Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, in a poor area of the city. His nanny Alena Frolovna read him stories, fairy tales and sagas from the age of three, establishing his love of literature, and his mother used the Bible to teach him to read and write. Dostoyevsky said that his parents reading him stories at night ignited his imagination, according to Louis Breger in Dostoevsky: The Author As Psychoanalyst.
His childhood had an impact on the content of his writing too. An outcast, the “pale, introverted dreamer,” he wrote about his experiences at a religious boarding school in The Adolescent. And the recurring theme of an older man desiring a younger woman resulted from Dostoyevsky being asked to get help from the father of a young girl who had been raped.
Dostoyevsky was arrested in 1849 for participating in a group that discussed banned books criticizing Tsarist Russia. In prison, he was classified as “one of the most dangerous convicts.” His death sentence was lifted at the last minute and he spent the next decade in a prison camp and in compulsory military service. He later travelled in Europe and had financial problems as a result of a gambling addiction.
In prison, Dostoyevsky was disliked by some due to his xenophobic comments; his Jewish characters are considered negative stereotypes and he expressed negative views of the Ottoman Turks.
Although he started writing in his 20s, his most notable novels – including Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880) – were published when he was in his 40s and later. In his writing, Dostoyevsky explored human psychology against the backdrop of a troubled 19th Century Russia, and his works have influenced some notable writers, including Anton Chekhov and Jean-Paul Sartre. His books have been translated into more than 170 languages.
Why is he on the list?
Every author on the list has earned their place through scores assigned to various prizes, sales, reader ratings and expert collections.
- Books With a Goodreads Average Rating of Over 4.5 and With At Least 100 Ratings
- Goodreads Best Books Ever
- The Best 100 Authors
- Book Depository
- Top 100 Works in World Literature
- Novels and Novelists, A Guide to the World of Fiction
- For The Love of Books
- The Greatest Books of All Time
- 100 Life-Changing Books
- 100 Greatest novels of all time
Read about Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky: His Life And Work by Ronald Hingley
Dostoevsky: The Author as Psychoanalyst by Louis Breger
Image: Wikimedia Commons