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The House of the Dead

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  21,608 ratings  ·  1,545 reviews
Accused of political subversion as a young man, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to four years of hard labor at a Siberian prison camp — a horrifying experience from which he developed this astounding semi-autobiographical memoir of a man condemned to ten years of servitude for murdering his wife.
As with a number of the author's other works, this profoundly influential nov
Paperback, thrift, 247 pages
Published April 22nd 2004 by Dover Publications (first published 1861)
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Karen Davis The book has also been published in English as "Memoirs from the House of The Dead" and "Notes from the Dead House". 'Notes...' is a more literal tran…moreThe book has also been published in English as "Memoirs from the House of The Dead" and "Notes from the Dead House". 'Notes...' is a more literal translation, either 'a' or 'the'.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Записки из Мёртвого дома = Zapiski iz Myortvovo doma= Souvenirs de Ia maison des morts = The House of the Dead = Memoirs from the House of The Dead, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The House of the Dead is a semi-autobiographical novel published in 1860–2 in the journal Vremya by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, which portrays the life of convicts in a Siberian prison camp. The novel has also been published under the titles Memoirs from the House of The Dead, Notes from the Dead House (or Notes from a Dead H
Vit Babenco
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cancel my subscription to the resurrection… Send my credentials to the house of detention…
Our prison was at the far end of the citadel behind the ramparts. Peering through the crevices in the palisade in the hope of glimpsing something, one sees nothing but a little corner of the sky, and a high earthwork covered with the long grass of the steppe. Night and day sentries walk to and fro upon it. Then one suddenly realizes that whole years will pass during which one will see, through those same cr
Mohit Parikh
I have been frequenting an open-air restaurant for 7 years now. Hiding on the roof of a rickety building, in one of the small tributaries of the Jaipur's busiest road, it is aptly named Cocoon. The place is shady, unknown, and visited only by international tourists living in its cheap guest-house.
Nothing unusual seemed to happen at that place and nothing unusual did happen the last time I visited it: I drank two cups of hot lemon tea, I followed short arcs sketched by listless eagles in the even
Steven Godin
"During the first weeks, and naturally the early part of my imprisonment, made a deep impression on my imagination. The following years on the other hand are all mixed up together, and leave but a confused recollection. Certain epochs of this life are even effaced from my memory. I have kept one general impression of it though, always the same; painful, monotonous, stifling. What I saw in experience during the first few days of imprisonment seems to me as if it had all taken place yesterday. Suc ...more
Paul Bryant
Dostoevsky did five years of hard labour in a Siberian prison for being in the wrong room at the wrong time. When he was released in 1854 he had to serve time in the Siberian army and he was still banned from publishing anything. This memoir of his time in the joint finally came out in 1861 and it was a big hit. It was the first book to reveal all the horrors of life inside. Dosto said to his brother

there will be the depiction of characters unheard of previously in literature

Maybe he had in mind
Amalia Gkavea
“Tyranny is a habit which may be developed until at last it becomes a disease. I declare that the noblest nature can become so hardened and bestial that nothing distinguishes it from that of a wild animal. Blood and power intoxicate; they help to develop callousness and debauchery. The mind then becomes capable of the most abnormal cruelty, which it regards pleasure; the man and the citizen are swallowed up in the tyrant; and the return to human dignity, repentance, moral resurrection, become ...more
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much brighter and lighter than its theme (the diary of a deportee in Siberia) could suggest, this autobiographical novel struck me above all with its gallery of extraordinary characters and its succession of anecdotes, sometimes deeply sad, sometimes uplifting, sometimes downright funny.
I expected the ferocious description of a nightmare, with sadistic guards, prisoners who kill each other, famine and disease. In the end, it is a story, after all almost banal, of a repetitive daily life, which i
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"What I have said of servitude, I again say of imprisonment, we are all prisoners. What is our life but a prison? We are all imprisoned in an island. The world itself to some men is a prison, our narrow seas as so many ditches, and when they have compassed the globe of the earth, they would fain go see what is done in the moon."

- Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy: S2.3.4


Not top-half Dostoevsky, but a must read still. This book (and Dostoevsky's four years in Siberia) are an obvious rough draf
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Prison Life in Siberia. It is a phrase synonymous with misery and suffering. Below zero temperatures. Hard labor. Isolation. Physical punishment. It is everything that reminds me of how fortunate I am to be reading Dostoyevsky’s semi-autobiographical work instead of actually living it. It paints an image of prison life that is a hundred times more primitive than many of the lazy country club prisons of today’s western world. Just how bad was it in 19th century Siberia? My curiosity found this no ...more
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-lit
"Here there is a world's apart, unlike everything else, with laws of its own, its own dress, its own manners and customs, and here is the house of the living dead - life as nowhere else and a people apart." And the story of this living dead is what Dostoevsky brings to us readers. Based loosely on his own prison experience, this semi-autobiographical novel chronicles the ten-year prison life of Alexander Petrovich in a Siberian prison.

The story begins with "gentleman" Alexander's arrival at the
E. G.
Translator's Introduction

--The House of the Dead

Further Reading

Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This intelligently written book was full of details taken from the actual Siberian prison experience of Dostoevsky himself. It contained a fair amount of that deep psychological insight Dostoevsky is known for. His position as an outsider (nobleman) was often painful, and he described in detail how that loneliness wears on one. This is the case though one is never actually physically alone in prison, which, as he points out, is another reason that kind of life is so hellish.

Also, his analyses of
Rakhi Dalal
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first question that intrigued me the instant I laid my eyes on the book was, “Why the name House of the Dead?” Particularly, why the word “Dead” for convicts? Is it

(a) Because the life that convicts lived was supposedly the worst ever?
(b) Because their presence didn't actually matter in this world, and hence, they might better be dead?
(c) Or for the reason that they possessed character not fit to be possessed by common people (people possibly more human?)?

I wondered, and hoped to find the
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
This is not Dostoyevsky's most memorable work, but a must-read for anyone interested in Dostoyevsky the man. Dostoyevsky usually distances himself from his work, which is still the case in The House of the Dead as he creates the narrator Goryanchikov, but this experience of exile in Siberia is no doubt his own.

This is a book about collective psychological portraits, and every single character is so complicated that Dostoyevsky's observations and comments often contradict themselves, which make
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-roulette
A very autobiographical novel of Dostoyevsky, which at first i read in greek and boy the translation was the worst.. Thank God I switched to an english one otherwise I would have disliked it for no particular reason.

Για όσους ενδιαφέρονται να το διαβάσουν αποφύγετε την έκδοση από τις εκδόσεις Δαμιανός. Δεν έχω συναντήσει χειρότερη επιμέλεια . Ένα βιβλίο γεμάτο γραμματικά και ορθογραφικά λάθη, συν το γεγονός ότι έλειπαν κομμάτια από το πρωτότυπο. Το λιγότερο απαράδεκτο.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The fetters fell off. I picked them up. I wanted to hold them in my hand, to look at them for the last time. I seemed already to be wondering that they could have been on my legs a minute before.
"well, with God's blessing, with God's blessing!" said the convicts in coarse, abrupt voices, in which, however, there was a note of pleasure.
Yes, with God's blessing! Freedom, new life, resurrection from the dead... What a glorious moment!

I enjoyed the first part of the book more, the second part got
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Dostoyevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison as a political prisoner for having read works banned by the government. It is from this experience that he penned The House of the Dead. It is classed as fiction, but it feels as if it lies somewhere in the gray area between fiction and nonfiction. It is written in the first person from the perspective of a man sentenced to 10 years hard labor for having murdered his unfaithful wife. Through Aleksandr Petrovich's eyes, we see prison life and lear ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A noteworthy account of the prison system in tsarist Russia. The foreword delves on the punitive methods in use in the tsarist regime and the soviet regime.

'Dostoevsky's Russia is already that of Stalin, Beria, Vychinski, of the great trials when the accused rivaled in contrition and confessions before their prosecutors'

Gnossienne n°3, Lent de Erik Satie - played by Noriko Ogawa


Une visite mémorable de l'univers carcéral de la Russie tsariste. La préface fait un point intéressant sur les
David Sarkies
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who like prison stories
Shelves: dark
A prison story - Gulag style
3 February 2012

This is one of those very rare books where I read the first two sentences and know instantly that I was going to love it. The House of the Dead is one of the post-imprisonment books that Dostoevsky wrote, and in short, it is the story of a man sentenced to ten years imprisonment for the murder of his wife. The story is set in 19th Century Russia during the reign of the Czars and imprisonment pretty much meant exile to the frozen wastes of Siberia. Furt
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I hear the name Fyodor, the first thought that comes in my mind is "Man of True Emotions". An expert in picturizing the detailed mind of his characters.His writing is thought provoking ,not for a moment but for later pondering as well. Without addressing the reader directly, the reader acknowledges their deeper nakedness hidden behind the clothes of sophistication, this uniqueness of his style is marvelous.

