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J. M. Dent & Sons
E. P. Dutton & Co.
J. M. Dent & Sons,
E. P. Dutton & Co. / 1911
The House of the Dead is a semi-autobiographical novel, portraying the life of convicts in a Siberian prison camp. For murdering his wife, the narrator, Aleksandr Petrovich Goryanchikov, is sentenced to deportation to Siberia and ten years of hard labor. As a member of the upper class, prison life is extremely difficult, but gradually Aleksandr and his fellow convicts grow in fraternity and experience a sort of spiritual reawakening. This work is renowned as a work of deep humanity, portraying prison convicts with sympathy and admiration, while exploring philosophical and ethical aspects of criminal justice. For Dostoevsky, the subject couldn’t be more personal.
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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.