The author of Crime and Punishment was sentenced to death on this day in 1849 (his sentence was later commuted to four years in a Siberian labor camp).
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky[note](Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский; IPA: [ˈfʲodər mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪtɕ dəstɐˈjefskʲɪj] ( listen); 11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881[note]), sometimes transliterated Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Dostoyevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russia. Although Dostoyevsky began writing in the mid-1840s, his most memorable works - including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov - are from his later years. Altogether he wrote eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels, and three essays, and has been acknowledged by many literary critics as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature.
Dostoyevsky was born in the Mariinsky hospital in Moscow, Russia. He was introduced to literature at an early age – through fairy tales and legends, but also through books by English, French, German and Russian authors. His mother's sudden death in 1837, when he was in his early teens, devastated him. Around that time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. After graduating, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a liberal lifestyle. He soon began translating books to earn extra money. Around the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, which allowed him to join St Petersburg's literary circles. In 1849 he was arrested for his involvement with the Petrashevsky Circle - a secret society of liberal utopians as well as a literary discussion group. He and other members were condemned to death, but the penalty proved to be a mock execution and the sentence was commuted to four years' hard labour in Siberia. After his release, Dostoyevsky was forced to serve as a soldier, but was discharged from the military due to his ill health.
In the following years Dostoyevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and later a serial, A Writer's Diary. He began travelling around western Europe, and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship and an embarassing period of begging for money. Adding to his woes, he suffered from epilepsy throughout his adult life.
But through his indefatigable energy and the sheer volume of his work, he eventually became one of the most widely read and renowned Russian writers. His books have now been translated into more than 170 languages and have sold around 15 million copies. Dostoyevsky has influenced a multitude of writers of varying genres, from Anton Chekhov and James Joyce to Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ayn Rand, among others.
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