This is an easy read compared to his other works even though its not any less
L.S. Popovich
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One cannot fault Dostoyevsky for his verisimilitude. His life resembled many of his books. This one more than the others. I can easily fault him though, for having a gross prose style. I was enamored with Crime and Punishment and his novels when I was in high school. I read almost everything he wrote and was especially fond of his greatest book, Brothers Karamazov and read it twice. Then I got to his lesser known novels, Village Stepanchikovo, Insulted and the Injured and so forth and became dis ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, russia
"Novel" (but reads like memoirs) based on his experiences in a Siberian hard labour camp.

Also shades of Robinson Crusoe: self-assurance of his own superiority and the pragmatic and ingenious approach to making the best of things, coupled with earnest self improvement and positive spin (eg "I also particularly enjoyed shovelling snow" - really!?).

Although the conditions were dire, there were some unexpected (to me) freedoms and comforts, and some wry humour, so it's brighter than Kafka in many
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the third time I have read The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I not only love Dostoyevsky, but I am also fond of Russian and Soviet prison literature, including such works as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's and Varlam Shalamov's.

Dostoyevsky belonged to a political group known as the Petrashevsky Circle, whose members were rounded up, imprisoned, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Except that the firing squad was a fake, and the members of the Circle were packed off to Siberia. Do
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lately I have been wondering about the reason that made me start reading Dostoevsky's "Crime and punishment"; it was my first book, and also my first literal work ever. This book was what motivated me to read more of his writings, and more literal work, basically it's the main reason why I love literature. Although I had forgotten what made me read it in the first place, it wasn't until I read a verse again of an Arabic poet on Facebook that says "While waiting for you, I can't wait for you ... ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Janny Marie Willis
Shelves: literature
This may well be the Dostoevsky book I most enjoyed reading. Although a kind of novel, it is based on the author's own four years of experiences in Siberian exile and has the ring of authenticity to it.

Dostoevsky had been exiled for his participation in the liberal Petrashevsky circle, a period during which he wrote his realistic Poor People. A young man, he had been, as we now say, scared shitless by the intentionally misleading prospect of execution and had himself undergone a spiritual conve
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dostoyevsky, the best writer of all time. Let's see if that sentence resonates properly through this book.

- - -

Wow. This was amazing, I enjoyed every word of it. I felt that The House of the Dead was partly the author's autobiographical memoir. Dostoyevsky wrote about the prison because he knew it so well. Been there, done that. Also, from all Dostoyevsky's works that I have read (and I have read quite a few), this was the most modern one. I even stumbled across some I-guess-you-can-call-it stre
Memoirs from the time that Dostoevsky spent in prison. To which he was sent in commutation of his death sentence for being part of the Petrashevsky circle. The press of prisoners forced together in a small bath house strikes him as a vision of hell. A Jewish prisoner impresses everyone by the intensity of his prayer. A man tells a story of how a robber lets a peasant go because he only had an onion on him only to be berated by his chief - 'you fool, you should have murdered him and taken the oni ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read Dostoevsky in maybe 5-6 years and the memory of his works has somewhat faded by now and I am quite pleased by the fact that he's as good as the impressions I remember. ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is such an extraordinary first-hand account of the 19th C Russian gulags in Siberia. Dostoyevsky transports his own experiences into this fictionalised account which shows the violence of the situation but the humanity that the prisoners hang on to despite everything. I felt that despite all the horrors, it was still uplifting at the end. Perhaps one to balance with reading The Orphan Master's Son which is sort of a 21st C interpretation in some ways (albeit not from first-hand experience i ...more
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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. His debut, the epistolary novella Poor Folk (1846), made his name. In 1849 he was arrested for involvement with the politically subversive 'Petrashevsky circle' and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison in Omsk, Siberia. From this experience came The House of the Dead (1860-2). In 1860 he began the journal Vremya (Time). Already married, ...more

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