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The House of the Dead

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  19,306 ratings  ·  1,337 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
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
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
E. G.
Translator's Introduction

--The House of the Dead

Further Reading

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
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
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
Vit Babenco
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 crevices in the palisade, the same sentinels pacing the same earthwork, and the same little ...more
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.
Elie F
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
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
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
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
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
I love this story ever since I read a YA version of it. In its original form, I also get to immerse myself in the grim realities of tsarist Russia, with self-evident details for the contemporary reader that you need to learn about from scratch anno 2017 in order to get everything out of it. While it's not impossible to recount a prison sentence in diary form without descending into the mind-numbing repetitiveness that is the bane of the bars (see Paul Modrowski's defunct blog on the inside) , it ...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
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent fictionalized account of Dostoyevsky's years in a Siberian prison camp. Listening to this while quarantined during the Lent of COVID-19 added to the ambiance.
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
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
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Chrissie by: dely
ETA: For clarity’s sake – this is not a novel (with a plot you start and follow to the end), it is a very interesting report. See it as non-fiction.


Read this if you are interested in hearing a detailed account of life in a Siberian labor camp during the mid-1800s. After Dostoyevsky's mock execution in 1849, he instead was sent to a Siberian labor camp for four years. This book is written as fiction, but it is based on his real life experiences. It is detailed; it is
Biblio Curious
The first half is simply amazing. Dostoyevsky creates a profile or outline of the prisoner's way of thinking. Step by step he clearly states what the prisoner thinks and why. He gives us various scenarios and heartbreaking insights. The second part has some truly cringeworthy scenes and describing the pain the prisoners are subjected to. After all of this, this book has a happy ending where he describes the moment of freedom.
Sean Blake
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, fiction
A fascinating blend of history, fiction, autobiography and philosophy. The House of the Dead marks the start of Dostoevsky's existentialist fiction, this one being based on his own harrowing experiences in the Tsarist prison camps.
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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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