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By Fyodor Dostoevsky / William Heinemann / 1913
Published under the title Demons, The Possessed is one of Doestoevsky’s last works and recognized as one of his greatest. This social and political drama explores the potentially catestrophic consequences of social nihilism that was growing stronger at the end of the nineteenth century in Russia.
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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.