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By Fyodor Dostoevsky / William Heinemann / 1920
First published under the title The Village of Stepanchikovo, The Friend of the Family is a short comedic novel told from the perspective of Sergey Alexandrovich, who is called to Stepanchikovo in order to be swayed into marrying. But there’s a catch—each social authority in the village wants him to marry a different girl, who each has her own set of problems. At the head of the pack is the middle-aged Foma Fomich Opiskin, a passive-aggressive and manipulative noble who everyone seems to think is kind, virtuous, and selfless.
Netochka Nezvanova is Dostoevsky’s earliest attempt at novel writing—interrupted by his exile and imprisonment by the Russian authorities under suspicion of revolutionary activities. Dostoevsky never resumed this novel, leaving it unfinished and the plot unresolved.
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Fyodor Dostoevsky was born to minor Russian nobility in 1821. He entered the military academy at age 17. While an engineer in the army, he translated works from French and wrote his first fiction for money on the side. He became a member of the utopian socialist Petrashevsky circle. He was arrested for reading banned political literature and sentenced to death by firing squad in 1849. The execution was stayed at the last moment when a letter arrived from the Tsar pardoning him. Instead, Dostoevsky was exiled to Siberia and four years hard of labor, shackled hand and foot. During his sentence, the only thing he could read was the New Testament. Upon his release, his gambling addiction frequently left him in poverty, and he began a financially tumultuous marriage to his secretary. He died in 1881 after suffering a pulmonary hemorrhage. Together with Tolstoy, he is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential novelist of Russian literature’s golden age.