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

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

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593081942
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 33,422
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Few authors have been as personally familiar with desperation as Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), and none have been so adept at describing it. His harrowing experiences in Russian prisons, combined with a profound religious philosophy, formed the basis for his greatest books: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov. When Dostoevsky died in 1881, he left a legacy of masterful novels that immortalized him as a giant of Russian literature.

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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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House of the Dead and Poor Folk (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
collinsdanielp on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Two novels in one book. The first, The House of the Dead, is a semi-autobiographical retelling of Dostoevsky's time in a Siberian prison camp. This novel is not plot driven and is populated by numerous minor characters who mostly tend to blur together. There are some interesting stories told, especially toward the end of the book in my opinion, and there are a few interesting characterizations and philosophical insights about the nature of freedom, power, hope, suffering, the differences between classes, and the human condition. Ultimately this is probably my least favorite novel by Dostoevsky due to the lack of a plot and the lack of memorable characters, but I would still give it 3.5 stars. I much preferred Poor Folk. Dostoevsky's premier novel is almost completely told through letters exchanged between the two destitute main characters, Makar Alexyevitch Devushkin and Varvara Alexyevna Dobroselova. It tells of the plight of the very poor; their struggle merely to survive combined with their desire to remain respectable and at times forget their problems. I really liked this short novel (120 pages) and read it very quickly. The characters, especially Makar Devushkin, were very real and memorable for me. I would give this novel a 4.5 or 5 star rating.
awhayouseh on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The accounts in this piece are supposedly based on Dostoevsky's own experience as a prisoner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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