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L'enfer, c'est les autres,
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This review is from: Memoirs from the House of the Dead (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I couldn't help thinking of those proverbial words by Sartre (from his play 'Huis Clos' - Huis Clos and other Plays: "The Respectable Prostitute"; "Lucifer and the Lord"; "Huis Clos" while reading Dostoevsky's memoirs (thinly disguised as a work of fiction) of his prison years in Siberia. After only a few pages he says 'I could not (...) have realized at all what terrible torment it would be never once to be alone for a single minute , throughout the whole ten years of my sentence.' How true! I immediately thought, but that's just one example, the book is riddled with similar reflections and thoughts that in the simplest of words express the profoundest insights.
Oddly though, while I was reading it 'Memoirs from the House of the Dead' did not bowl me over, but as soon as I had finished it I was sort of reeling with shock, and plunged straight back in to re-read some of the scenes. On the face of it and for much of the time, all Dostoevsky does is describe the boring prison life with its stultifying monotony, in a simple, down-to-earth and very detached manner, and yet somehow it all has such profound effect! There are no highflown words or melodrama here to bring home the horror and constant (mental and physical) anguish of prison life, but the feeling Dostoevsky leaves you with is nonetheless extremely harrowing. One of the most powerful, shocking books I've ever read!