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The House of the Dead (Classics) Paperback – 26 Sep 1985


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (26 Sept. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444568
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 523,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Comic Book Guy on 20 May 2010
Format: Paperback
House of the Dead is an account of the ten years that the narrator, Alexandr Petrovitch, spent in a Siberian prison but is clearly inspired by the four years that Dostoyevsky himself passed in Katorga prison. An excellently balanced novel, it focuses on the things that were revelations to Alexandr, concentrating on his first year in incarceration rather than giving a blow by blow, chronological account. This works well because it means that the pace of the work is quite steady and we are constantly being introduced to new ideas and feelings.
The work centres on a number of key concepts:

1) The relationship between the convicts and the factions that they immediately divide themselves into.
2) The idea that those unaccustomed to hardship will, innately, find prison life more difficult and that it can be, therefore, a disproportionate punnishment.
3) The barbarising effect of power on some of those in authority.
4) The level of degredation imposed on the prisoners and whether it is just.

In all of Dostoyevsky's works, the details are brilliantly sketched but this is especially true of House of the Dead due to the author's first hand experience of the nightmare of life in Siberia. It is not my favourite of his books, due in the most part to the quality of others such as The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punnishment, but the writing simply cannot be criticised and leaves one attached to the characters involved.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. James on 10 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
________________________________________
I picked up Dostoyevsky's The House of the Dead in a charity shop in Epsom, where I had half an hour to idle away before the next bus. I was so gripped by the opening that I continued reading the next 30 pages on and off for the rest of the day. After a week I've finished it, to the exclusion of other pressing engagements and books on the pile, some recently bought.

What it is about this author that has always stirred my spirit I can't exactly say. I've read The Idiot, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov (twice) and all have haunted me. I've still got The Possessed, The Gambler and the short stories to read one cold gloomy winter when the heating fails and I'm in bed with a fatal illness.

He's not exactly a barrel of laughs, is he, Dostoyevsky! But what a writer to get under your skin and make you feel this is my story, everyman's story. Solitude, self-loathing and despair at the sheer cruelty of man's fate are his common themes. In The House of the Dead, the hero or victim is sent to Siberia to live in fearful conditions amongst men who are often cruel, loathsome, self-seeking, cunning, always filthy, and always dreaming of escape. We meet a cross-section of the criminal class, some of whom are utterly despicable, but yet understandable. Floggings - sometimes up to 5000 lashes happen continuously, but even worse, it seems, is the spite, bitterness and hatred between convicts.

The story is semi-autobiographical, for Dostoyevsky himself was sent to Omsk for 4 years of penal servitude.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By flay on 28 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback
At the beginning of 1850, Dostoyevsky began a four year penal servitude term in a remote Siberian prison for his part in a political conspiracy. He describes the conditions and his fellow convicts in meticulous detail under the guise of narrator , Alexandr Petrovich Goryanchikov . The detached and controlled tone in which he does this offers an insight into the core of the criminal mind slowly turning the crisis of his internment into a re-discovery of his own personality.
Not for the faint-hearted, these pages depict the struggle of one man to understand his fellow convicts, and impart an accurate image of the claustrophobic, relentlessly lonely
coffin which was a ten year stretch in a freezing, filthy hell.
Not quite as striking as Crime & Punishment or melodramatic as The Idiot, but infinitely rewarding, nonetheless.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
The House of the Dead is not so much a novel, rather more a documentary account of the years Dostoyevsky spent in a prison camp as sentence for his involvement in a political conspiracy. The narrator, Aleksandr Petrovich, is little more than a front for the author; a few seeming inconsistencies in his story make the book seem even more like autobiography. But this is a direct and and interesting study of the brutal prison regime, of the narrator's slow recovery from despair at his predicament, and of the characters of his fellow convicts, some of whom he eventually concludes, "were quite remarkable". This is the first book by Dostoyevsky I've read and has left me looking forward to more.
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Format: Paperback
In the Winter of 1850, Dostoyevsky started a four year prison sentence in Siberia for his involvement in a movement considered to be unsympathetic towards the government. This novel was inspired by his experiences during this period.
The first third of the book deals with his first impressions as a newcomer in prison and the difficulties he had in adjusting to his new environment. The following chapters deal with particular aspects of his prison life and with experiences which left a strong impression on the author. These include the time he spent in the hospital wards, the celebration of Christmas, a stage show, a trip to the bath house and the animals which came and went during his period of incarceration which included an injured eagle, a goat, some dogs, geese and the working horse.
This novel is not quite what I was expecting. Given the title and subject matter, I was expecting tales of harsh Siberian winters and a draconian, deprived existence. It has been suggested that Dostoyevsky had difficulty in facing up to the realities of his experiences, but I am not convinced. I am tempted to think that he is writing with a particular audience in mind, and more to the point, so as not to end up back behind the walls within which this book was conceived. But this is speculation.
There is very little mention of the Siberian winters. Apart from the expected role calls and working parties, the inmates lead an existence of comparative leisure. They gamble, drink vodka and make money in any way they can with which they buy meat and tobacco and even pay to have their heads shaven decently by a fellow convict to avoid the harsh treatment of the prison barber. There exists a regular economy to which the guards turn a blind eye and are even complicit to a degree which is to be expected.
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