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Poor Folk by Dostoyevsky Fyodor (2008-12-08)

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    Dostoyevsky Fyodor(Author)

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  • By E. B. MULLIGAN on March 31, 2014

    1844 St Petersburg Russia the first novel by Dostoyevski and a HUGE success for this unknown working class author. This should be required reading in every High School.Makar Alekseyevich Devushkin 47 year old clerk living in abject poverty (he lives in a section of the kitchen!). The other tenants include the Gorshkovs who are so poor their son is constantly groaning in hunger! Because of his shy nature he is a target for the office bullies,Varvara Alekseyevna Dobroselova his 2nd cousin, twice removed, who lives on the same street also in poverty. Barbara (in my translation) Dobroselova is the one ray of light in Makar Devushkin,s world where he escapes his wretched living conditions in the books he so loves. Barbara father has died after losing his job and becoming a violent drunk, She and her severly depressed mother live with the abusive landlord Anna Fydorovna.*Spoilers*Barbara crushes on her tutor, the impoverished student Pokrovsky, whose father is also a drunk. Pokrovsky soon dies of illness and even his dying wish to see the sun is greeted by the sight of a gloomy sky and pouring rain. Then her mother dies! Barbara flees the landlord to live across the street with Fedora. Devushkin and Barbara exchange many letters and books. Devushkin is unable to earn enough money to keep a roof over his head and is about to be on the street, when his employer gives him 100 rubles to buy new clothes. Devushkin instead sends some to Barbara. Things are also looking up for the Gorshkovs when they receive funds from a court case, then the father dies. Finally Barbara decides to marry the horrible but middle class Mr. Bykov who will take her far away.**End Spoilers**The work has been translated to English at least 8 times (under two titles 'Poor People' and 'Poor Folk'). First published in english 50 years after it was written. The edition I read is from the Modern Library dated 1917 - it doesn't list the translator however the publisher is Boni & Liveright and research finds the translator listed as C.J. Hogarth (Charles James Hogarth, Highland Light Infantry 1890, Scott's Sharpshooters in Boer War, born 7 December 1869, educated Charterhouse, died 5 April 1945.).“Before you there lie the Steppes, my darling—only the Steppes, the naked Steppes, the Steppes that are as bare as the palm of my hand. 'There' there live only heartless old women and rude peasants and drunkards. 'There' the trees have already shed their leaves. 'There' abide but rain and cold.”“I do not know what I am writing, I never do know what I am writing. I could not possibly know, for I never read over what I have written, nor correct it's orthography. At the present moment I am writing merely for the sake of writing, and to put as much as possible into this last letter of mine. . . Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling! . . .”

  • By Alan L. Chase on October 10, 2014

    I have been enraptured with the writing and the thinking of Fyodor Dostoevsky since Dr. Beatrice Batson of Wheaton College introduced me to Ivan's life-affirming "sticky little leaves" in the "Brothers Karamazov." It is no accident that one of my grandsons has the middle name of Fyodor! Somehow along the way I had missed reading until now the master's short story/novella "Poor Folk." It is a heart-rending and eye-opening account of the desperate lives of the poor in Tsarist St. Petersburg, Russia in mid-nineteenth century.Using the technique of letters shared between two friends, distant relatives and platonic lovers - Makar Alexievitch and Barbara Alexievna -.Dostoevsky shines the light of his observation into the darkest corners of poverty and the troubled human spirit that seeks to hang onto dignity in the midst of deprivation and despair. In much the same way that Dickens called the attention of his readers to the plight of London'd underbelly, so Dostoevsky uses vivid descriptions of persons, places and mindsets to draw us into the dusty corners of hovels where children die and jaded denizens drink themselves into oblivion and threadbare subsistence.Dostoevsky is a genius. CJ Hogarth in his English translation has captured much of the nuance of the world that Dostoevsky described, mirroring what he observed as a young man in Moscow living in poverty in the household of an alcoholic father. Although set in a far away place and long ago time, the spiritual and psychological tolls that poverty takes on the human spirit are the same today as they were for Dostoevsky's struggling menagerie of petty civil servants, drunkards and widows.

  • By Bill R. Moore on April 12, 2010

    This Poor Folk translation may not be the best but is certainly very readable. Anyone wanting a quality version who comes across this should get it, especially considering the price.As for the book itself, as Fyodor Dostoevsky's first novel, it is certainly not on par with his later masterworks, but enough of his genius was already present to make it essential for fans, while its many and substantial differences from more representative work may well mean that those who usually dislike him will be pleasantly surprised.It is most immediately interesting as a rare example of a novel told entirely in letters. This is hard to pull off convincingly, and Dostoevsky does admirably, especially for a debut. He manages to put across a wealth of characterization and sketch a vivid background in the limited format. The former is particularly notable; psychological characterization is of course what he was later known for, and it is already present to a great extent. Alternating first-person narration gives great insight into the two main characters, who are memorable and themselves and also noteworthy as fairly representative examples of impoverished mid-nineteenth century Russians. The latter is also well-done; we get an astonishingly vivid sense of what it was like to live in this unenviable time and place in every aspect from landscape to speech. The only complaint one could make here is applicable only to technical purists; Dostoevsky never really justifies the setup. The two characters live across from each other, and though a few visits are noted in passing, it seems highly implausible that they would have to resort to writing so often, though the great verisimilitude of the letters themselves largely makes amends.There is almost no plot in the conventional sense, but we learn more and more about the characters' daily lives and relationship to each other. This is a sort of love story, and the end, while ostensibly happy for Barbara, is tragic for Makar. We may even have to rethink the former's character, as she abandons a man who not only truly cared for her but made her the beneficiary of numerous acts of charity and kindness when he could hardly afford it. Though written before Dostoevsky's Christian conversion, such noble acts and consequent self-abnegation form key parts of later works in a more spiritual sense. Here they show humanity's admirable side, especially in contrast to some of the other characters' actions. Above all, though, the book is valuable for giving a stark account of just how atrociously the lower classes lived. That such suffering existed in an ostensibly modern country so recently will be a true eye-opener for many; the wretchedness is truly great. Those who for decades championed - and in fact still champion - Czarist Russia as a beacon of liberty and equality in light of the Soviet Union's admitted horrors should read this; it gives an excellent indication of what was wrong with Czarist Russia and why it cried out for reform.This unsurprisingly leads to much pathos, and the book is highly emotional in other ways; it indeed often reaches such a fever pitch that many will cry, which shows how little this resembles later Dostoevsky. The philosophical dramatization he was later known for is absent, as is lengthy dialogue. Poor is clearly an early work for this and other reasons, primarily because his originality had yet to arise; it was written under the great influence of Nikolai Gogol, particularly "The Overcoat," and Dostoevsky was indeed first championed as the new Gogol. He became something very different, but this early production is more than worthy - required for fans and worth looking into for many others.


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