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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. In 1849 he was arrested for involvement with the politically subversive 'Petrashevsky circle' and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison in Omsk, Siberia. After the death of his first wife, Maria, in 1864, Dostoyevsky completed Notes from Underground and began work towards Crime and Punishment (1866). The major novels of his late period are The Idiot (1868), Demons (1871-2) and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). He died in 1881. Oliver Ready is Research Fellow in Russian Society and Culture at St Antony's College, Oxford. He is general editor of the anthology, The Ties of Blood: Russian Literature from the 21st Century (2008), and Consultant Editor for Russia, Central and Eastern Europe at the Times Literary Supplement.
Initiated by a savage act, this is a powerful story of doom versus redemption. Although first published in 1866 in Russian, this is the original very dark tale of rebellious youth Rodion Raskolnikov stepping over lines and blurring morality in the name of higher purpose. It's a seminal piece of work whose themes are as relevant today as they were then, as you follow the journal of such a complex character. Highly recommended and an absolute must on the list of classics. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
Mesmerizingly good ... the best, truest translation of Dostoevsky's masterpiece into English. It's a magnificent, almost terrifying achievement of translation, one that makes its predecessors, however worthy, seem safe and polite. -STEVE DONAGHUE, Open Letters Monthly
The small town of Mordasov is all abuzz at the arrival of Prince K-, a wealthy, ageing landowner, after an absence of several years. Maria Alexandrovna Moskalyova, a local gossip and fearsome schemer, decides that he would be an advantageous match for her daughter Zina. But in her endeavours to make such a union come about, she must contend with rival matchmakers and Zina's wilfulness. Written soon after Dostoevsky was released from the prison camp that inspired The House of the Dead, Uncle's Dream shares very little of that novel's gloomy tone and contains many elements of a light, drawing-room farce. Beneath the surface, however, lies a sharply satirical voice which looks ahead in part to later novels such as Devils.
'I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps from the hour I was born' A man goes mad because he is happy. A civil servant behaves like a monster at a wedding-party. A man is swallowed by a crocodile, but not eaten nor seriously damaged. Dostoevsky's stories inhabit similarly volcanic atmospheres as his novels, places of curiosity and exception. They resemble jokes and anecdotes, told by volatile, voluble, morbidly sensitive and frustrated characters. These narrators all have a tendency to express themselves in crescendos of conflicting emotions, while the stories themselves steer clear of grand conclusions. Michael Wood's selection of Dostoevsky's shorter works is drawn from the timeless translations of Constance Garnett whose work, he says in his preface, gives readers the best of several worlds.