Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a Russian writer, best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, Idiot and Brothers Karamazov. Today he is thought to be one of the most important figures of Russian literature, but he had to go through numerous struggles to earn the recognition of the public at the time. Furthermore, a number of events in his life shaped both his career and the characters of his books, thus knowing some of these facts could help you better understand his work.
He was introduced to literature when he was a child
Dostoyevsky’s parents were wealthy, thus were able to employ a nanny to take care of him since he was three. She read him a great number of fairy tales and heroic sagas, thus had a big influence on his future interest towards fictional stories. Furthermore, when he was only four years old, his mother used the Bible to teach him to read and write. When he got a bit older, his parents introduced him to serious literature, including prominent Russian writers such as Pushkin, as well as international icons like Homer and Goethe.
He was epileptic
Dostoevsky first started showing symptoms of epilepsy when he joined the military school. The seizures got worse over the years and were one of the causes of his eventual death at the age of 59. His epilepsy got an interest of a wide range of scientists, who attempted to classify it on the basis of his bibliography. That was possible because he featured his illness in a great number of his books, most notably in the leading character of The Idiot, Lev Myshkin. Freud also studied Dostoyevsky’s illness and wrote a comprehensive essay about it. He believed that his epilepsy wasn’t organic, but a psychological effect of his neurosis and hysteria.
He wrote books to pay off his gambling debts
We all know Dostoevsky as a highly intelligent man way ahead of his time. Thus, the fact that he was addicted to gambling might be surprising for many. His addiction followed him throughout his life and it was where he invested most of the earnings from his books. As a matter of fact, he entered a peculiar contract with his publisher in 1867. The contract stated that if he doesn’t succeed to publish a novel during the next month, his publisher will get rights for all his previously published work. Due to this perilous contract, he put all of his other work aside, together with what would later be known as Crime and Punishment. His risk paid off, as he succeeded to complete an entire novel in only 26 days. He used the gambling addiction, that caused him to accept this contract in the first place, as the sole inspiration for the novel, known as The Gambler.
He got a death sentence
After he published his first novel at the age of 25, Dostoyevski joined a controversial literary club called the Petrashevsky Circle. The group was mainly dedicated to social reform, however, the country officials of the time didn’t approve their ideas. The group was also accused of conspiring against the Tsar Nicolas I. To set an example for others, Nicolas I. arranged an execution for everyone that participated in the group. However, just a few moments before the firing squad was ready to shoot, he called off his order. Instead, he sent them to a Siberian labor camp for ten years. Dostoyevski didn’t write anything during his sentence, but it was a huge inspiration for his future novels.
He tutored the emperor’s sons
As you already know, Dostoyevski wasn’t really inTsar Nicola’s favor, but his successor was a whole different story. Once Fyodor returned from one of his journeys in Europe, Tsar Alexander II invited him to read one of his novels at his palace. He was pleased with the presentation, and from that day on Dostoyevski regularly tutored the emperor’s sons in various fields. This was a big step forward in his career, as he got connected to many important figures of the time. And that, in the end, helped him to advance his writing career exponentially in the future.