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The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Feb 16, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: dostoyevsky
Read from February 16 to 19, 2011


The House of the Dead, or Prison Life in Siberia, Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
Although it has been years since I read that other Russian prison story, one day in the life of ivan denisovich...this read provided a different take on that one...surely, prison life is not easy, but in this story, the prisoners seemed to have more...leeway, than what i recall from alexander solzi-neets-shin...names, sheesh, i'm sure i'll smoke a turb in purgatory for getting them wrong. ha! this one was published, i take it, in london, and what i presume if a cover from the day is pictured on the kindle, where i read this one: fedor dostoieffsky..."i" w/the two dots, no smiley face, above the "i".

somehow, i get the idea that dostoyevsky would not have written as he has had he not spent time doing time. time to reflect, find a thousand ways to count off thousand.

good, interesting story, w/a multitude of insights and variables.



Part I Chapter I TEN YEARS A CONVICT
Among the mountains and impenetrable forests of the Siberian desert one comes from time to time across little towns of a thousand or two inhabitants. The narrator meets in one of these little towns, an exile, ALEXANDER PETROVITCH GORIANTCHIKOFF, about 35, free now after his punishment for killing his wife, at the house of an official, IVAN IVANITCH GVOSDIKOF, a venerable old man, father of five daughters. Alexander gave them lessons.

After being absent from town, when the narrator returns, he learns that Petrovitch was dead, never sent for a doctor, already forgotten, his lodging unoccupied. He’d been very fond of the landlady’s little grandchild, KATIA. Alexander left some writings of his ten years, Recollections of the House of the Dead.

Chapter II THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD
Two-hundred-fifty in the same prison, divided into classes according to the gravity of their crimes. Goriantchikoff became a soldier in Siberia when he had finished his term of imprisonment.
The majority condemned to hard labor, of the civil class, deprived of all civil rights, brows marked by the iron,
More serious+ in perpetuo section. The perpetuals were not deprived of their civil rights.
Another, called the Special section, convicts from all over, term indefinite.
“Where in Russia, in no matter what district, could 250 men be found able to read and write?” concludes “that education demoralizes the people. This is a mistake. Education has nothing to do w/moral deterioration;” “and if one must admit that it develops a resolute spirit among the people, that is far from being a defect.” Surely, but when the cookie-cutter is employed, one can hardly argue that there is any resolution to the mix.

“we must now go to Green Street.” an allusion to corporal punishment

“A Jew named ESAU BOUMSTEIN was at the same time a jeweler and a usurer.”

“Among our companions in chains there were several convicts known as ‘innkeepers,’ who sold spirits and thereby became comparatively rich.”



Chapter III FIRST IMPRESSIONS6%
Those first impressions…generally…painful, monotonous, and stifling. The labor did not seem to me particularly arduous. Hard because it was forced, imposed, obligatory; and because it was done only through fear of the stick.
.
“They devoured one another with their eyes.”
kyas…in which they steeped pieces of bread.
They insulted one another chiefly to pass the time, as an oratorical exercise.

People of noble birth in the prison: 5 Poles. Detested more than the Russian nobles. Counting Alexander, there were five Russian nobles in the convict prison. 1st, a spy/informer, the second a parricide, 3rd is AKIMITCH. He had served as a sub-lieutenant in the Caucasus.

One convict tried to assassinate the governor w/a brick. Altogether illiterate, spent time reading the Bible, for a whole year. One fine day he declared he would not work. Gov comes, brick. Carried to the hospital, died 3 days later.





Chapter IV First Impressions (continued) 12%

The convicts all have a private occupation, all are passionately fond of money. Yet money does not remain long in their pocket. Confiscated, stolen, generally stolen. “I may be wrong, but it seems to me that a man’s character may be recognized by his mere laugh. If you know a man whose laugh inspires you w/sympathy, be assured he is an honest man.”
They called him grandad. He hid the $ in one of the palisades, a branch could be removed and put back. The hole there was the hiding place.

A deserter from the army had a violin.

