Long ago I read the major novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. All in the translations of Constance Garnett. I was recently kindly given an advance review copy of the forthcoming next year translation of Notes from a Dead House, done by the award winning team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Richard Pevear in his concise and interesting introduction tells us Tolstoy considered Notes from a Dead House Dostoevsky's best work. It was first partially serialized and was a great success when published in full in 1862. Dostoevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison colony for his involvement with a banned politcal group. Notes from a Dead House is based loosely on the years Dostoevsky spent in Siberia but it is a work of fiction, not a pure memoir.
The narrator of the novel received a sentence of ten years in a Siberian prison colony for the murder of his wife. In a funny note, Pevear tells us people often were in later years to ask Dostoevsky why he murdered his wife!
The book is strutured as an account of the narrator, a nobleman, getting used to life in prison,learning the routines and getting to know the many different types of inmates and guards. Some of the guards were decent acting and a few were sadists. Most everyone had a scam to make money for Vodka or better food. Every chapter is about a different aspect of prison life or focues on a particular inmate. The detail is fascinsting. The psychological penetration of Dostoevsky has very few equals.
I am very glad I read this book and I am sure it will be very welcomed by all Anglophone readers of Russian literture.