Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born on November 11, 1821, in a small Moscow public hospital, where his father, Dr. Mikhail Andreevich Dostoevski, worked. He was the second son to the doctor and Marya Fyodorovna (née Nechaeva). One year after his mother’s death, in 1837, Fyodor enrolled in the St. Petersburg Academy for Military Engineers. He completed his studies at the academy even after his father had died of a stroke in 1839, thanks to the inheritance of the Dostoevski estate.
Like so many writers’ attempts, Dostoevski’s first foray into the literary world was through translation—in his case, of Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, appearing in print in 1844. His first original work was a novel in letters, Bednye lyudi (1846; Poor Folk, 1887), which met with immediate success, creating quite a literary sensation even before its publication. The great critic Vissarion Belinsky hailed it with such enthusiasm that the novice writer was propelled into early fame.
Dostoevski followed this initial success with Dvoynik (1846; The Double, 1917). It was met more coolly, was considered an artistic failure, and was generally unpopular. The failure of The Double, as seen in the twentieth century, is quite ironic, since it contains many of the thematic occupations that eventually made Dostoevski famous. His next novel, Netochka Nezvanova (1849; English translation, 1920), was fated...
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