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Editorial Reviews

A harrowing story of forced servitude and deprivation in a Siberian penal institution, The House of the Dead draws heavily on the author’s own experience in such a prison camp. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fact-based fiction portrays wanton destruction of human life, the brutality of sadistic prison guards, and the cruelty visited on one another by fellow inmates. In his sober, lucid baritone, performer Walter Covell is at turns dour, dismayed, and redemptive as he relives protagonist Aleksandr Goryanchikov’s torturous confinement. Amid these dire circumstances, Goryanchikov undergoes a spiritual transformation, finding hope in the kindness he observes in a handful of inmates.

Publisher's Summary

The House of the Dead was published in 1862 by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is very different from Dostoevsky's more famous and intricately plotted novels, like Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

The book is a loosely-knit collection of facts and events connected to life in a Siberian prison, organized by "theme" rather than as a continuous story. Dostoevsky himself spent four years as a political prisoner in such a camp. This experience allowed him to describe with great authenticity the conditions of prison life and the characters of the convicts. Thus, though presented as a work of fiction, The House of the Dead is actually a thinly veiled autobiography of one portion of the author's life.

Although not Dostoevsky's greatest work, The House of the Dead is still a fascinating portrait of life in a Siberian prison camp - a life of great hardship and deprivation, yet filled with simple moments of humanity showing mankind's ability to adapt and survive in the most extreme of circumstances.

Dostoevsky tells his story in a chronological order, from his character's arrival and his sense of alienation to his gradual adjustment to prison and the return of hope as he realises that he can survive and will have a life after the completion of his term. The book is universally acknowledged as a classic and is a fascinating story, especially for those familiar with Dostoevsky and his other works.

(P)1986 Jimcin Recordings

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  • Overall

In the Prison House

Dostoyevsky imparts his experiences from a Siberian prison camp, and during this narrative, we find out again why this writer is regarded as the best in fiction. Through his techniques in presentation and methods of characterization, Dostoyevsky delivers another great read.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Deborah
  • Bronx, NY, United States
  • 01-04-12

Very low quality audio

The audio quality of this book was so bad, I could not listen to it. I gave the Story 3 stars only because I had to put something in there so I could write this review.

I've read Dostoevsky before and loved his writing. This book may be equally as good, but I would never know.

I'm going to see if I could find this book with a different narrator. I suggest you do the same!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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The audio is absurdly bad

The audio is almost like it's TRYING to be lo-fi. The narrator's voice is great, but it's like listening to it through mud. Get a different version, even if it costs more.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The House of the Dead Indeed

As it is famously known, Dostoyevsky spent a long time in exile, in Siberia. There he encountered many criminals on every point of the spectrum. This book is the first he wrote as he returned. Although he masks the main character as "not himself" they are all memories and an attempt to capture what life behind bars really was like. The book is overall depressing, perfect for a gray,cold day.
The audiobook is wonderful. I loved this narration most and it's a pleasure to listen to it. Because it's recorded in the '60s and sounds like an Orson Welles kind of podcast, the age to its recording somehow adds a layer of "time travel" when listening to this. It feels distant in a way that seems appropriate for a Dostoyevsky. I wish I knew who the translator was, as it is not indicated in the description.
I highly recommend this audiobook!

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LITERARY GENIUS

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writing and psychological insight seduces admirers into reading or listening to his lesser known works. Seduction comes from wanting to know the source of Dostoevsky’s human insight and literary genius.

Dostoevsky spent time in a Siberian prison, was scheduled for execution by firing squad, received a last-minute reprieve, suffered from a gambling addiction, and lived to write two of the greatest masterpieces of all time, “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamazov”. Long before Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind, Dostoevsky understood and wrote about subconscious human motivation. (He also wrote a lesser known work, “The Idiot”, that rivals his masterpieces in character development.)

Prison is sometimes home to the innocent that are victimized by life because of their pacific nature. The innocents seek to please everyone. They are like Prince Myskin in “The Idiot”, or Alyosha in “The Brothers Karmazov”. These innocents are drawn to violent or dominant characters, either as supplicants or enablers. The Prince Myskins become servants to intellectuals in the prison. The Alyoshas are the intellectuals, the aristocrats, the educated, the wise men; in some respects the enablers, that are sought by the insecure for advice, guidance, knowledge, or forgiveness.

“The House of the Dead” is not a well written book but it is a useful primer on character development in literature. It shows that great writers develop over time and that their development is based on experience recollected, and disciplined observation in quietude; i.e. in prisons of their own making.

  • Overall

challenging narration

i am a huge dostoevsky fan, but i doubt that i will be able to make it through this version of "house of the dead" thanks to the narrator.
it is not my favorite book, but is actually difficult to listen to because i find the narrator's voice so grating.

6 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Jenkins
  • 04-07-13

The House of the Dead is alive with stunning prose

The story of a 19th centuary prison in Siberia where the author actually served a sentance. Although not an autobiography the auther certainly draws on his first hand experience to discribe the life of the prison and particularly its inmates. Many facinating portraits of a wide variety of personalities set against a rather horrible set of living conditions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful