When you were in high school, you may have heard a lot about how important it is to read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s work. He is one of the best Russian authors and has written some of the best works of world literature. He often talks about religion, society, and politics in his work.
In case you still need a reason to read Dostoevsky, this one is for you: he is one of the most honest authors out there. It is because Dostoevsky was a real person that he wrote about addiction, poverty, morality, and the loss of freedom in his stories He was addicted to gambling and had to beg for money to live. When he was sentenced to death for subversion, it was changed at the last minute. He was sentenced to a few years of hard labor in Siberia instead. In his work, the author has talked about these things and a lot more. This list tries to figure out the 10 most important books that a genius reads.
Crime and Punishment
You can’t go wrong with this for the first place. After all, the 1866 book is one of the best of all time. It’s a long book, but the title, “Crime and Punishment,” sums up the story it tells. He is a poor student who is in debt (Dostoevsky himself was being threatened by creditors when he wrote the book). To get some money, the main character decides to kill someone else. There is a graphic and disgusting description of the cowardly crime in the text. However, when the protagonist starts to live in a nightmare, the reader is made to feel sorry for the killer. When Raskolnikov thinks about what he did, he is scared to death. Finally, when the “punishment” of the title comes, it is a good thing. Few books have gone so far into the psychological consequences of violent crimes, which is why Crime and Punishment is still a great book today.
The Idiot was written in 1869 and tells the story of Myshkin, a young boy who goes on a very interesting journey. Before going back to his home country of Russia, Myshkin was in a Swiss sanatorium for years for treatment. It doesn’t help that his new ideas of empathy and compassion don’t go over well with the materialistic and atheistic society at the time. Worst: Myshkin’s good intentions get mixed up with insanity. It’s possible to see the main character as an allusion to Jesus Christ, or even as a satire. The message at the end is ironic: the only safe place for someone who preaches goodness in modern society is the sanatorium.
The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky
Many scholars think that some of Dostoevsky’s best work can be found in the 17 short stories he also wrote. Even though Dostoevsky has written 15 novels, many think that his short stories are even better. Many anthologies are out there, but this one, from 2001, is the best one to have Dostoevsky’s seven most important short stories on the shelf. Poor People (1845) and “White Night” (1848) both appear in the book. Some experts say they are two of the best stories he ever wrote (1848). There are two parts to this book. The first talks about poverty, which is a common theme in the book (and life). The story is told through letters that two people write to each other about how hard it is to live in poverty. The other story is a Dostoevsky-style love story about a young man whose love isn’t likely to be reciprocated. The author tells us about his inner thoughts.
Compared to the author’s other books, this 1867 novella is short. It has less than 200 pages. This story is called “The Gambler.” It’s about two things: gambling addiction and the desire to win even when you’re a known loser. This is the story of the main character, Alexei Ivanovich. He is a young tutor who works for a Russian general. Ivanovich can’t accept his place in society, so he falls in love with Polina, the General’s stepdaughter, who is also his love. It is the young man who is naive that the woman manipulates. She then gives him a gambling addiction. Dark and dramatic, The Gambler is a dark and dramatic journey through a dark and dangerous world of casinos, bets, and millionaire losses that change people’s lives for the worse. Ivanovich, like Dostoevsky in real life, plays a game where he sometimes wins and sometimes loses. This won’t work out well.
The Brothers Karamazov
He wrote this book in 1880, which was just a year before he died. At almost 800 pages, it is also his longest work. This is also his longest work. There are three brothers named Alexei, Ivan, and Dmitri in the book called The Brothers Karamazov. It tells their story. These kids were born to a father who doesn’t care about them. They were born from two marriages of that father. It turns out that the three Karamazovs were in love and had disagreements, and then, they were in a murder case, too. The story is complicated, with side stories that won’t make sense until later. A lot of the book is made up of long philosophical and religious talks between Alexei and his teacher, Father Zosima. Dostoevsky’s beliefs about faith and guilt are shown in these kinds of conversations.
A brilliant piece of political criticism that is still shockingly relevant. The story takes place in a small town at the end of the 19th century. The characters in the story represent different ideas that were popular in Russia at the time. People who want to overthrow the government and the church include Verkhovensky. He starts a group of revolutionary terrorists who want to do that, as well. Published in 1872, Demons turned out to be a foretelling book, even though Dostoevsky is against radicalism. They also got tired of being oppressed by the Tsarist regime in real life. Many turned to radicalism as a way out. Tsar Alexander II died in 1881 when he was hit by a bomb. This started the Russian Revolution. Well, Dostoevsky tried to tell them that they were going to have to do this.
Humiliated and Insulted
Humiliated and Insulted was the first book Dostoevsky wrote after he was freed from prison. Notice that the author doesn’t make big political or philosophical speeches (or hides them very well), but there’s a lot of bitterness and sadness on every single one of the pages. The story is told by a young author named Ivan. It is about Natasha, the girl he is in love with, and Nellie, an orphan who the narrator decides to adopt. It breaks Ivan’s heart when Natasha runs away with a man. As time goes on and things get tough for the couple, they start to ask the narrator for help. The Insulted and Humiliated is more accessible than most of Dostoevsky’s books. It’s about a person who has to give up everything he has in order to help the love of his life and the partner she has chosen instead of him, and it’s very sad. Sad as it sounds.
Notes from Underground
If this one doesn’t make you think about your own life, nothing else will. In 1864, the book was written by an unknown man who calls himself “The Underground Man.” It’s almost like an essay or statement. He isn’t social and is haunted by his mistakes, so he decides to leave the world. People who are around 40 years old try to talk about their worldviews in a long monologue in the first part of the book, which is called a “monologue” (many of them similar to those of Dostoevsky himself). The second part is made up of memories of the narrator’s childhood, which can be dramatic or pathetic, but always humiliating, which make sense of the character’s later actions. When it comes to life, not everything is black and white. Dostoevsky makes the reader feel like they love and hate the narrator at the same time.
The Eternal Husband
Dostoevsky was married twice, but he wasn’t the best husband. Even though he was married, he had many known affairs. That’s why it’s interesting to read this short story from 1870, which may have been a look at the author’s own morals. The story isn’t as complicated as most of his other work, but it still shows how the characters and their motivations are shown in a very interesting way. The meeting of old friends Velchaninov and Trusotsky is the start of it all. In the first case, the person was known for having sex with people. In the second case, the person recently lost his wife. In time, the reader learns that Velchaninov had an affair with Trusotsky’s wife, Natalia, in the past. What comes next is a tense story (even a little sadistic at times) in which the widower and his lover try to work things out. The result is interesting: It’s a mix of melodrama and tragicomedy, but all Dostoevsky.
The House of the Dead
A book that isn’t as well-known as Dostoevsky’s other books, but it’s still very important to know what he thought. The House of the Dead, which was written in 1862, is a semi-autobiographical memoir disguised as a story. A Siberian prison camp was where the author spent a lot of time. The author tried to get rid of the memories of that time. For killing his wife, Goryanchikov has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The book is made up of short stories about life in prison and how Goryanchikov and the other inmates interact with each other. In prison, Dostoevsky met a lot of real people. Most of these characters were based on those people. The result is one of his most dramatic books, which talks about the physical and mental abuses that people in Russian labor camps had to deal with at the time. If you want to know how the author thinks about faith and humanity, you should read this book.