House of the Dead
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 truePublished on 15 Jan. 2013 by jackson
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... Read morePublished on 28 May 2012 by Blackbeard
The House of Dead is a largely autobiographical novel based on Dostoyevsky's years in a Siberian prison labour camp. Read morePublished on 7 Jan. 2012 by Juliet Foster
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. Read morePublished on 6 April 2011 by Herr Holz Paul
This is an excellent account drawn from Dostoyevsky's own experiences of his time spent in a Siberian prison. Read morePublished on 15 Jun. 2009 by I. M. Knight
Very fine and entertaining account of Russian prison life.You certainly get a good feel of the regime he experienced firsthand and the deplorable conditions of the incarcerated... Read morePublished on 13 Jun. 2009 by nicholas hargreaves