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About The House of the Dead - eBook

The House of the Dead or Prison Life in Siberia (Russian: Записки из Мёртвого дома, Zapiski iz Myortvovo doma), is a semi-autobiographical novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It has also been published in English under the titles Notes from the House of the Dead, Memoirs from the House of The Dead, and Notes from a Dead House, which are more literal translations of the Russian title. The novel portrays the life of convicts in a Siberian prison camp. It is generally considered to be a fictionalised memoir; a loosely-knit collection of experiences, events and philosophical discussion based on Dostoevsky's experiences as a prisoner, organised around theme and character rather than plot. Dostoevsky spent four years in a forced-labour prison camp in Siberia following his conviction for involvement in the Petrashevsky Circle. This experience allowed him to describe with great authenticity the conditions of prison life and the characters of the convicts.

After his mock execution on 22 December 1849, Dostoevsky was sentenced to four years imprisonment in a katorga labor camp at Omsk in western Siberia. Though he often was met with hostility from the other prisoners due to his noble status of dvoryanin, his views on life changed. After his time in the camps and a further six years of exile Dostoevsky returned to Petersburg and wrote The House of the Dead. The novel incorporates several of the horrifying experiences he witnessed while in prison. He recalls the guards’ brutality and relish performing unspeakably cruel acts, the crimes that the convicted criminals committed, and the fact that among these hardened criminals there were good and decent individuals.[3] However, he is also astonished at the convicts' abilities to commit murders without the slightest change in conscience. It was a stark contrast to his own heightened sensitivity. During this time in prison he began experiencing the epileptic seizures that would plague him for the rest of his life.

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