There are a few works of realism that I enjoy. The majority of the movement is too slow and descriptive for my taste, going into too many details to describe what looks like a simple event and interaction. However, I have enjoyed reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, as well as Brothers Karamazov and it is easy to see what he was going for, as well as the reasons he achieved fame.
So, let us discuss a little bit about this psychologist with an insight into the human mind, the gambling addict who nearly lost all his works because of his compulsion, and one of the greatest book authors in history – Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.
While coming from nobility, Dostoyevsky sympathized with the poor. This came from his childhood when he socialized with the children treated in the Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor, where his father worked. Since the financially-challenged were at the bottom of the social scale, Fyodor learned quickly about the different outlook on life between social castes, which is one of the strongest influences on his writing and political perspective.
In 1837, when he was just 16, his mother succumbed to tuberculosis. His father died a few years later. Just before the death of his mother, he and his brother were both sent to the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute, though it quickly became apparent that working and living in the military was not his calling.
In addition to his writing career, Dostoyevsky battled both internal and external demons. There was his addiction to gambling that forced him to increase his workload to meet the deadlines for the books he was supposed to write. Regardless of how much money he earned, he would often repay his debts before pawning his possessions again and asking his wife (he was married twice) for additional funds. It is speculated that he had a pathological need for gambling that was triggered by the deaths of his family members, including his brother and two of his four children, the constant pressure from his parents to maintain a certain social status, and finally his health, which of itself was a constant gamble with epilepsy among other issues.
His second wife, Anna Grigoryevna Dostoevskaya, nee Snitkina, was already familiar with his gambling problem. She was actually hired by Dostoyevsky as a stenographer that helped him finish writing The Gambler before the deadline that would otherwise destroy him. Namely, Fyodor Dostoyevsky made a deal with the devil in the form of Fyodor Stellovsky, who would receive the right to sell Dostoyevsky’s work for 9 years without compensating him at all if he failed to make the deadline. Luckily, he made it just in time. He and Anna worked tirelessly for thirty days to make it happen.
The writer often tackled many social and individual issues in his books and stories. He often talked about poverty, social status, manipulation, and trying to survive in such an environment. Crime and Punishment, for example, has a strong motif of morality, with things like money-lending and murder in the mix. On the other hand, Brothers Karamazov talks about family affairs, the father-son relationship, and the social status of those that are entitled to it, but are also denied access to it.
He was often criticized that his books were not so much about art, but more of psychology and morality and, indeed, that was mainly what he was going for. His characters were often described as incapable of acting independently and his writing as needlessly wordy. The irony here is that his critics compared him to E. T. A. Hoffmann, who was one of many writers that Dostoyevsky looked up to.