Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy birthday, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It is the birthday of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), whose book Crime and Punishment (1866), made him one of the most celebrated writers in Russia. Among his best known works are The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), all written in the last years of his life. 

He wrote his first novel, Poor Folk (1846), out of financial desperation because of his gambling addiction. The book tells the story of a clerk and his relationship with an upper class woman through letters between them. Critics gave it high marks, some finding touches of parody and satire.

Dostoyevsky's classic, Crime and Punishment, examines the psychology of a poor ex-student who plots to kill a dishonest pawnbroker and take her money. He reasons he can do good deeds with her cash to offset the crime.

In The Idiot, a naive young Russian prince is torn between a materialistic beautiful woman and a virtuous and innocent pretty young girl. The young man's trusting nature brings disaster.

Dostoyevsky leaves no part of the political spectrum unscathed in Demons, a critical look at life in Russia in the late 19th century.

The author's last book, The Brothers Karamazov, is considered his masterpiece. At more than 800 pages, it is also his longest. It is the story of a father and his relationships with his three adult sons by two different wives. It explores morality, free will, and God, and is told not only by a narrator who practically becomes a character in the story but also other characters, who narrate their own sections.

Dostoyevsky's work influenced such writers as Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Any Rand and Jean-Paul Sartre. Maxim Gorky, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Virginia Woolf praised him. Sigmund Freud didn't like most of Dostoyevsky's work but thought The Brothers Karamazov was great literature.

Dostoyevsky wrote 11 novels, three novellas, and 17 short stories. He died in 1881, less than four months after The Brothers Karamazov was published.

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