Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Poor Folk” as Want to Read:
Poor Folk
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Poor Folk

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  18,283 ratings  ·  1,730 reviews
Poor Folk is an epistolary novel -- that is, a tale told as a series of letters between the characters. And oh, what characters these are! Makar Dievushkin Alexievitch is a copy writer, barely squeaking by; Barbara Dobroselova Alexievna works as a seamstress, and both face the sort of everyday humiliation society puts upon the poor. These are people respected by no one, no ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Wildside Press (first published 1846)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Poor Folk, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gopala Krishnan the one where pokrovsky is in his deathbed and asks to see the bright day one last time and when they open the window its a dull grey day. It's an exc…morethe one where pokrovsky is in his deathbed and asks to see the bright day one last time and when they open the window its a dull grey day. It's an excellent metaphor for life and broke me down(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,283 ratings  ·  1,730 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Poor Folk
Ahmad Sharabiani
Бедные люди = Bednye lyudi = Poor Folk= The Poor People, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Poor People, sometimes translated as Poor Folk, is the first novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, written over the span of nine months between 1844 and 1845.

Dostoyevsky was in financial difficulty because of his extravagant lifestyle and his developing gambling addiction; although he had produced some translations of foreign novels, they had little success, and he decided to write a novel of his own to try to raise funds.

Poor F
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: russian
This is a ridiculous book. It is the letters exchanged between a poor old man and a poor young woman who live in the same housing complex but who rarely see each other for the sake of propriety. It's basically something like this:
"Oh Makar this week I lost my job and I'm running out of cash and I'm feeling so sick that I just might die! Whatever shall I do!"

"Oh Varvara, you poor child. Let me, as a father figure, send you some flowers and linens even though I have no money and will probably get
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first works of Dostoyevsky were translations of French fiction. He was translating Eugénie Grandet, and, on an evening stroll, he has "the vision on the Neva".

Да! я могу это сделать!

In his mind he sees two sad and hopeless people that just break his heart. He sat down and wrote Poor Folk, his first novel. He did it in just nine months. And he never quite got out of Balzac's grip: obviously Puskin and Gogol too - but it was the inspiration from Balzac that got him to pick up a pen and write
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

Crime and Punishment was an absolutely mesmerizing first experience of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s writing. Being able to read his very first novel, the one that brought him great fame, is an opportunity that I just couldn’t skip over. At 24 years old, he writes Poor Folk—tell me that’s not something to applaud about. This is an epistolary novel that portrays all the faces of human condition. Considered to be one of the most important pieces of literat
Dave Schaafsma
Poor People, also translated as Poor Folk, is an epistolary novel -- an exchange of letters between Makar Dievushkin Alexievitch, a copy writer, and Barbara Dobroselova Alexievna, a seamstress. It's Dostoevsky's first novel, published in 1846, and made Dostoevesky a household name in Russia. It is not a great novel, but it is important in that it is the great author's first novel, and a social novel in the tradition of Gogol, and some French novels he was reading with huge moral and social commi ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian Lit fans; Dostoyevsky completists

Illumination in Saint Petersburg by Fyodor Vasilyev (1869)

A short novel focused on a powerful exchange of letters between two bright and introspective individuals living in difficult circumstances in 19th century Saint Petersburg. At first I had to get used to the epistolary style (the diary excerpt in the beginning of the novel was a temporary relief as I was struggling a bit), but the style of the letters and their heartfelt content quickly grew on me. I realize that a novel like this one prob
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-rus
The boy will grow callous as he trembles with the cold, a frightened little fledgling fallen from the nest.

I joked midway through that Dickens would've used this as masturbatory material. The plausibility of the novel itself remains a spot suspect. It is challenging to accept such eloquence from those so wracked with stress and despair. That said, we are a great distance from the ontology of Czarist Russia, as David Foster Wallace noted his great confusion that febrile starved Raskolnikov could
عماد العتيلي

هذه هي المرة الثانية التي أقرأ فيها هذه الرواية الرائعة لكاتبي المفضل: فيودو دوستويفسكي.
كانت هذه روايته الأولى،
وهي التي دفعت بأكبر ناقد أدبي روسي في وقتها، بعدما قرأ الرواية، لأن يُهرع في الصباح الباكر إلى منزل دوستويفسكي ويُقَبّله على خدّيه (كما هي عادة الروس - ثلاث مرات على كل خدّ!) ويقول له: أيها الشاب، أنت عبقري!


