The House of the Dead by Dostoevsky – a chilling semi-biographical novel


There are a lot of rough things happening today in the world and everyone needs a break sometimes. What is one of the best ways to escape reality? Literature. A good example would be the chilling semi-biographical novel by Dostoevsky – “The House of the Dead”.

Brief summary

The novel is about the experiences that the narrator, Aleksandr Petrovich Goryanchikov, went through while he was deported to Siberia and sentenced to ten years of labour for killing his wife. Our protagonist comes from the upper class of society and in that prison there are mainly peasants who pick on him because he is a “gentleman”, as the lower class prisoners call the nobles.

Chilling adventures

Aleksandr Petrovich presents in his biography the hard prison life and analyzes the prisoners that he meets there, from thieves to criminals, while trying to show the reader that the criminals are not just criminals, that they are humans too, with dreams and goals, just like a normal person. Through his experiences, Aleksandr Petrovich shows the kindness, the empathy and the love that can reside in those prisoners’ hearts.

Soft spots

There are some wholesome moments described in the book, from how the prisoners celebrate Christmas and have a theatre play, to the narrator’s release from the house of the dead. Those events show that there’s still a chance of a normal life for some of the prisoners that are released. The protagonist is an example himself, Aleksandr Petrovich becoming a French teacher.

The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The House of the Dead and The Gambler (Wordsworth Classics)

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I don’t want to spoil the book, so take look. It might be a good escape from the stressful events that are taking place in the world today. If you enjoy this book, you might want to check out another interesting recommendation: Book Review: ”Every man dies alone”, by Hans Fallada.


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