) [his death]
|Children||Sofiya (1868), Lyubov (1869—1926), Fyodor (1871–1922), Alexei (1875—1878)|
The event of his life
In his 20s he joined a group of radicals in St Petersburg They were into French socialist ideas. A police agent reported the group to the authorities. On 22 April 1849, Dostoyevsky was arrested and imprisoned with the other members. After months of questioning and investigation they were tried. They were found guilty of planning to distribute subversive propaganda and condemned to death by firing squad.
The punishment was changed to a sentence of exile and hard labour, but not before they were forced to go through a mock execution. In 1859 a new tsar allowed Dostoyevsky to end his Siberian exile. A year later he was back in St Petersburg. The experience had cost him ten years of his life. It is the root of all his writing.
- "Dostoyevsky's experience had altered him profoundly... He was particularly scornful of the ideas he found in St Petersburg when he returned from his decade of Siberian exile. The new generation of Russian intellectuals was gripped by European theories and philosophies [which] were melded together into a peculiarly Russian combination that came to be called 'nihilism' ".
Raised in an educated and religious family, Dostoyevsky's beliefs changed through his life. In prison, he focused intensely on the figure of Christ and on the New Testament, the only book allowed in prison. In a letter to the woman who had sent him the New Testament, Dostoyevsky wrote that he was a "child of unbelief and doubt up to this moment, and I am certain that I shall remain so to the grave". He also wrote that "even if someone were to prove to me that the truth lay outside Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than with the truth".
From an analysis of religious deas in Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons, and The Brothers Karamazov, James Townsend thinks Dostoyevsky held orthodox Christian beliefs except for his view of salvation from sin. According to Townsend, "Dostoevsky almost seemed to embrace an in-this-life purgatory", in which people suffer to pay for their sins, rather than the Christian doctrine of salvation through Christ. Malcolm Jones sees elements of Islam and Buddhism in Dostoyevsky's religious convictions. Colin Wilson in The Outsider describes him as a "tormented half-atheist-half-Christian".
Many scholars see Dostoyevsky as one of the greatest psychologists in literature. His works have had a big effect on twentieth-century fiction. Very often, he wrote about characters who live in poor conditions. Those characters are sometimes in extreme states of mind. They might show both a strange grasp of human psychology as well as good analyses of the political, social and spiritual states of Russia of Dostoevsky's time. Many of his best-known works are prophetic. He is sometimes considered to be a founder of existentialism, most frequently for Notes from Underground, which has been described as "the best overture for existentialism ever written". He is also famous for writing The Brothers Karamazov, which many critics, such as Sigmund Freud, have said was one of the best novels ever written.
His attack on nihilism is in his great novel Demons, or The Possessed. Published in 1872, it is a "dark comedy, cruelly funny in its depiction of high-minded intellectuals toying with revolutionary notions without understanding anything of what revolution means in practice".
The plot is a version of actual events at the time. A former teacher of divinity turned terrorist, Sergei Nechaev, had written a pamphlet, The Catechism of a Revolutionary, which argued that any means (including blackmail and murder) could be used to advance the cause of revolution. Nechaev planned to kill a student who questioned his ideas.
One of the characters in Demons confesses: "I got entangled in my own data, and my conclusion contradicts the original idea from which I start. From unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism". This suggests that the result of abandoning morality for the sake of an idea will be tyranny more extreme than any in the past.
