Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was a Russian writer known for his novels, short stories, and essays focusing on “human psychology in the context of the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmosphere of 19th-century Russia.” He grew up new Moscow, in a family home on the grounds of Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor, where his father was a doctor. Dostoyevsky was steeped in literature starting at the age of three, when his beloved nanny began to read him fairy tales and heroic sagas. His mother taught him to read and write using the Bible when he was only four. After attending boarding school as a child he and his older brother were sent to a military institute, where they were expected to build military careers. Dostoyevsky’s mother died of tuberculosis when he was 15, and his father two years later. After graduating and leaving the academy he would start his literary career by translating a novel by Honoré de Balzac, which would give him the monetary independence to write his own novel.
Dostoyevsky published his first novel, Poor Folk, at the age of 25, to commercial success. In 1844 he resigned his post in the military – he believed it would hurt his literary career – and published his second book, The Double, two years later. He suffered from epilepsy, and after the poor reception of The Double, his health declined, although he continued to write. At this point he also became interested in socialism, and joined the socio-Christian Petrashevsky Circle. The Ministry of International Affairs accused Dostoyevsky and his fellow group memebers of reading and distributing anti-Russian literature and arrested them in 1849 at the request of Count A. Orlov and Emperor Nicolas I, who feared a revolution, and the men were exiled to Siberia. Dostoyevsky served eight years of exile with hard labour at a prison camp, followed by a term of compulsory military service. He was nearly executed while imprisoned, but was pardoned, and was eventually released from in 1854.
Dostoyevsky continued writing, and would eventually marry in 1867. He and his wife had two daughters, the eldest dying of pneumonia at only 3 months old, and a son, Fyodor. Despite his increasing health problems he wrote novels as well as essays for magazines and became increasingly popular. When he returned to Russia, Tsar Alexander II ordered Dostoyevsky to visit his palace to present the Diary [a piece he had long been working on] to him, and he asked him to educate his sons, Sergey and Paul. Dostoyevsky died of multiply pulmonary hemorrhages at the age of 59, and it is estimated that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people attended his funeral.
Major Works Include:
Interesting Fact: A film based on his book The Double is currently or soon coming to theaters, depending on where you live. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as the man and his doppleganger, it also features Mia Wasikowska, Sally Hawkins, Chris O’Dowd and Wallace Shawn. View more information on IMDb.