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To call Fyodor Dostoevsky a genius may indeed be an understatement. Decade after decade, his literary brilliance continues to capture the hearts and minds of millions. Because of his legacy and intense, storied commentaries on religion, philosophy, and psychology, Dostoevsky may have been one of the most important and influential writers that ever lived.

--Wes Marlan


"Life is in ourselves and not in the external," writes Fyodor Dostoevsky in a letter to his brother dated December 22, 1849. "To be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter--this is what life is, herein lies its task." (The Brothers Karamazov, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, xii)

This passage was written immediately after Dostoevsky underwent the traumatic experience that Tsar Nicholas I ordered for several prisoners condemned to death for supporting the expression of free thought within the Russian state--a mock execution in Semyonovsky Square, a staged performance so terrifyingly real that it induced insanity within one of the author's fellow prisoners. (The Brothers Karamazov, translated by Garnett, x) The quote is evidence of Dostoevsky's strength of character; his would be a difficult life--living in bleak poverty, he would helplessly watch as many of the people closest to him died from the ailments of the poor. It also exposes the significant flaw common to some of his characters and tragic heroes--through despair, and weakness before the weight of misfortune, they falter, and commit barbaric acts that render them unfit to operate within the context of humanity. This is the case with both Baklushkin and Shishkov from The House of the Dead, as well as with Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.

The difficult facts of Dostoevsky's life, however, are likely the genesis of most, if not all of his work. Born on November 11th, 1821 in Moscow, he lived much of his childhood distanced from his frail mother and officious father. (Hingley, 20) In these formative years, he formed a close bond with his elder brother Mikhail. They would spend many hours reading Pushkin by meager candlelight in their family's comfortable suburban home. When they were teenagers, however, both Fyodor and Mikhail were enrolled in separate boarding schools, Fyodor matriculating at an engineering school in St. Petersburg. It is possible that being confronted with the rigorous schedule of the engineering school (that served as a recruiting pool for the Russian bureaucracy) helped assure Dostoevsky that his destiny was the written word; even as he was studying the trade of government, he was honing his skills as a writer, inking drafts of what would become his first novel-Poor Folk. In 1846, it was published to warm critical response. Something of a literary figure at the age of twenty-five, Dostoevsky began attending the discussion group that would result in his imprisonment, and the eventual mock execution which would prompt him to write the aforementioned letter to his brother.

His sentence was commuted to four years in prison and four years of army service. His prison experiences, as well as his life after prison among the urban poor of Russia, would provide a vivid backdrop for much of his later work. Released from his imprisonment and service by 1858, he began a fourteen-year period of furious writing, in which he published many significant texts. Among these are: The House of the Dead (1862), Notes From The Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868), and Devils (1871).

During this period, Dostoevsky's life was in upheaval, as he lost both his first wife and his brother. On February 15, 1867, he married his stenographer Anna Grigorevna Snitkina who would manage his affairs until his death in 1881. Two months before he died, Dostoevsky completed the epilogue to The Brothers Karamazov (1880), which was published in serial form in the Russian Messenger. His funeral attracted thousands of citizens, as Russia mourned the death of a significant literary hero.

--Biography written by Pauls Toutonghi, a former student of Tom Beyer's Russian Literature class at Middlebury College


 Fictional Works by Dostoevsky
Year Title of Literary Work Type
1846 Poor Folk (also called Poor People) short novel
1846 The Double medium novel
1846 Mr. Prokharchin short story
1847 Novel in Nine Letters short story
1847 The Landlady (also called The Stranger-Woman) short story
1848 The Jealous Husband (also called Under the Bed and Another Man's Wife) short story
1848 A Faint Heart (also called A Weak Heart) short story
1848 Polzunkov short story
1848 Out of the Service ?
1848 The Honest Thief short story
1848 The Christmas Tree and a Wedding (also called The Fir Tree and a Wedding) short story
1848 White Nights (also called Bright Nights) short story
1849 Netochka Nezvanovna medium novel
1849 The Little Hero short story
1859 The Uncle's Dream short novel
1859 The Village of Stepanchikovo (also called The Friend of the Family) medium novel
1861 The Insulted and the Injured (also called The Insulted and Humiliated, The Humiliated and Wronged) medium novel
1862 House of the Dead (also called Notes From the House of the Dead) medium novel
1862 A Nasty Anecdote (also called An Unpleasant Predicament, A Silly Story, A Nasty Tale) short story
1864 Notes From Underground (also called Notes From the Underground, Letters From The Underworld) short novel
1865 The Crocodile (also called An Unusual Happening) short story
1866 Crime and Punishment long novel
1867 The Gambler short novel
1868 The Idiot long novel
1870 The Eternal Husband short novel
1871 Demons (also called Devils, The Possessed) long novel
1873 Bobok short story
1875 The Adolescent (also called A Raw Youth) long novel
1876 The Heavenly Christmas Tree (also called The Heavenly Fir Tree) short story
1876 A Gentle Spirit (also called A Gentle Creature, The Meek One) short story
1877 The Dream of a Ridiculous Man short story
1879 The Brothers Karamazov long novel


 Non-fictional Works by Dostoevsky
Year Title of Literary Work Type
1876 Diary of a Writer: 1873-1876 memoirs
1881 Diary of a Writer: 1877-1881 memoirs
1862 Winter Notes of Summer Impressions memoirs
1859 Complete Letters: 1832-1859 correspondence
1867 Complete Letters: 1860-1867 correspondence
1871 Complete Letters: 1868-1871 correspondence
1877 Complete Letters: 1872-1877 correspondence
1881 Complete Letters: 1878-1881 correspondence
n/a Unpublished Dostoevsky: Volume I notebooks
n/a Unpublished Dostoevsky: Volume II notebooks
n/a Unpublished Dostoevsky: Volume III notebooks


Title of Literary Work Author
Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849 Joseph Frank
Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal 1850-1859 Joseph Frank
Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation 1860-1865 Joseph Frank
Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years 1865-1871 Joseph Frank
Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet 1871-1881 Joseph Frank
Reminiscences, Volume I Anna Dostoevsky
Reminiscences, Volume II Anna Dostoevsky
A Writer's Life Geir Kjetsaa

--Bibliography courtesy of Canon Bryan

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