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By Fyodor Dostoevsky / Macmillan Co. / 1916
Also published as The Adolescent, this novel follows the life of 19-year-old intellectual Arkady Dolgoruky, the illegitimate child of a controversial and womanizing landowner. The story follows the conflict of father and son, each representatives of the different cultural ideals of Russia in the 1840s and 1860s, respectively. Pitting Russian tradition against both nihilism and progressive Western European values, Arkady becomes entangled with socialist conspiracies, the quest for wealth, and a young widow with a mysterious letter.
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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.