House of the Dead and Poor Folk (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The House of the Dead and Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble ...
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The House of the Dead and Poor Folk (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The House of the Dead and Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Arrested in 1849 for belonging to a secret group of radical utopians, Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to four years in a Siberian labor camp—a terrible mental, spiritual, and physical ordeal that inspired him to write the novel The House of the Dead.

Told from the point of view of a fictitious narrator—a convict serving a ten-year sentence for murdering his wife—The House of the Dead describes in vivid detail the horrors that Dostoevsky himself witnessed while in prison: the brutality of guards who relish cruelty for its own sake; the evil of criminals who enjoy murdering children; and the existence of decent souls amid filth and degradation. More than just a work of documentary realism, The House of the Dead also describes the spiritual death and gradual resurrection from despair experienced by the novel’s central character—a reawakening that culminates in his final reconciliation with himself and humanity.

Also included in this volume is Dostoevsky’s first published work, Poor Folk, a novel written in the form of letters that brought Dostoevsky immediate critical and public recognition.

Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of an acclaimed five-volume study of Dostoevsky’s life and work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593081942
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 190,648
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of an acclaimed five-volume study of Dostoevsky’s life and work.
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Read an Excerpt

From Joseph Frank's Introduction to House of the Dead and Poor Folk

If one were asked to select two books of Dostoevsky that represent the variety and range of his literary talent, no better choice could be made than the ones published in this volume. Dostoevsky is best known for his larger and later novels, such as Crime and Punishment and The Devils (also translated as The Possessed), and an influential critical tradition views him primarily as the unsurpassed chronicler of the moral-psychological dilemmas of the alienated, refractory urban intelligentsia. This aspect of his work has had the greatest influence on later writers, particularly as he became more widely read outside of Russia; but it represents much too limited a perspective on the full scope of his creations.

To be sure, there are elements of the later Dostoevsky in Poor Folk, with its vivid depiction of the St. Petersburg background and its first embryonic sketch of educated types; but its main character is not a member of the intelligentsia at all and anything but rebellious. He is a humble, socially and emotionally downtrodden clerk in the vast Russian bureaucracy of St. Petersburg, frightened to death at his temerity in questioning, even in thought, the supreme virtues of the God-ordained order in which he lives.

The House of the Dead, on the other hand, stands alone in the Dostoevsky corpus as an unprecedented depiction, the first in Russian literature, of the prison gulags of the vast czarist empire. Dostoevsky's initial readers were shocked by the conditions of life he described, but we have since learned from Solzhenitsyn that these gulags were relatively humane compared to their successors under the Bolsheviks. The book also contains a gallery of Russian peasant types and sketches of Russian peasant life that equal those of Turgenev and Tolstoy, both of whom admired the book (Tolstoy thought it the best work Dostoevsky had ever written). Such peasant types are depicted only fleetingly in the major novels; but they were by no means, as we see here, outside Dostoevsky's creative purview. These two books are thus miles apart in theme and artistic treatment. The first initiates Dostoevsky's exploration of guilt-ridden characters; the second demonstrates his ability as an objective reporter and observer of a new social milieu. But there is one thing they have in common: Both opened the path to fame (if not to fortune) for their author. Poor Folk brought him to the forefront of the Russian literary scene at the age of twenty-four, and for a brief period he was, quite literally, the talk of the town.

Dostoevsky began The House of the Dead when he was thirty-nine, having returned to Russia after serving a prison sentence in Siberia and being absent from the literary scene for ten years. His first creations at this time, the novellas Uncle's Dream and The Friend of the Family, were received quite tepidly, and it was generally felt that his talent had not survived his exile. His prison memoirs, however, convinced even his detractors that they had been mistaken. These memoirs created a sensation by opening up a hitherto concealed world for the Russian reader; and the outcast criminal inhabitants of this hidden universe, generally looked down upon as little better than subhuman, were treated by Dostoevsky with respect and even occasionally with sympathy. He made no effort to conceal their sometimes horrendous crimes; but he saw them as sentient human beings whose behavior deserved to be understood if not pardoned.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    Concerning Poor Folk

    Poor Folk (or, perhaps, Poor People, depending on the translation), an epistolary novel written by the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, depicts the stark poverty of two impoverished souls as they relate to each other their joys, sorrows, and, at last, their love. It is no wonder that such a depiction of the poverty of 19th century Russia brought Dostoevsky immediate fame in the eyes of the Russian populace. Forgive me for being just a little personal, but this novel left me almost in tears---a difficult feat for any author to inspire such feelings in a male, I believe. Not even Victor Hugo, which has been (until now, of course) my favorite author, could exemplify poverty as Dostoevsky did (this may be an overstatement, but such were my reactions after reading the novel). And to think this was Dostoevsky's first novel! I cannot fathom what would inspire a former engineering student---for that was what Dostoevsky's father willed him to do---to write such an exquisite novel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2006

    What a great book!

    Two of Dostoevsky's greatest short novels amalgamated into one. The house of the dead was engrossingly thrilling, horrific, and very fierce. The house of the dead was very compelling from the first page to the last. Dostoevsky's first ever novel, Poor Folk was a very enthralling, commiserating,passionate and yet very satirical novel at the same time. Once after reading this novel i bought the idiot, the possessed, the brothers karamazov, and am now reading crime and punishment. Dostoevsky is an amazing author, and i would recommend this book to anyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Excellent books, especially House of the Dead. Dostoevsky does a

    Excellent books, especially House of the Dead. Dostoevsky does an amazing job with description, character development and making the reader feel present. He did an excellent job of describing his evolving and developing relationships with other prisoners, who had descriptive and memorable qualities themselves. Great book(s) from my favorite author.

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