1846, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s published first novel “Poor Folk”
Poor Folk Novel
Poor Folk, sometimes translated as Poor People, is the first novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, written over the span of nine months between 1844 and 1845.
Dostoevsky was in financial difficulty because of his extravagant lifestyle and his developing gambling addiction; although he had produced some translations of foreign novels, they had little success, and he decided to write a novel of his own to try to raise funds.
Inspired by the works of Gogol, Pushkin, and Karamzin, as well as English and French authors, novel is written in the form of letters between the two main characters, Makar Devushkin and Varvara Dobroselova, who are poor third cousins twice removed.
The novel showcases the life of poor people, their relationship with rich people, and poverty in general, all common themes of literary naturalism. A deep but odd friendship develops between them until Dobroselova loses her interest in literature, and later in communicating with Devushkin after a rich widower Mr. Bykov proposes to her. Devushkin, a prototype of the clerk found in many works of naturalistic literature at that time, retains his sentimental characteristics; Dobroselova abandons art, while Devushkin cannot live without literature.
The novel became a huge success nationwide. Parts of it have been translated into German by Wilhelm Wolfsohn and published in an 1846/1847 magazine. The first English translation was provided by Lena Milman in 1894, with an introduction by George Moore, cover art design by Aubrey Beardsley and publication by London’s Mathews and Lane.
Makar Alekseyevich Devushkin (Макар Алексеевич Девушкин) – the protagonist of Poor Folk is a shy, poor and lonely forty-seven-year-old clerk and copyist. He has been compared to other clerks from the “natural school” such as “The Overcoat”‘s Akaky Akakievich.
Varvara Alekseyevna Dobroselova (Варвара Алексеевна Добросёлова) – lives in similar conditions as Devushkin. Her decision to live with the unscrupulous Mr. Bykov makes her an outsider, not typical of sentimental novels; unlike the heroine in Samuel Richardson’s 1748 novel Clarissa, she chooses the materialistic path and loses her interest in literature.
Mr. Bykov (Быков) – an old, rich, brutal widower. Successfully proposes to Dobroselova at the end. His name derives from byk, meaning bull, symbolizing sexual power and lust.
The following is a list of English versions of Poor Folk
- 1894, by Lena Milman
- 1900, by Thomas Seltzer
- 1915 – Poor Folk and the Gambler, by C. J. Hogarth
- 1956, by Lev Navrozov
- 1968 – Poor People, and A Little Hero, by David Magarshack
- 1982, by Robert Dessaix
- 2002, by Hugh A. Aplin
- 2007, by Constance Garnett
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. Dostoevsky’s literary works explore the human condition in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes.
He is a famous Russian novelist from the Golden Age of Russian literature. His most acclaimed novels include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).
Dostoevsky’s body of works consists of 12 novels, four novellas, 16 short stories, and numerous other works. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest novelists in all of world literature, as multiple of his works are considered highly influential masterpieces.
His 1864 novella Notes from Underground consider to be one of the first works of existentialist literature; this result in Dostoevsky being looked upon as both a philosopher and theologian as well.
He was born on November 11, 182, in Moscow, Moskovsky Uyezd, Moscow Governorate, and died on February 09, 1881, at the age of 59 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire.