The last and crowning work of Dostoevskys life, The Brothers Karamazov, first appeared as a serial in Russky Vistnik, a Moscow magazine, during 1879-1880. Written under circumstances of severe external and internal pressure, each installment created a national furore comparable only to the excitement stirred by the appearance, in 1866, of Crime and Punishment. To Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov embodied the quintessence of Russian character, in all its exaltation, compassion and profligacy. Readers in every language have since accepted his own evaluation of this work and have gone even further by proclaiming it one of the few great novels of all ages and countries.
The son of a penurious army surgeon, Dostoevsky was educated as a military engineer. After his fathers death, he relinquished whatever career he might have attained in government service for the hazards of literature. His very first work, a short novel, Poor Folk, was immediately acclaimed and Dostoevsky found himself famous overnight. While attending a meeting of his literary and revolutionary colleagues as a spectator, he was arrested by czarist police and was condemned to death. A few moments before the time for the execution, word came that he was reprieved and was to be banished to Siberia for four years. After his period of exile, he was to serve for life in the ranks of the army. The famous Ten Years in a Dead House was written in Siberia. With the accession of Alexander II, Dostoevsky was pardoned and he was able to return to a civilian status. There followed the succession of novels which have made him known everywhere. In spite of his position as a man of letters, he suffered the worst hardships of economic insecurity. In addition, frequent attacks of epilepsy and the effects of his years in prison left him a crushed man. His last years were darkened by brooding sorrow. He withdrew from literary circles, became reactionary and embittered. Yet his popularity was then at its Zenith. His death was the occasion for national mourning, and in the years that followed he became almost a legendary hero to the Russian masses as the poet of their sufferings and aspirations. A revolutionary generation may look upon Dostoevsky as defeatist, but it ungrudgingly proclaims him one of the titans of the worlds literature.