هي بلا شك واحدة من أعجب وأعظم ما كتب دوستويفسكي،
مؤلمة وموجعة إلى أبعد حد. قصة حب .. ولكنها ليست كقصص الحب الفارهة الاخرى! هي قصة حب حقيقية جداً ومؤلمة جداً .. وجميلة جداً.
لا أملّ
Varvara Dobroselova

Description: Poor Folk is an epistolary novel -- that is, a tale told as a series of letters between the characters. And oh, what characters these are! Makar Dievushkin Alexievitch is a copy writer, barely squeaking by; Barbara Dobroselova Alexievna works as a seamstress, and both face the sort of everyday humiliation society puts upon the poor. These are people respected by no one, not even by themselves. These are folks too poor, in their circumstances, to marry; the love b
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, classics
This notable work is Dostoyevsky's first novel which contains the premises of his talent.
The characters are not alienated from their anguish as the Brothers Karamazov could be, for example.
Here, it is a question of anguish linked to material misery.
A man who is no longer very young falls in love with an orphaned young girl. The ages not clearly stated but specific allusions make us understand this difference and point us to their respective eras.
I liked this epistolary exchange in 19th century R
Certainly one of the most amazing debuts in literature. I found the structure ingenious (and it isn't all letters written back and forth between two people, as book blurbs may have one believe), and I particularly liked the relative avoidance of histrionics that popped up occasionally in Dosty's other novels I've read (in Crime and Punishment, although overall very good, a man kills then proceeds with a "woe is me" theme which, at times, I wanted to scream: 'Well, good grief, you kill people!'). ...more
J.M. Hushour
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dostoevsky's first novel is a masterful creep-fest that probably wouldn't get published today. Rather, it'd be turned into an HBO series starring Matthew McCounaghey and some random ex-Nickelodeon teenage actress and everyone would be okay with that.
An aging, balding alcoholic clerk writes letters to his impressionable young cousin, basically pawning all his shit to give her presents to all but get into her knickers.
An impressionable young woman, in desperate straits due to everyone around her p
Kennedy Ifeh
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor Folks, Dostoyevsky’s debut novel, is an epistolary work which portrays how poverty instills piety and sanctity in the human soul. Dostoyevsky paints a portrait of how poor people stay devoted in preserving their dignity in the midst of poverty and the struggle for survival.

The story line is written in the form of letters between the main characters, a poor copyist, Makar, and a poor housemaid, Varvara, who are second cousins living as neighbours in a poor neighborhood. The reader is drawn t
Med Redha
While visiting Dostoevsky's apartment in St. Petersburg, my attention was drawn to the guide's few words about his first published novel, "The Poor People". I had then conceived a very black image of this story, imagining that, like the Dickens or London novels, I would find here the description of squalid slums where crime and prostitution rub shoulders with the greatest misery. Also, what was my astonishment in discovering an epistolary novel certainly not very cheerful but far from as gloomy ...more
antiquarian reverie
I was hoping for a different ending but in thinking about it, Dostoyevsky had it right. Makar and Barbara are friends that live near each other but write letters to communicate even though they see each other occasionally. Their poverty and of the other people surrounding them is told in this story that gives the heart and soul of man. I had to laugh at the insert of a novel, Makar sent to Barbara from a tenant of his home. It was a romance that sounded quite heated for that epoch. I did not rea ...more
Biblio Curious
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dostoyevsky is still fine tuning his writing skills with this one. If Russian Literature is one long, incredibly insightful conversation, then for a a newbie writer to create a book using only fictional letters is a great way to pay homage to his literary tradition.

After this, I've got to read Joseph Frank's biography of Dostoyevsky! Edit: And the ones his wife and daughter wrote! Trotsky too of course, where's a Russian bio without him? Something about this book just shrieks, it'll be 4 or 5 st
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As far as I guess this is the first book of Dostoyevsky. You can find several letters in the book that people sent each other and you can find very good human characters and life sections inside the letter
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, july-2017
Poor People, more commonly printed with the title Poor Folk, is the debut novel of Russian literary heavyweight Fyodor Dostoevsky, and was first published in Russia in 1846. I read it in the beautiful Alma Classics edition, which has been wonderfully and fluidly translated by Hugh Aplin.

Told in an epistolary manner, it follows two characters who live upon the fringes of society in St Petersburg, struggling with poverty rather acutely. Devushkin Alexievich is a copywriter working in an office, an
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short novel holds a very dear place in my heart. Not only was it Dostoyevsky’s first novel, but it was my first Dostoyevsky novel as well. I remember being absolutely (emotionally) stunned by the novel at age 13. I had never read anything like it before; anything that that invoked so much emotion within me….One of my favourite novellas ever, I must have read “Бедные люди” at least 8 times…

I was interested to know if this novel would have the same impact on me, 21 odd years later.

Having just
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Katch 22
Never have I been confronted with such an intimate portrayal of a love so chaste and pure doomed by the harsh realities of poverty. While a handful of Dostoevsky's books like Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and Notes from Underground did the job of delving into the inner depths of man's dehumanization and redemption, Poor Folk painted a more powerful testimony of Russia's sad history. I found myself sweltering in profound sorrow after reading the exchange of love letters between the ...more
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: russia
This is a short novel about poverty and the effects it has on a person - emotionally and physically. The two main characters are both poor and write letters to each other describing the hard life they both experience, along with the affection they feel for each other. Basically, the message that I got from this book is: being poor sucks - people will despise you and look down on you, you will be made fun of and disrespected, you will most likely get sick over and over again, and you will look li ...more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-lit, fiction
A good epistolary novella! We can see a younger Dostoevsky playing with the themes that preoccupy him and which resurface in later works with more maturity and complexity. There is much to like here and 5 stars only because I can compare it to some of his other, more compelling work.
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 18tbr, fiction
Two second cousins, Makar and Varvara, exchange letters about their daily life in nineteenth century St Petersburg and share their constant maneuvering to manage expenses with too little money and to help each other out. Makar sends her bonbons; she is making him a vest; and they are constantly sending small gifts and loans of money back and forth. Detailed and psychologically insightful, but at the end, the character of Varvara seems less developed than her correspondent, and we do not know ei ...more
Written as letters between Makar and Barbara, one an old man, the other a pretty young orphan with terrible health, this is a pretty short book.

And it can be prety well summed up by this:

"My dearest, darling Barbara, I sleep in the room in the kitchen, because it's smaller and taxes less upon my money— so I can have tea and sugar every day! I'm sending you some bonbons through Thedora."

"Dearest Makar, HOW could you send me these bonbons, when you are living in the kitchen! You are sacrificing yo
Bryn Hammond
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Young D.'s first splash, which I never read; I suppose I had it down as pre-arrest and gauche. I feel I've cheated because I've read the contextualisation of it in Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849; I suspect this one, unlike his later immortal works, doesn't exactly work without its context, since he does a few radical things here that you wouldn't be aware of unless you're up on your Russian and European history of novels. In brief -- I won't cheat again by going back to Frank, this i ...more
HebatAllah Hassan
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
A VERY harsh depiction of the Russian society under the ruling of the Bolshevik Party! No politics involved, but the poverty, the sickness, the housing catastrophe, the debt, the misery and DEATH are so unbearably visualized in letters going back and forth between a man and a woman who are neighbors and who are affectionate of each other, but they cannot openly express their emotions for each other simply because there would be nothing they could do about it; they are BOTH so impoverished that t ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this directly after the amazing House of the Dead, which may not have been the best idea. Poor Folk was good enough, but pretty much pales in comparison to House. I feel like I didn't give it a fair enough chance; it's also really not the kind of book I really get into, though. I liked the epistolary style, but the unceasing declarations of love between the two main characters just had me yawning and rolling my eyes and caused me to overlook a lot of Dostoevsky's intended statements about ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
A series of letters between two who love each other. They are both so poor they do not believe they can marry. They have no one's respect. They do not even respect themselves. A view of how people in poverty view themselves and how others perceive them. This book made me feel grateful I have family that loves me, food to eat and a warm place to sleep. ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always said that a writer has done a really good job if years after you've read his book you'll still remember the feelings it has given you. Dostoyevsky did an amazing job.
There was something unusual in this story and I can't quite put my finger on it; perhaps it was the language in which he used, perhaps it was the complex characters and maybe it was simply Dostoyevsky's magic fingers.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s hard to believe that Dostoevsky wrote Poor Folk when he was 22 and it was his first novel. You can clearly see that it was the work of a genius in the making. What a brilliant piece.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Fyodor Dostoy...: 'Poor Folk' Member Reviews 2 31 Jun 27, 2015 01:51PM  
The Fyodor Dostoy...: 'Poor Folk' Common discussion thread (Spoilers) 1 17 Jan 08, 2014 07:26AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Overcoat
  • The Last Day of a Condemned Man
  • İnsan Ne İle Yaşar?
  • Yer Altından Notlar
  • The Captain's Daughter
  • Altıncı Koğuş
  • Amok Koşucusu
  • Korku
  • Chess Story
  • Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
  • شجرتي شجرة البرتقال الرائعة
  • Bilinmeyen Bir Kadının Mektubu
  • مانديل بائع الكتب القديمة
  • Kuyucaklı Yusuf
  • Zorba the Greek
  • Vingt-quatre heures de la vie d'une femme
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett...
127 likes · 47 comments
“أحيانا يختفي المرء عن كافة الأنظار لأنه يخاف من القيل و القال ،إنهم يجعلون منه موضوعا لسخريتهم و تندرهم .” 57 likes
“I don’t even know what I’m writing, I have no idea, I don’t know anything, and I’m not reading over it, and I’m not correcting my style, and I’m writing just for the sake of writing, just for the sake of writing more to you… My precious, my darling, my dearest!” 42 likes
More quotes…