Synopses & Reviews
Published in 1862 after Dostoyevsky's imprisonment in a Siberian labor camp, The House of the Dead is a collection of memoirs, related by themes, that portrays the horrific life of convicts. The author drew on his own experiences in prison to depict the squalor, destitution, and severity of a Siberian camp with remorseless detail. Dostoyevsky reveals the characters of many of the other convicts, which includes the depravity many have come to expect through their mental and physical suffering. The protagonist is Aleksandr Petrovich, a gentleman who additionally struggles with the malice of the largely peasant-populated prison. He gradually comes to accept his situation, experiencing a spiritual re-awakening in the unremitting strife of penal servitude. Though told with uncharacteristic detachment, The House of the Dead is a work of humanity, not without sympathy or admiration of those in Siberia, that proclaims the tragedy of those institutions, both for the inhabitants and for the country of Russia, in one of Dostoyevsky's masterpieces.