Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky (Федор Михайлович
Достоевский) is a Russian novelist and short-story writer whose psychological
penetration into the darkest recesses of the human heart, together
with his unsurpassed moments of illumination, have had an immense
influence on 20th-century fiction. Dostoevsky is usually regarded
as one of the finest novelists who ever lived. Literary modernism,
existentialism, and various schools of psychology, theology, and literary
criticism have been profoundly shaped by his ideas. His works are
often called prophetic because he so accurately predicted how Russia's
revolutionaries would behave if they came to power. In his time he
was also renowned for his activity as a journalist.
Dostoevsky was born on 11 November (30
October Julian) 1821. His father was a doctor at Moscow's Hospital
for the Poor, where he grew rich enough to buy land and serfs. After
his father's death, Dostoevsky, who suffered from epilepsy, studied
military engineering and became a civil servant while secretly writing
novels. His first, Бедные люди, and his second, Двойник,
were both published in 1846--the first was a hit, the second a failure.
Dostoevsky began participating in a radical intellectual discussion
group called the Petrashevsky Circle. The group was suspected of subversive
activites, which led to Dostoevsky's arrest in 1849, and his sentencing
to death on 16 November 1849.
On 22 December 1849, Dostoevsky was
led before the firing squad but received a last-minute reprieve and
was sent to a Siberian labor camp, where he worked for four years.
He was released in 1854 and worked as a soldier on the Mongolian frontier.
He married a widow and finally returned to Russia in 1859. The following
year, he founded a magazine and two years after that journeyed to
Europe for the first time. In 1864 and 1865, his wife and his brother
died, the magazine folded, and Dostoevsky found himself deeply in
debt, which he exacerbated by gambling. In 1866, he published Crime
and Punishment, one of his most popular works. In 1867, he married
a stenographer, and the couple fled to Europe to escape his creditors.
His novel The Possessed (1872) was successful, and the couple returned
to St. Petersburg. He published The Brothers Karamazov in 1880 to
immediate success, but he died a year later.
From earliest childhood Dostoyevsky
knew the gospels and learned Bible stories from the deacon at the
hospital where his father was a doctor. As he looked back in later
years, he rejoiced that as a child he was brought up in a home that
knew Christ, and that his mother and father had given him something
holy and precious to carry him through the rest of his life.
As a young man, Dostoyevsky was an
activist pushing the social ideals of his day. In 1849, at age 26,
he was charged with conspiracy against tsar Nicholas' government and
sentenced to death. Standing before a firing squad, he was reprieved
at the very last moment, and sent to prison in Siberia for four years.
On his way, a group of women gave him a New Testament which he treasured
the rest of his life. His underlining of his New Testament emphasized
two themes: persecution of the just and the coming Day of Judgment.
He believed in salvation through suffering. He also believed in God's
Providence. Once, when a friend remarked that his Siberian punishment
had been unjust, Dostoyevsky disagreed, pointing out that God had
sent him to Siberia to teach him important lessons. Dostoyevsky's
best known novels -- The
из подполья, Преступление
e нaкaзaние, and The
Brothers Karamazov -- explore man's sinful soul and show
that suffering has a purifying effect upon an individual's life.
Dostoyevsky died on 09 February [28
January Julian] 1881. The epitaph on his grave is from John 12:24:
"Eсли пшеничное зерно не упадет в землю и не умрет, то оно остается
одним зерном. Если же оно умрет, то из него произойдет много зерен."
("Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies,
it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.")
DOSTOEVSKY ONLINE (in Russian
and in English translations):