List of works
- 1846 - Bednye lyudi (Бедные люди); English translation: Poor Folk
- 1846 - Dvojnik (Двойник. Петербургская поэма); English translation: The Double: A Petersburg Poem
- 1849 - Netochka Nezvanova (Неточка Незванова); a proper feminine name, English transliteration: Netochka Nezvanova (Unfinished)
- 1859 - Dyadushkin son (Дядюшкин сон); English translation: The Uncle's Dream
- 1859 - Selo Steanchikovo i ego obitateli (Село Степанчиково и его обитатели); English translation: The Village of Stepanchikovo
- 1861 - Unizhennye i oskorblennye (Униженные и оскорбленные); English translation: The Insulted and Humiliated
- 1862 - Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (Записки из мертвого дома); English translation: The House of the Dead
- 1864 - Zapiski iz podpolya (Записки из подполья); English translation: Notes from Underground
- 1866 - Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Преступление и наказание); English translation: Crime and Punishment
- 1867 - Igrok (Игрок); English translation: The Gambler
- 1869 - Idiot (Идиот); English translation: The Idiot
- 1870 - Vechnyj muzh (Вечный муж); English translation: The Eternal Husband
- 1872 - Besy (Бесы); English translations: The Possessed; The Devils; Demons
- 1875 - Podrostok (Подросток); English translation: The Raw Youth
- 1881 - Brat'ya Karamazovy (Братья Карамазовы); English translation: The Brothers Karamazov
Novellas and short stories
- 1846 - Gospodin Prokharchin (Господин Прохарчин); English translation: Mr. Prokharchin
- 1847 - Roman v devyati pis'mah (Роман в девяти письмах); English translation: Novel in Nine Letters
- 1847 - Hozyajka (Хозяйка); English translation: The Landlady
- 1848 - Polzunkov (Ползунков); English translation: Polzunkov
- 1848 - Slaboe serdze (Слабое сердце); English translation: A Weak Heart
- 1848 - Chestnyj vor (Честный вор); English translation: An Honest Thief
- 1848 - Elka i svad'ba (Елка и свадьба); English translation: A Christmas Tree and a Wedding
- 1848 - Chuzhaya zhena i muzh pod krovat'yu (Чужая жена и муж под кроватью); English translation: The Jealous Husband
- 1848 - Belye nochi (Белые ночи); English translation: White Nights
- 1849 - Malen'kij geroj (Маленький герой); English translation: A Little Hero
- 1862 - Skvernyj anekdot (Скверный анекдот); English translation: A Nasty Story
- 1865 - Krokodil (Крокодил); English translation: The Crocodile
- 1873 - Bobok (Бобок); English translation: Bobok
- 1876 - Krotkaja (Кроткая); English translation: A Gentle Creature
- 1876 - Muzhik Marej (Мужик Марей); English translation: The Peasant Marey
- 1876 - Mal'chik u Hrista na elke (Мальчик у Христа на ёлке); English translation: The Heavenly Christmas Tree
- 1877 - Son smeshnogo cheloveka (Сон смешного человека); English translation: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
The last five stories (1873-1877) are included in A Writer's Diary.
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- Old style date: 30 October 1821 – 28 January 28.
- Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский, Fëdor Mihajlovič Dostoevskij, sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky listen (info • help)
- "185 лет со дня рождения Федора Достоевского" (in Russian). Voice Ukraine. 1 December 2006. http://www.pravoslavye.org.ua/index.php?r_type=article&action=fullinfo&id=13375.
- Gray, John 2014. A point of view: The writer who foresaw the rise of the totalitarian state. BBC News Magazine. 
- Jones, Malcolm V. 2005. Dostoevsky and the dynamics of religious experience. Anthem Press, p6/9; p68/9. ISBN 978-1-84331-205-5
- Townsend, James (1997). "Dostoyevsky and his theology". Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Grace Evangelical Society) 10:19. http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1997ii/Townsend.html. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Wilson, Colin 1956. The outsider. London: Gollancz, p175 (Pan edition).
- "Russian literature". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/513793/Russian-literature. Retrieved 2008-04-11. "In The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov Dostoyevsky, who is generally regarded as one of the supreme psychologists in world literature, sought to demonstrate the compatibility of Christianity with the deepest truths of the psyche."
- Nabokov, Vladimir. “Lectures on Russian Literature”. Harcourt, 1981, p. 104
- Kaufmann, Walter (ed) 1989. Existentialism: from Dostoyevsky to Sartre. Penguin Books, p. 12. ISBN 0452009308
- Greig, Ian 1973. Subversion: propaganda, agitation and the spread of people's war. Letchworth, Hertfordshire: Tom Stacey, p8. ISBN 0-85468-495-6