Here’s one of Dostoyevsky’s lesser known works from 1859. Село Степанчиково и его обитатели (Selo Stepanchikovo i ego obitateli) is a novella type deal.
Some refer to it as The Friend of the Family. It differs somewhat from the likes of Notes From Underground as it’s more comical in its approach. A Dostoyevsky comedy? Cripes.
The Village of Stepanchikovo
Meet your narrator, Sergey Alexandrovich. He’s off to St. Petersburg to visit his uncle, Colonel Yegor Ilyich Rostanev.
Upon arriving, he comes across a charlatan by the name of Foma Fomich Opiskin.
This individual is a swindler who’s doing over those around him. Noblemen, basically. By pretending to be virtuous and whatnot he’s putting himself in good stead.
That’s despite being a total bastard in reality.
Meanwhile, the narrator is ordered to marry the peasant Nastenka. What comes to pass is a love triangle of sorts, with Opiskin screwing around with marriage plans seemingly out of Machiavellian delight.
And… that’s your novella! A detailed character study, as always, from that master of psychology Dostoyevsky.
However, you’ll note the witty repartee and other interactions between the characters—it was no surprise to learn this work was intended to be a play.
However, it became a novella instead. And is, arguably, one of the works anyone new to the writer should begin with.
It’s sharp, lively, and accessible. And Dostoyevsky was pretty pleased with it, too. He wrote in a letter:
"There are scenes of high comedy that Gogol would have signed without hesitation."
He handed his manuscript over to Russian culture magazine The Contemporary—its editor, Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov, was not at all impressed with the work.
And he declared that Dostoyevsky was “finished”! The bloody nerve of him.
Anyway, we enjoyed it. If you view The Village of Stepanchikovo as an acrid farce, and head in with such a frame of mind, you’ll enjoy this.
But don’t expect something of the same momentous weight as Crime and Punishment. This is of a much lighter tone.
One of the most famous writers in history, even non-readers (those buffoons) know of the man, myth, and legend.
However, his books aren’t the most accessible. Crammed with much pathos and profundity, some of his works are quite difficult to get through.
We do recommend him, though, as he was a mighty fine writer. A genius, no doubt.
And hopefully the above video will nudge you in his direction. Eh?