Author(s): Fyodor Dostoyevsky
In January, 1850, Dostoyevsky was sent to a remote Siberian prison camp for his part in a political conspiracy. The four years he spent there, startlingly re-created in "The House of the Dead", were the most agonizing of his life. In this fictionalized account, he recounts his soul-destroying incarceration through the cool, detached tones of his narrator, Aleksandr Petrovich Goryanchikov: the daily battle for survival, the wooden plank beds, the cabbage soup swimming with cockroaches, his strange 'family' of boastful, ugly, cruel convicts. Yet "The House of the Dead" is far more than a work of documentary realism: it is also a powerful novel of redemption, describing one man's spiritual and moral death and the miracle of his gradual reawakening.
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881) studied at the Military Engineering College in St Petersburg, and achieved officer's rank. Arrested in 1849 and sentenced to death for his involvement in a political coup, he was reprieved at the last moment but sentenced to penal servitude. On his return, he fell into debt as a result of gambling. His greatest works were all written in the last 20 years of his life. David McDuff is a renowned Russian translateor and has written books and articles on Russian literature.