Smuggling liquor…bullock’s intestines from a drop point, sometimes caught in the body-pat, sometimes the coin provides a pass. “…working like a Negro…” the vodka, “twice-baptized”







Chapter V First Impressions (continued) 16%
Each barrack housed about 30 prisoners. .


“All initiative is for them an intolerable burden.”



A certain number of Poles. 6 of them Lived together and took no notice of other convicts, save a Jew, he amused them. Like the Jew Jankel in Gogol’s Tarass Boulba, who resembled a fowl, ISAIAH FOMITCH BUMSTEIN and a plucked fowl were as like one another as two drops of water. Four Old Believers, among them an old man from Staradoub, 2-3 Little Russians, and a young convict, 23, 8 murders. A band of coiners, one the buffoon of the barrack. And others, shorn and disfigured.

Chapter VI The First Month 22%
Though bad men are to be found everywhere there may be something good.

Chapter VII The First Month (continued) 25%
He had gummed some $ into the binding of his New Testament.

Describes 4th day, the day he is assigned work, make-do work tearing apart a barge. Scuratoff, a prisoner. Sings. ‘the wolf has but one song, and this Tuliak is stealing it from him’ said a Little Russian, from Pultava. Another, Luka Kouzmitch, pointed nose. Scuratoff mended boots for Stepan Fedoritch, the lieutenant.


Ivan Matveitch, a sergeant in charge of prisoners. At the barge. Savelieff. Alexander is shamed, scoffed at, ignored, etc. He is a gentleman. Back in the prison, he walks outside, and Bull ran to him. Bull was the prison dog, a large black and white dog. ‘here is a heaven-sent friend.’ ‘my only friend in the world--my faithful dog, Bull.”

Chapter VIII New Acquaintances--Petroff 30%
Alexander has become indifferent, went regularly every week to have his head shaved, cold water and soap. My favorite occupation was to count thousands and thousands of times, in a thousand different ways, the number of days that I had still to spend in prison.

Chaper IX Dangerous Characters--Luka33%
A certain type, rare in prison as elsewhere, crimes so strange as to baffle the imagination. Luka Kouzmitch, had been a serf, a domestic. Stitching a shirt, and nearby Kobylin. Brags. rascal is prison slang for knife. ….dunno…weird story.


Chapter X Isaiah Fomitch-the Bath- Baklouchin35%
The Christmas holidays. Isaiah, from 5th chapter. 50-yr-old, scars on his cheeks & forehead, weak body of a fowl. Day he entered, all were curious. One came to him w/a pair of trousers. I’ve been waiting 6 years, how much? A silver ruble? No, but I’ll give you 7 kopecks. Laughter. A loan. One day, while at prayers, the governor entered, escort of soldiers. Shrieked, sang, later said he didn’t see governor.


Chapter XI The Christmas Holidays41%
The convicts are unusually friendly…all greet and wish each other well, even one he doesn’t even know the name does so. Dinner, special. Gifts from town--food.

Chapter XII The Play47%
Evening of the 3rd day of the holidays. the play. Title of first Philatka and Miroshka, Rivals Baklouchin in role of Philatka. Sirotkin was to play a woman’s part, a girl, while Ivanaoff is Lady Bountiful. Husband, the Lord of the Manor. 2nd piece Kedril the Glutton, never printed, acted from manuscript copy. Ancient pieces….in Kedril, the demons appeared on the stage and carried Kedril off to hell. Carried off, Kedril begins to eat, devils back, carried off…
Next, pantomime, a miller/wife…he goes, she entertains those who arrive, another miller, knock, another, 2nd miller under table, an office, another knock, officer into chest…new arrival is a Brahmin.

Part II Chapter I The Hospital 52%
Falls ill after the holidays, sent to hospital, painted yellow, single story.
The sick must still wear irons.

Chapter II The Hospital (continued) 56%
The common people mistrust and dislike officialdom and doctors as representatives of the gov’t, rather than the doctors themselves. On personal acquaintance many prejudices disappear. In cases of malingering, the doctor might call it febris catharalis To hospital to escape flogging.

Chapter III The Hospital (Continued) 60%
The flogged, then on to the floggers. I heard a story which seemed at first like the stammering of a soul in nightmare or the delirium of a fever. Here it is.

Chapter IV Akoulka’s Husband67%
Late one night, 11, woke w/a start. Notices 2 in conversation. Listening one is Tcherevine, from a penal battalion, narrator, Chichkof, 30, civilian, conceited, heady. doing. As he leaves, he begs Akoulka’s forgiveness…C asks what she said, she tells C she loved him,


Chapter V The Summer Season72%
April. Holy Week is not far off. Spring, hard time, as one feels nature’s resurrection. Tramps. One is likened to Robinson Crusoe. Prisoner. ‘changing his lot’ simply to change one setting for another. Branding makes escape difficult.
Inspector is coming. All prepareInspector arrives. Prisoners given words, should they be addressed, rehearsals. Inspector arrives w/other military, and a civilian. Nothing much came of it.

Chapter VI Prison Animals77%
Gneidko, a bay horse. Dragging a barrel, died--he was already used up when he came.
Dogs, geese, a billy-goat named Vaska, and an eagle. Dog, Bull. They got another dog, Snow, finally a 3rd, Koultiapka. Snow would lie prostrate before all. …no yutchka would ever…(dog, female) He met his end in a ditch at the back of the jail; some dogs tore him to pieces.

Koultiapka…joy and pleasure…long and broad…one day, Neustroief…flayed him to make some boots of fur-lined velvet ordered by the wife of an official. Another…they’d hang them, use the skins…

Prison geese….the geese went to work w/the men, came back….they had their necks twisted one year to make a feast at the end of Lent.

Goat Vaska. …jumped on tables, came when called…the Llesghian Babai, wrestles w/Vaska, a white boat, long horns….and Vaska gets the best of him. One day, puberty, gelded. He too accompanies the prisoners to work, until the governor saw it. Flay it, in soup, etc.

A wounded eagle. 3 months stayed in a corner. Someone leaves water, meat. The eagle is king of the woods, says Skouratof…they’ll take him out of the prison, so he can die free. He ran away once set loose.

Chapter VII Grievances 81%
The editor wishes to communicate that in the 1st chapter…Recollections of the House of the Dead, a parricide of noble birth. Discovered that the parricide did ten years for nothing…he was innocent. The real criminals discovered, confessed, the unfortunate man freed.

Chapter VIII My Companions88%
Of the 3 Russian ex-nobles in the place, he only spoke to Akim Akimitch. The other two, the spy, A______n and the supposed parricide. Moments he felt bitter hatred toward Akim, who has taken prison as the end, his home, later he regretted this. 8 other noblemen in the prison. Even the best morbid, aloof, and intolerant….3 had education, B M & J ___________ski.

Also two Polish political prisoners. Letter, blank, ski or in or tchoukooski.

One day the governor calls J_______ski to ask forgiveness for having himi beat. The governor lost his job though, past crimes, lost all.

Chapter IX Escape93%
After the governor is replaced, the prison begins to transition to a military prison.

A___________V, the spy, seeks to escape, along w/Koulikoff, who picks a Pole guard, someone who had been imprisoned, as an accomplice. Kohler, his name. Month of June. A young woman, ‘Fire and Flame’
A convict named Chilkin…K and A-v arrange to be w/him. Two Soldiers, Kohler, one of them. An excuse is made, A-v, K, and K depart for the suburbs of the town. Chilkin worries that he will get blame. Checks w/the engineer shop, no see em, reports to the sergeant-major at 9. According to regs, each prisoner should have had two escorts. Cossacks were sent to hunt them, messages sent, etc. The convicts all took strength from this escape. Figured a search would happen

Chapter X Freedom 98%
Last year of imprisonment. Made friends, some regarded well, some still hatred, why, no idea. Had to live in town a month after release. 1st book in years. A review. He seeks allusions to the past in all he read. Depressed when discovers a new state of affairs has arisen.


The irons are removed. Strange impulse to have them in his hands.




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