Notes from the House of the Dead

Notes from the House of the Dead

Notes from the House of the Dead

Notes from the House of the Dead

Synopsis

Master translation of a neglected Russian classic into English

Long before Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago came Dostoevsky's Notes from the House of the Dead, a compelling account of the horrific conditions in Siberian labor camps. First published in 1861, this novel, based on Dostoevsky's own experience as a political prisoner, is a forerunner of his famous novels Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

The characters and situations that Dostoevsky encountered in prison were so violent and extraordinary that they changed his psyche profoundly. Through that experience, he later said, he was resurrected into a new spiritual condition -- one in which he would create some of the greatest novels ever written.

Including an illuminating introduction by James Scanlan on Dostoevsky's prison years, this totally new translation by Boris Jakim captures Dostoevsky's semi-autobiographical narrative -- at times coarse, at times intensely emotional, at times philosophical -- in rich American English.

Excerpt

James P. Scanlan

Among works of literature, Notes from the House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) is appropriately classified as a n. the book might be called a thinly fictionalized memoir, chronicling a transformative period in the great Russian writer’s life — the four years (January 1850–January 1854) he spent as a political prisoner in a military labor camp in Siberia.

The prison term was part of a decade-long suite of punishments meted out to Dostoevsky because of his involvement with the Petrashevsky Circle, a conspiratorial group of young Russian intellectuals in St. Petersburg who favored the abolition of serfdom and other liberal reforms. in 1849, Tsar Nicholas I, disturbed by the European uprisings of the previous year and determined to forestall all threats to autocratic rule in Russia, ordered the arrest of Dostoevsky and dozens of his associates. After months of imprisonment and interrogation, twenty-three of them, Dostoevsky included, were convicted of plotting against the government and were subjected to a cruel charade secretly ordered by the tsar — a mock execution. Informed only that they had all been condemned to death, the men were taken to the site of the supposed execution, made to don burial shrouds, and lashed to poles facing the firing squad — only to hear a drum roll followed by the reading of an imperial proclamation commuting their death sentences to exile and imprisonment. Dostoevsky’s sentence called for four years of hard labor in Siberia followed by an indefinite period of army service there at the rank of private. Not until 1859 was he released from the army and permitted to re-

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