Bio: The son of a doctor, Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in on October 30 [November 11], 1821 in Moscow. In 1837 he moved to St. Petersburg to attend the Military Engineering School with his brother. Inspired by figures such as Schiller, Pushkin, and Sir Walter Scott, Dostoevsky was more interested in literature than engineering, however, and a year after his graduation in 1843, he resigned his commission and devoted himself to writing. His first published work was a translation of Balzac's Eugénie Grandet (1844). He went on to write an epistolary novel entitled Poor Folk (1846), a treatment of the urban poor in which naturalistic descriptions are punctuated by moments of effusive sentiment. The novel was acclaimed by one of Russia's foremost "progressive" critics, Vissarion Belinsky. The critics, however, disapproved of Dostoevsky's second novel, The Double (1846), which explored a clerk's growing paranoia about the appearance of an identical double in his world; it was perceived as a poor copy of Nikolai Gogol's work. During the late 1840s, Dostoevsky was attracted to the ideas of French Utopian Socialism, and he joined a group to discuss and disseminate these ideas. In 1849, Dostoevsky and the other members of the group were arrested, and he was sentenced to 4 years of penal servitude and 4 years in the ranks as a private in the army. Dostoevsky, however, was led to believe that he was to be executed, and it was only on the execution ground itself that the true sentence was revealed.
The years Dostoevsky spent in the penal colony in Omsk were perhaps the most difficult of his life. He emerged from the experience disillusioned with his earlier socialist views; he now had a deeper appreciation of the unfathomable and irrational elements in the human psyche. A fictional account of this experience is recorded in Notes from the House of the Dead (1860-62). Dostoevsky was now convinced that only by following the teachings of Christ would humanity find happiness, but he realized that Christ's teachings were nearly impossible for egocentric humans to adopt. He offered a seminal examination of the themes of reason and free will in his Notes from the Underground (1964), a work that had profound influence on later generations of writers and thinkers. He then went on to create one of his most haunting novels, Crime and Punishment (1866), surely one of the great works of world literature. In subsequent years, Dostoevsky wrote a series of novels in which he explored both the social ills threatening Russian society and the unfathomable depths of the human soul. These novels include The Idiot (1868), The Devils (1871-72), and A Raw Youth (1875). The culmination of Dostoevsky's career was reached in his greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80), a work that utilizes a dense network of recurring images and ideas to illustrate in profoundly human terms the incessant battle between divine and demonic forces. After giving a triumphal speech on the occasion of the unveiling of a monument to Alexander Pushkin in 1880, Dostoevsky died early in 1881.