Yesterday, November 15, was an important day set aside to commemorate Day of the Imprisoned Writer. We should never forget those writers who have been jailed or killed for bravely voicing their opinions or for putting into words what so many of us have trouble vocalizing.
An interesting fact to know is that on today’s date, just one day after Day of the Imprisoned Writer, and exactly one-hundred and sixty-three years ago, another now famous author was being sentenced to death. Perhaps he is most well-known for his amazing works: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. He is none other than the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky!
So what was Dostoyevsky up to in the fall of 1849 which nearly cost him his life and almost prevented him from writing some of the greatest classics in literature today? Well, the young, then twenty-eight year old, Dostoyevsky had become involved in a progressive group of intellectuals called the Petrashevsky Circle which gathered to discuss Western Philosophy.
Eventually, when perceived as a revolutionary threat by the government, all the members of the group were arrested and imprisoned. Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death and nearly a month later was led before a firing squad to have the sentence carried out. But here comes the awesome twist: at the very last minute, he was granted a reprieve and sent instead to a Siberian labor camp for five years. The best part of this story is that his five years in the horrible conditions of the prison camp gave him the inspiration and first-hand knowledge to write one of his most renowned novels: Crime and Punishment.
Many times the biggest piece of advice given to aspiring writers is to “write what you know.” This doesn’t always work out for everyone, but in Dostoyevsky’s case it worked brilliantly. Dostoyevsky went into the labor camp a struggling writer trying to find a medium for his radical thoughts, and emerged to become one of the greatest psychological writers in the world.