Fyodor Dostoevsky


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Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) was a Russian novelist, journalist, short-story writer whose psychological penetration into the human soul had a profound influence on the 20th century novel.

Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, as the second son of a former army doctor. He was educated at home and at a private school. Shortly after the death of his mother in 1837 he was sent to St. Petersburg, where he entered the Army Engineering College. In 1839 Dostoevsky's father died probably of apoplexy but there were strong rumors that he was murdered by his own serfs. Dostoevsky graduated as a military engineer, but resigned in 1844 to devote himself to writing. His first novel, Poor Folk appeared in 1846. It was followed by The Double, which depicted a man who was haunted by a look-alike who eventually usurps his position.

In 1846 he joined a group of utopian socialists. He was arrested in 1849 and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to imprisonment in Siberia. Dostoevsky spent four years in hard labor and four years as a soldier in Semipalatinsk.

Dostoevsky returned to St. Petersburg in 1854 as a writer with a religious mission and published three works that derive in different ways from his Siberia experiences: The House of the Dead, (1860) a fictional account of prison life, The Insulted and Injured, which reflects the author's refutation of naive Utopianism in the face of evil, and Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, his account of a trip to Western Europe.

In 1857 Dostoevsky married Maria Isaev, a 29-year old widow. He resigned from the army two years later. Between the years 1861 and 1863 he served as editor of the monthly periodical Time, which was later suppressed because of an article on the Polish uprising.

In 1864-65 his wife and brother died and he was burdened with debts, and his situation was made even worse by gambling. From the turmoil of the 1860s emerged Notes from the Underground, psychological study of an outsider, which marked a watershed in Dostoevsky's artistic development. The novel starts with the confessions of a mentally ill narrator and continues with the promise of spiritual rebirth. It was followed by Crime and Punishment, (1866) an account of an individual's fall and redemption, The Idiot, (1868) depicting a Christ-like figure, Prince Myshkin, and The Possessed, (1871) an exploration of philosophical nihilism.

In 1867 Dostoevsky married Anna Snitkin, his 22-year old stenographer, who seems to have understood her husband's manias and rages. They traveled abroad and returned in 1871. By the time of The Brothers Karamazov, which appeared in 1879-80, Dostoevsky was recognized in his own country as one of its great writers.

An epileptic all his life, Dostoevsky died in St. Petersburg on February 9, 1881. He was buried in the Aleksandr Nevsky monastery, St. Petersburg.

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Recent Forum Posts on Fyodor Dostoevsky

Translations of Dostoyevsky

I am reading Crime and Punishment for the third time but this time in German translation from the old Piper Verlag edition of the 1920's. The novel is called Raskomlikov and not Crime and Punishment. It has started me thinking about all the translations of Dostoyevsky in different languages and how different translations can affect one's view of any great writer. My initial impression (only an impression-I have made no scientific comparison of specific extracts yet) at the moment is that the characters in the German version do not seem to be not quite so mad and peremptory as they appear in the two English translations and the characters are easier to identitfy and remember! I cannot say why. I should be interested in hearing other people's views of Dostoyevsky from the point of view of translation versions.


Question about a quote!

Hello my friends. I would like to ask you from which book is a quotation related to the no existence of time. There is a discussion between two people and one of them asks the other why he has a watch that is broken. The other answers that time does not exist. Thank you in advance for your answer!


Dostoevsky's question...

Does anyone have an answer? =) Don't you think there are many more men in the world thieves than not thieves, and that there isn't a man in the world so honest that he has never once in his life stolen anything? That's my idea, from which I don't conclude, however, that all men are thieves; though, goodness knows, I've often been tempted to. What do you think? #The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky


Notes From Underground Translations

For a while now I have been wanting to get more into Russian literature, particularly Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. All I have read before is Crime and Punishment, which I very much want to read again. I have been a little anxious, if truth be told, about finding the right translations of these works. I read all the translation threads that show up on the forums, and I recognize that there will never be a perfect solution to this problem besides learning Russian (or any other language) So, to try to compare for myself, I just read two different translations of Notes From Underground back to back. First I read the Pevear/Volokhonsky version, then Garnett. The differences I noticed between them are subtle, which is a good thing in my opinion, but it can also be crucial to understanding the nuances of tone and things of that sort. I would say that I enjoyed the P/V version better- it struck me as more "readable" and I also thought I could sense its "Russian" nature better. For instance, an officer is described as imposing due to his "six foot tallness." I like the way that is phrased, it seems to convey the original language used very well. The book also came with notes on various references Dostoevsky makes. These I found very helpful and helped me to better grasp what the author was saying, how, and why. These notes most likely had a significant impact on my preference, which is not making my quest any easier. The Garnett version seemed, well, dated. This is because it is. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing, the original Russian is dated as well. It is an old book. I felt more like I was reading an old book with Garnett. There is a quote I have seen bouncing around, something like "If readers complain that the Russian greats all sound the same, it is because they are not reading them; they are reading Garnett." This really struck a nerve with me when I read it and made me really want to read the authors themselves. After reading her version of NFU, I have to say that it seems like a faithful version, but I still feel that P/V brought it more to life for me. In conclusion- I have still not found the answer to the translation question. Has anyone else read these versions, or any others? What are your opinions? And how much sleep is it worth losing over this issue?


Dostoevsky and beauty

One thing i remember noticing in Dostoevsky's work is that he appears to have at the same time a pre-occupation with beauty, and also one which is not analysed at all. Some examples of beauty playing a part in his characters: Raskolnicov is described as very beautiful. I always thought that he made it that way so as to have the readers avoid some explanation of his misery by means of frustration with women. In the "pitiful tale" there is a character who is almost only described as "very good looking boy". He acts in an angelic way. The narrator of The Underground introduces himself by claiming he is repulsive (i trust physically as well as ethically). In the vast ocean of his work such a theme perhaps can go utterly un-noticed. It has been years since i read most of it, but there are other characters who are physically ugly, such as Marmeladov, and they get diminished to the point of being treated like animals. Also i do not recall any clear passage of adoration of beauty. Unlike in Tolstoi's work, were the human form is often mentioned and adored, or even if it isnt then there is some very clear occupation in the story about this. In Dostoevsky it seems that the form has some hidden meaning, perhaps some meaning he didnt feel comfortable with. This could be one of the motifs in his work, perhaps not as pronounced as others, but still existant :)


Non Volokhonsky/Pevear translations?

The couple have translated 9 novels * The Brothers Karamazov (1990) * Crime and Punishment (1992) * Notes from Underground (1993) * Demons (1994) * The Eternal Husband and Other Stories (1997) * The Idiot (2002) * The Adolescent (2003) * The Double (2005) * The Gambler (2005) But what about the 6 novels the pair haven't translated, can anyone assist me with recommendations for the best English translations for the following 6 Dostoevsky novels (if there is a English translation available)? 1846 Poor Folk (also called Poor People) short novel 1849 Netochka Nezvanovna medium novel 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 Much appreciated thanks!


The Eternal Husband

What are we to make of the ending of this novella? The Eternal Husband, a late work of Dostoevsky, alludes to an affair a decade earlier between Velchaninov and a married woman, the siren Natalia, and the subsequent relationship between the man and her husband, Pavel Pavlovich, who knowingly has brought along 'his' young daughter, Liza, almost certainly a product of the affair. Every scene starts with Velchaninov, and none ends before he and Pavel Pavlovich interact. We tend to see the action though Velchaninov's eyes, but Pavel Pavlovich viewpoint is perhaps the more fascinating. Towards the end, can we assume that Pavel Pavlovich, having returned Liza to her genetic father, is intending to murder the man who has cuckolded him? I assume that Velchaninov is right to bind and eject him for good. But both men seem to have an unhealthy fascination for each other, combined with a curious mix of shame, guilt and pride. Ultimately, their lives seem bizarrely twisted.


Best Book- in your opinion, of course

I finished reading Crime and Punishment a few months ago, and I really liked it. Maybe because the main character was the perfect portrayal of someone who is somewhat crazy and incredibly sad(I know, he acted just like my dad). Maybe because poor people are exemplified. Maybe because I could relate a little bit to the plot. Maybe because many of the characters(Porfiry, Raskolnikov, Sonya, Marmelodov, Svidrigailov) were very interesting to me. Maybe just because it was a good book. So anyway, I want to know what is considered Dostoyevsky's greatest work, so that I don't read it yet. I don't want to read it because I think it must be the greatest work in all of literature, and I don't want to be like a crack addict, always looking for that same high that I got the first time when I was younger, never quite getting what I'm looking for. I want to wait to read it until I'm much older


My Island; Crime & Punishment vs. Brothers Karamazov

A wee bit of a confessional here folks. I was more moved by C&P than BK. There, I've said it. Hardly the most intimate of feelings, yet I do feel as if I've been stranded on a bit of an island for the aforementioned opinion. Perhaps defining 'moved' would be apropos. C&P is hardly uplifting, yet I'd be remiss to not extol its visceral virtues. I've never felt such sheer intensely for the written word as I have than when I'd been tugged inside the tormented mind of Raskolnikov. His narrowed world was such a dizzying, unrelenting one, and one of the least pleasurable ones to boot. While literature at its finest can be provocative and pleasurable, the frenetic tone & depth to this story blew through any normative criteria I may have used to judge a wor & I'm left w/ nothing but Dostoevsky's guts...cloaked in an everlasting, surrendering tide, bound by an intimate connection to darkness. That said, my bias may lay in my lack of fascination w/ theology- which is one of the firmest of legs that BK stands on. The Grand Inquisitor chapter was the most powerful moment during the work, yet I couldn't ride its wave long enough to transcend my ultimate synopsis of 'pretty damn good, but those expectations I'd had really may have damned this for me.' Perhaps that is the story, one of a sky high ceiling which was impossible to reach...but in actuality, the strength of the book, lying in Alyosha's intangibles, may have simply been too tough for me to swallow. Not to say Ivan's argument was a more compelling one (albeit a more unique vision, intellectually divorced from the soul), his presence just left me wanting...I missed the deep seeded feeling that Dostoevsky jack-hammered me w/ in C&P. There were moments in BK, particularly Ivan's downward spiraling dance w/ the devil, along w/ some of the bits of the raw, familial life that the Russian Proletariats of the time were shelled with...but those moments, for me, didn't smack w/ that prevailing, indomitable wind that C&P did. Who knows if this is a criticism on BK, an homage to C&P, or simply my unveiling of subjective drivers that get my literary goat...but for now, I'll call it a confessional. For these few reasons and several more, C&P moved me, for better or for worse, more than BK. Am I the only one?


Female Charecters in Crime and Punishment

How would i show that the female characters in C&P are not trodden personalities but strong characters? this refers mostly to the main charecters, like Dunya and Sonya. even nastasya might work. thanks


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