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The House of the Dead (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – April 22, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

With his sympathetic portrayals of the downtrodden of 19th-century Russian society, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) exercised immense influence on modern writers. His novels featured profound philosophical and psychological insights that anticipated the development of psychoanalysis and existentialism.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (April 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486434095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486434094
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
House of the Dead is not a general account of imprisonment and system of law of Russia, ala Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, but is a much more personal account of the author's own experiences. There is no attempt to overplay or dramatize personal suffering, though there was probably ample reason for the author to do so. Instead, the author focuses more on his fellow inmates: their personalities, their culture, their way of life and way of thinking. The effect is immeasurable, and makes the House of the Dead one of the most potent, moving pieces of literature ever written. The convicts that Dostoyevsky describes seem to come alive -- their descriptions are so complete and realistic that its almost as if they're reading the book with you. This method of describing imprisonment defies conventiality, but Dostoyevsky pulls it off easily. By knowing the convicts, you feel for them, you understand them, and you walk away knowing and loving humanity just a bit more.
A great aspect of the book is that you can pick it up at almost any spot, so long as you know the general plot. I can't tell you how many times I've picked the book up and flipped straight to the first chapter describing the hospital, and read simply that alone. When Dostoyevsky tells of the dead convict, little more than a husk or a shell of a man who couldn't even stand the weight of his clothes or his wooden crucifix, being dragged off routinely with his heavy fetters still on, one can hardly help but grimace. And when another convict yells, inexplicably, "He had a mother too!" you start to sympathize for these convicts: the filthiest, most degenerate human beings you can imagine.
Its a story of love for humanity, of resurrection from despair, and of a man's final reconciliation with his own life.
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Format: Paperback
Dostoevsky's The House of the Dead is an account of life in a Siberian prison, drawing heavily from its author's own imprisonment for sedition. The narrator is nominally serving time for murdering his wife out of jealousy, but Dostoevsky makes very little effort to maintain the artifice that the narrator is anyone other than himself, as the narrator even refers to himself as a political prisoner on a couple of occasions. The novel consists mainly of a series of anecdotes relating such things as the staging of a prison play, the memories of some convicts of the crimes that landed them in prison, and the attempted escape of two of the prisoners, all interspersed among observations of more day-to-day affairs like prison food and corporal punishment.
A number of the stories are very interesting, and overall Dostoevsky paints an impressive picture of prison life as a whole. Though it's clear that his experience in prison was a brutal one, the reader never feels as though Dostoevsky is overplaying the prisoners' suffering, which makes it seem all the more authentic. However, I'd have to say this sort of narrative doesn't really play into Dostoevsky's overall strength as an author. Dostoevsky's best works generally have a strong and coherent (though in some cases somewhat melodramatic) plot that develops more or less linearly throughout the novel; The House of the Dead, on the other hand, is hardly more than a series of related roughly-15-page short stories and so inevitably lacks the suspense of much of Dostoevsky's other work. For the same reason, none of the characters get especially well developed--the reader is left with a lot of interesting character sketches, none of which get fleshed out.
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Format: Paperback
This book examines to what extent a man will go to keep his humanity. Among feters and prison walls, a different sort of society emerges. How is a caged man different from a caged animal? Does a prison truely change a man for the better? This is a great book.
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Format: Paperback
Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The House of the Dead" is one of the most powerful narratives about life in prison. A quasi-autobiographical work, the writer used the days he spent in Siberia prison to create powerful moments of sadness, fear and hope. Not many were able to be released from there, but he was one of them, and with this work he reminds everyone what it is about to be a political prisoner.

"The House of the Dead" may not be one of best works from this Russian writer, who produced masterpieces such as "Crime an Punishment" and "The Brothers Karamazov", but still it is a vivid account of hard times. Many scenes are unforgettable, and resonate to the condition that many people live today around the world - think of the soup that the prisoners have in the first part of the book, for instance.

Dostoyevsky manages to create a living portray of many people who are forced to share the same place at the same time, however much they can't stand each other. He is able to bring to life both human beings and animals. His description of his meeting with a dog can bring tears to the eyes of the most tough reader.

David McDuff's translation is superb, and so is Penguin Classics edition. The book is complemented by notes on the text and a excellent introduction. However, as happens to many books in this collection, it is advisable to read the introduction after reading the novel, because it may have spoilers.
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