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Poor Folk


Translated in 1915 by C. J. Hogarth.

Written in 1845 and published in 1846, Poor Folk or Poor People is a natural beginning point for anyone who wants to read Dostoevsky. The novel occupies a position of particular interest and importance in both the history of Russian literature and Dostoevsky's work as a whole. Several lines of development in Russian prose intersect: sentimentalism, naturalism, the physiological sketch, and the phenomenon of Gogol, with whom Dostoevsky maintains a dialogue throughout the novel.

This is the first novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, written over the span of nine months between 1844 and 1845. He was in financial difficulty because of his extravagant living and his developing gambling addiction; although he had produced some translations of foreign novels, they had little success, and he decided to write a novel of his own to try to raise funds.

Inspired by the works of Gogol, Pushkin, and Karamzin, this novel is written in the form of letters between the two main characters, Makar Devushkin and Varvara Dobroselova, who are poor second cousins. The novel showcases the life of poor people, their relationship with rich people, and poverty in general, all common themes of literary naturalism. A deep but odd friendship develops between them until Dobroselova loses her interest in literature, and later in communicating with Devushkin after a rich widower Mr. Bykov proposes to her. Devushkin, a prototype of the clerk found in many works of naturalistic literature at that time, retains his sentimental characteristics; Dobroselova abandons art, while Devushkin cannot live without literature.

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Recent Forum Posts on Poor Folk

an extraordinary first novel

To think that Dostoevsky wrote Poor Folk when he was twenty-five--it's just incredible. No wonder that he was proclaimed and hailed as a great novelist from the start. Poor Folk is a great work, but it is not his best. The best was yet to come.

No Subject

Poor Folk:

through dostoyesky's Poor Folk novel, i've come to know the true meaning of unconditional love. this espistolary novel written in the form of exchanged letters between two poverty-stricken souls reveals that love for another is far greater than the misery in which it dwells in....

Very Nice

This story truly captures the poverty in the 19th century Russia, it is filled with pity, which it almost made me cry.
The dialogue was escellent, such as this one made me think: "Poor man is worse than an old rag and will never recieve the slightest respect from anyone, whatever they might write, those scribblers, whatever they might write, Nothing but a poor man will ever change. But why will everything stay as it was?"

Well there are better examples, but you get what I'm trying to say.

It's awesome

I have never read anything like this!!! I am doing a research paper on this guy and this is so good!! It's filled with compasion and feeling that only the lost could write. It's amazing how they write eachother hastily every time getting different reactions. Like a Long-Distance relationship. He puts in feeling beyond meaning, I could actually feel him wanting to cry. I read the Brother's Karamozov, and it was not as well written as this one.

No Subject

The ending, of Poor Folk, is creepy and harrowing. The protagonist (I've already forgotten his name) goes to the apartment of his beloved penpal. She has abandoned the flat and gone away to get married. In one of her draws are all the letters that the protagonist has written to her. Has he ever really sent them to her? This sense of a character haunting a habitation and leading a dream-like existence is a defining characteristic of Dostoyevsky's masterfull Dirges. (PS Hi Caroline and Leo. Like your comments.)

Awesome, even if badly branslated... :-(

I'd love to add my voice to that of Caroline who is so kind and so right in giving this amazing story justice! But being a native speaker and having read the original, I have some bad news: Mr. Hogarth, the translator, while doing an excellent, exemplary job of converting Dostoevsky's style to English, managed to get really loads of things very badly wrong. In fact, on average every 10th-15th sentence of his translation contains some grave misunderstanding.

For example, the following bit from Chapter 2, quote:
"Unfortunately, Thedora, who, with her sweeping and polishing, makes a perfect sanctuary of my room, is not over-pleased at the arrangement."
In the original, this sentence says that Thedora is _overjoyed_ about it -- nowhere near "unfortunately"! Little misreadings like this one are abundant and do spoil the experience a lot... :-((

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