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Paperback Poor Folk Book

ISBN: 0486456617

ISBN13: 9780486456614

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Book Overview

When Poor Folk was first published in 1846, Dostoyevsky -- one of nineteenth-century Russia's most important authors -- was just twenty-four years old. The novel brought him immediate critical and public acclaim. A poignant societal and physiological sketch, Dostoyevsky's masterpiece is written in the form of letters of correspondence between two characters, both trapped within the poverty and circumstance of St. Petersburg's slums. Makar is...

Customer Reviews

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Poor Folks is a good place to begin your acquaintance with the great novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Russia has always had a sad history but has been enriched by great novelists such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In this fine edition of "Poor Folks and Other Stories" we see the young fledgling writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky producing a fine book. He was only 22 years of age winning plaudits for his future career by the influential literary critic Belinsky. Dostoevsky is not only a great Russian writer but one of the handful of great world authors. In such works as "Crime and Punishment"; "The Brothers Karamazov" and "The Idiot" he delved psychological depths of depravity, despair, joy and redemptive love. Some of these major themes are seen in minature in the very short novella "Poor Folk." Set in St. Petersburg's nineteenth century slums it tells the sad story of the platonic love between a middle age pathetic clerk Makar Devushkin and the much younger Barbara. This is an epistolatory novel consisting of letters between the lovers. This technique was not new. The father of the English novel Samuel Richardson used it to write such 1740s bestsellers as "Pamela" and the 1400 page "Clarissa." (Lovelace" the lover in "Clarissa" is alluded to in a letter by Makar." The story ends when the young girl weds a rich landowner. Poor Makar continues a small life of insulting fellow workers, peasant wages and despair as he sickens and weakens in a horrible hovel. The novella is unforgettable with touches of the skill of a Chekhov in limining with technicolor detail the daily life of the poor in Tsarist Russia. Three other short stories are included in the Penguin edition. "The Landlady" deals with a young intellectual's infatuation for his sexy landlady despite the hatred of that woman's husband. It is written in a fervid state with dream sequences and lots of heated dialogue. "Mr Prok-harghin" tells the story of a reclusive, eccentric boarder who is misunderstood by his fellow lodgers. There is a surpise at the end so I won't share this with the prospective reader! "Polzunkov" tells the story of a fatuous chap who gets in a romantic entanglement with his corrupt boss's daughter which comes a cropper! These stories are not the greatest ever written. They are, however, a good place to see the very early work of a great novelist. They can all be read in one or two days making them an excellent beginning for an acquaintance with Dostoyevsky's literary genius. They were written prior to Dostoyevsky's banishment for a plot against the Tsar. This horrible experience would deepen his understanding of human suffering and the durability of the human soul.

Dostoevsky's Genius apparent in this early work

What a beautiful and tragic work. I am a lifelong fan of Dostoevsky's work and this is no exception. While "The Brothers Karamazov" and "Crime and Puhishment" are his most noted achievements, and rightfully so, it is a wonder to me how much insight he had into the human condition at such an early age. This work demonstrates his understanding of the human condition: our need for love and basic necessities of life. What are these basic needs? Respect, honor, love. But these are diminished in the face of abject poverty, which are lost when basic needs cannot be met. Despite human pride and an ability to work to provide home and hearth, it is not always possible to do so. And so, in the midst of the squalor and dreariness of St. Petersberg, two souls are joined together, an aging man and a young woman, through a series of letters and brief innocent encounters . There is a deep reverence and joy in this relationship which can never be more than a desperate attempt to find warmth in the bleakest of conditions. And this is the beauty of the work. They sacrifice all they have to help each other, until at last, the final sacrifice cannot be made and their paths are determined once and for all. For those that have read Dostoevsky's great works, do not miss this one. It is a true gem.

The life of the poor is like Makar Devushkin's boots.

Dostoevsky's graphic portrayal of the struggles of the poor is set in St. Petersburg, Russia around 1840. The two main characters are Makar Devushkin, a wretched, 40ish, impoverished scribe in the Tsar's civil service, and, Verenka Alexeyevna, an intelligent, sickly, orphaned teenager. In "Poor People" the desperate struggles of that the poor are psychological laid bare. They have no safety net, no patron to keep them from tumbling over the edge of despair. Dostoevsky does not romanticize the poor. He shows their dysfunctional idiosyncracies: "Poor people are capricious - that's the way nature arranges it." Makar is an unreliable, self-deprecating, yet vain man. Throughout the story Dostoevsky makes Makar's boots an analogy of both Makar personality and his situation in life. The young, vulnerable Verenka holds on to life by a thin thread. Her sacred memories of her beautiful childhood long gone sustain her. She carries these memories as one would carry a mystical crystal, tightly clutched to her heart. Her memories are her elixirs of life. These two protagonists, though embedded in the same poverty, go different ways. One is carried by the fickleness of fate, and the other makes a desperate choice for change. I confess, to my chagrin, I have never read Dostoevsky. I was chided by a well-read friend, who, during a discussion about the world's greatest novelist, stated "You must read Dostoevsky because of his grasp of the human psyche. Dostoevsky's characters have profoundly influenced world literature." So, I chose to start with "Poor People"; it was Dostoevsky's first novel, and one of his shortest (130 pages, verses `The Brothers Karamazov' at 900+ pages). If you're going to start reading Dostoevsky then `Poor People' is a great book to commence with. You will get a glimpse of Dostoevsky's unique insight into the nature of humankind and about the extremes of life. Highly Recommended.

An excellent intro to Dostoevsky: a glimpse into a poor soul

"Poor Folk" is a brilliant piece, especially considering that it was written by a 22-year-old Dostoevsky. I don't know how he came up with such characters (none of them resemble himself, except, perhaps, Pokrovsky) or how such a young writer could possibly fathom the depths of the suffering souls he himself created. One will immediately sympathize with Makar Andreich Devushkin in his striving to please and serve his beloved Varenka and ... well I'd rather not tell you the end. The other heart-wrenching little story inside "Poor Folk" is Varenka writing about her past (it impressed me more than any other works by Dostoevsky, I have read almost all of them). Again, I won't go into details, but this very short story about Pokrovsky and his poor father will forever be embedded in my heart! I honestly couldn't contain my tears while reading it. It probably just reminded me so much of myself and my own father! But.. you will definitely enjoy the book and will become a better person, at least for a while! Also recommended: "C & P" and "The Brothers Karamazov" (both transalted by R.Pevear & L.Volokhonsky, NOT by C. Garnett!) by Dostoevsky and Lev Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina", "Master and Man", "Forged Coupon" and, of course, "War and Peace" (trnsl. by A. Maude or Leo Wiener, again, NOT by C. Garnett).

Not a conventional love story

This moving story is presented as a series of letters between two fantastically poor Russian lovers. I have never before been confronted with the reality of such poverty as was faced by the down-trodden copywriter and gracious seamstress of pre-revelutionary St Petersburg. Dostoyevsky's intimate portrait of devotion despite the constant battle of poverty charts the everyday battle for survival and dignity. He conveys with particular profundity the humiliation faced by those at the bottom of the social pile - the characters are respected by no one, and worst of all, not even by themselves. A terrible, brilliant read.

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  in A Life in Books: 9 of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Defining Works
A Life in Books: 9 of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Defining Works
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 15, 2021

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's successful first book, Poor Folk, came out 175 years ago today when the author was only 24 years old. But in a life beset by drama worthy of, say, a Russian novel, it would be many years before he produced a notable follow-up. Here we explore the literary giant’s best books and how they mirror his extraordinary life.

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