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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down
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...
Published on 20 May 2010 by Comic Book Guy

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3.0 out of 5 stars memoirs from a gulag
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...
Published on 6 April 2011 by Herr Holz Paul


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down, 20 May 2010
This review is from: The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions) (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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How horrible that time was,I have not the strength to say, 28 Aug 2002
By 
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russia from the 'Inside', 10 Mar 2012
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
________________________________________
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. The crime or 'crimes' committed are immaterial, as is the arbitrary nature of justice: - thus, an old man is given a hundred lashes for supposed insolence before he has even settled into the hostile shed of ice where he is to serve an indeterminate sentence. That's life at the rough end. You'd better get used to it!

Beneath all this torture and hatred, however, a political message emerges from time to time. This was life under a totalitarian regime of oppressive czars; there is hope in the working man, in the simple peasant class or in the artisan. Well, that sounds too sentimental of course and we know what Communism gave the average Russian - an even harsher deal, just as brutal and corrupt, and just as, or even more, intolerant of dissent.

However, this is not a political pamphlet but a human document; a plea not so much for social justice as for an awareness of the strangeness and surprising nature of fate and one man's reflections on it. Thus Goryanchykov, the narrator, concludes:

There is in the Russian character so much down-to-earth sobriety, so much inner sobriety, so much inner mockery directed at the self ... It may be that it was this perpetual state of secret discontent that caused these men to be so impatient in their day-to-day dealings with one another, to be so implacable and jeeringly malicious in one another's regard.

Prison is the microcosm, the crucible that brings to boiling point the discontents lurking in what the author would call the soul of man.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest account of a terrible experience, 2 Feb 2004
By A Customer
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TRANSCENDING THE BARS, 22 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Fydor Dostoyevsky when a 27 year old author working on Netochka Nezvanova was arrested for belonging to a young socialist group. He was tried and condemned to death, but at the last moment he was reprieved and his sentence was commuted to prison in Siberia. He spent five years in the penal settlement at Omsk before being transferred to the military. It was via this book, isolated amongst the convict community analysing minutely events and thoughts and meditation of past life that transformed the writer without question into the genius he is regarded as. He captures their corpse like pallor and enigmatic mannerisms, evoking the life that was and the punishment at hand for others eternity. The scolding clarity of the whip, the 1000 lashes so severe that a capacity to remain conscious is too much for many, perhaps luckily. Splinters of the rods broken into their backs by a licentious lieutenant. The lips tremble so greatly that many prisoners bite them till they bleed. The rods excite the nervous system beyond measure. All this Dostoyevsky endured in soul "for as I move among these recollections of a dreadful past the old suffering revives and all but strangles me". Among this palisade of forced association lies a sickening reality cured by an aspiring spirit that for a few ascended into darkness. Our narrator by virtue is not one of these and at last the shackles are released, free to join the living, to become an equal, a writer of extrodinary gifts, resurrected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars house of the dead - fyodor dostoyevsky, 15 Jan 2013
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super insight into the human mind - riveting all the way - cannot imagine a writer today able to write with such detail and of course a lot of this book was/is true
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4.0 out of 5 stars Russian realism, 7 Jan 2012
By 
Juliet Foster "Life's better in Red" (Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
The House of Dead is a largely autobiographical novel based on Dostoyevsky's years in a Siberian prison labour camp. The title refers to the prisoner status which renders them dead to society. Although the book is perhaps not shocking in its narrative about the conditions, prison microcosm and attitudes, it is an eye opener all the same. We don't imagine conditions quite so severe and learn that British prisoners of the time lived a life of relative luxury by comparison. The diet, sleeping and bathing conditions will make you wonder how anyone other than the strongest ever survived. Punishments will make you wince in sympathy.

The characters take a while to come through, but that conveys the way Fyodor himself was received in prison rather well. It took a long time to adjust and the narrative reflects that.

Modern preconception is that Dostoyevsky is pretentious and hard to read. The language is very rich and heavy, but one must remember this is a highly educated Russian gentleman, writing over 150 years ago in his native language, which has subsequently been translated into English. His work is in fact more accessible than many English works of the era.

I enjoyed this book although I might be reticent to red it again, purely for the bleakness and oppression it conveys so well. Perhaps one year in the summer...
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3.0 out of 5 stars memoirs from a gulag, 6 April 2011
This review is from: The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions) (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. The convicts even seem to be able to go into town on occasion and supply services here also.
So I am left with the impression that The gulag wasn't really that bad. The author does refer to one or two cases of TB and some punishment by flogging, which are not to be regarded lightly, but on the whole I was expecting far worse. One of Dostoyevsky's main sufferings seems to have been the distance he felt between himself and his fellow convicts. This was because he was a `noble` and the majority of them were peasants. He learns that this is a divide for which he will never find a crossing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychological realism, 28 May 2012
I wasn't too crazy about this book the first time I read it, probably because it's not as much of a "novel" as his other books, being based on his own life experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around for its psychological insight into the minds of a vast variety of criminals. There has probably never been another writer who has matched the psychological perspicacity of Dostoevsky, and it is because of this, coupled with the passion with which he wrote, that I hold him as the best of all writers. This book is about life in a Siberian prison, somewhere in the mid 19th century, and it describes not only what life was like in detail, but also what the people were like, from the prisoners to the guards to the townspeople, and how they all treated each other. I don't think Dostoevsky would have been the same writer if he didn't have this experience, and it just goes to show how even the most negative experience can be beneficial.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tsarist version of Solzhenitsyn's"One day in the life...", 23 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Before I read this, I had read Solzhenitsyn's "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovic" and in it's blurb it mentioned this book to be likened to it. Enjoying Solzhenitsyn, I gave this a try and was deeply impressed. Like Solzhenitsyn, it gives an autobiographical account of the penal colonies. To think that 1917 was to overthrow a brutal regime which imposed policies like the one in this book, the two books together show that nothing changed from Tsarist Russia to Stalinist Russia. Recommended along with Solzhenitsyn's "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovic"
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The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions)
The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Paperback - 25 Jun 2004)
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