Book Review | The House of the Dead by Dostoevsky

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Birth: November 11, 1821, Moscow, Russia

Death: February 9, 1881, St. Petersburg, Russia

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born on November 11, 1821 in Moscow. Dostoevsky published his first book Poor Folk in 1846. Dostoevsky was arrested in 1849, for alleged involvement in a conspiracy against the state. The novels he wrote after exile glorified Russian literature:

I would like to share with you today; The House of the Dead by Dostoevsky.


The Shawshank Redemption movie is about what cannot be taken from people, and what others cannot touch, that is, hope. From the search for hope. Did you ever feel this once in a lifetime?

In Prison Break, we actually see how the functioning of the internal bureaucracy in prisons depends on the dirty rules, some bribes, blackmail, the money cycle. Even the idea of ​​escape remains alive throughout their life, most of the prisoners do not dare.

The House of the Dead, on the other hand, can be described as a complete combination of these 2 giant productions. While you reading the book, you feel like you are being tortured with whip or countless sticks. Sometimes you witness the temptation of the thought of escaping, which is thought at least once in every prison. Some do not even react to the torture, and even stand still, accustomed to being beaten. As a matter of fact, Dostoevsky says this for what I mentioned earlier:

“Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him.”

With this citation that Dostoevsky skillfully placed in the plot of the book, we thoroughly understand that the level of culture of the people who have been imprisoned is higher than that of the standard Russian nation and even free thought is forbidden in the Russian nation:

In another place where the Russian people are in great mass, half of the two hundred and fifty people you will distinguish among them are literate?

It feels like I'm eating while reading Dostoevsky. His literature literally saturates one's stomach, eyes, loneliness, lost ideas in the pollution of the atmosphere of his soul, and it's not just a functional saturation. At the same time, while reading this book, you meet your literary pleasure needs, such as the daily calcium and magnesium amount, and the needs stated in the dose to be taken. Louis Sullivan says:

Form follows function.

The House of the Dead, the second novel after Dostoevsky's exile, allows us to see how much we question our life exile with the experience of being in exile for many years.

The House of the Dead is a novel where you can look for the signs of life in people who can be considered spiritually dead even if they are not physically, but also a reference book for masterpieces such as Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons and The Brothers Karamazov. That is why I think that it is the best to read such epic writers in chronological order. Dostoevsky lovers must read.

“Whoever has experienced the power and the unrestrained ability to humiliate another human being automatically loses his own sensations. Tyranny is a habit, it has its own organic life, it develops finally into a disease. The habit can kill and coarsen the very best man or woman to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate... the return of the human dignity, repentance and regeneration becomes almost impossible.” /Dostoevsky
“Often a man endures for several years, submits and suffers the cruellest punishments, and then suddenly breaks out over some minute trifle, almost nothing at all.” /Dostoevsky
“I may be mistaken but it seems to me that a man may be judged by his laugh, and that if at first encounter you like the laugh of a person completely unknown to you, you may say with assurance that he is good.” /Dostoevsky
“Very often among a certain highly intelligent type of people, quite paradoxical ideas will establish themselves. But they have suffered so much in their lives for these ideas, and have paid so high a price for them that it becomes very painful, indeed almost impossible, for them to part with them.” /Dostoevsky
“No man lives, can live, without having some object in view, and making efforts to attain that object. But when object there is none, and hope is entirely fled, anguish often turns a man into a monster.” /Dostoevsky

“Reality is infinitely diverse, compared with even the subtlest conclusions of abstract thought, and does not allow of clear-cut and sweeping distinctions. Reality resists classification.” /Dostoevsky
“Generally speaking, our prisoners were capable of loving animals, and if they had been allowed they would have delighted to rear large numbers of domestic animals and birds in the prison. And I wonder what other activity could better have softened and refined their harsh and brutal natures than this. But it was not allowed. Neither the regulations nor the nature of the prison made it possible.” /Dostoevsky
“In short, the right given to one man to inflict corporal punishment on another is one of the ulcers of society, one of the most powerful destructive agents of every germ and every budding attempt at civilization, the fundamental cause of its certain and irretrievable destruction.” /Dostoevsky
“It is acknowledged that neither convict prisons, nor the hulks, nor any system of hard labour ever cured a criminal. These forms of chastisement only punish him and reassure society against the offences he might commit. Confinement, regulation, and excessive work have no effect but to develop with these men profound hatred, a thirst for forbidden enjoyment, and frightful recalcitrations.” /Dostoevsky
“Man cannot exist without work, without legal, natural property. Depart from these conditions, and he becomes perverted and changed into a wild beast.” /Dostoevsky

“Merciful heavens! Human treatment may even render human a man in whom the image of God has long ago been tarnished. It is these 'unfortunates' that must be treated in the most human fashion. This is their salvation and their joy.” /Dostoevsky
“...everything defiled and degraded. What cannot man live through! Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him.” /Dostoevsky
“I once saw a convict who had been twenty years in prison and was being released take leave of his fellow prisoners. There were men who remembered his first coming into prison, when he was young, careless, heedless of his crime and his punishment. He went out a grey-headed, elderly man, with a sad sullen face. He walked in silence through our six barrack-rooms. As he entered each room he prayed to the ikons, and then bowing low to his fellow prisoners he asked them not to remember evil against him.” /Dostoevsky
“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, becomes almost impossible.” /Dostoevsky
“No man lives, or can live, without having some object in view, and without making efforts to attain that object. But when there is no such object and hope is entirely fled, anguish often turns a man into a monster.” /Dostoevsky

“I remember that he was always trying to expound to me in his broken Russian some special system of astronomy he had invented. I was told that he had once published it, but the learned world had only laughed at him. I think his wits were a little deranged.” /Dostoevsky
“I declare that the best man in the world can become hardened and brutified to such a point, that nothing will distinguish him from a wild beast. Blood and power intoxicate...” /Dostoevsky
“Education has nothing whatever to do with moral deterioration; and if one must admit that it develops a resolute spirit among the people, that is far from being a defect.” /Dostoevsky
“Confinement, regulation, and excessive work have no effect but to develop in these men profound hatred, a thirst for forbidden enjoyment, and frightful recalcitration.” /Dostoevsky
“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 with sympathy, be assured he is an honest man.” /Dostoevsky

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