Travels from Dostoevsky’s Siberia: Encounters with Polish Literary Exiles

Travels from Dostoevsky’s Siberia: Encounters with Polish Literary Exiles

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Edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Blake

Series: Studies in Comparative Literatures and Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781644690215 (hardback) / 9781644690222 (paper)
Pages: 226 pp.; 2 illus.
Publication Date: June 2019

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Translations in Travels from Dostoevsky's Siberia, gathered from archives and appearing in English for the first time, offer a fresh look at Dostoevsky's House of the Dead from the perspective of his fellow inmates and Siberians who were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled by the regime of Nicholas I. Drawing on archival resources and illustrations, introductory essays immerse the reader in the experience of the political prisoners who must navigate the criminal environment of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by negotiating with inmates and authorities alike. These eyewitness accounts introduce the reader to Dostoevsky's unfortunates—condemned to share his experience of Russia's carceral system with its interrogations, denunciations, and hostile spaces—whose psychoses become the writer's obsession in his celebrated crime novels.

Elizabeth Blake is an assistant professor of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Saint Louis University and author of Dostoevsky and the Catholic Underground (Northwestern University Press, 2014). Her articles on Fedor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, and Polish exiles have appeared in Dostoevsky Studies, Slavic and East European Journal, Polish Review, and edited collections.


Elizabeth Blake’s impressive knowledge of Dostoevsky, her translations of Boguslawski, Zaleski, and Piotrowski, and her meticulously researched essays combine to vastly enrich our understanding of the mid-nineteenth century experience of Siberian incarceration and exile while bringing into sharp, often disturbing focus the debated and contested subject of Dostoevsky and the Poles. Blake highlights how these memoirs foreshadow future insights of Foucault and Solzhenitsyn on penal systems and practices. The prison fortress, whether Dostoevsky’s ‘dead house,’ Boguslawski’s ‘grave of the living’ or Zaleski’s ‘living grave’ embodies the dreadful fear of being forgotten in a grave occupied by unfortunates who have been buried alive.
— Robin Feuer Miller, Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities, Brandeis University
Polish resistance to Russian occupation was a recurring thorn in the tsarist empire’s Western-most side—and supplied the Siberian exile system with generations of articulate, well-educated prisoners. In this illuminating triad of memoirs, Elizabeth Blake supplements her path-breaking Dostoevsky and the Catholic Underground (2014) with accounts by three Polish political activists and writers who shared Dostoevsky’s fate at mid-century, but did not fictionalize it. A courageous, strikingly dry-eyed contribution to witness literature.
— Caryl Emerson, A. Watson Armour III University Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University

Table of Contents

A Note on the Text


1. A Siberian Memoir about the Dead House
A Few Words on Józef Bogusławski
A Siberian Memoir by Józef Bogusławski

2. Omsk Affairs
An Introduction to Rufin Piotrowski
“Arrival in Omsk” from Memoirs from a Sojourn in Siberia
“The Martyrdom of Prior Sierocinski”

3. Beyond Omsk
Notes on the Lives of Bronisław Zaleski and Edward Żeligowski
“Polish Exiles in Orenburg”
Correspondence about the Petrashevsky Affair