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In the World of the Outcasts

In the World of the Outcasts

Notes of a Former Penal Laborer, Volume II

By Pëtr Filippovich Iakubovich, Introduction by Andrew A. Gentes, Translated by Andrew A. Gentes

This is the first English-language translation of P. F. Iakubovich’s popular roman à clef about his exile and experiences as a Siberian penal laborer during the late nineteenth century.

Paperback, 298 Pages

ISBN:9781783084180

January 2015

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

Pëtr F. Iakubovich was born in Novgorod Province to a noble family in 1860, during a period of upheaval in Russia called the Great Reforms. In 1884, he was arrested and convicted as a member of the terrorist organization the People’s Will. Iakubovich spent five years at a Siberian penal labor prison, followed by several more as a forced settler in Tobolsk Province. He began writing about his experiences while still in prison. The book he eventually produced is a quasi-fictionalized memoir loosely modeled on Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from a Dead House.”

Iakubovich represents himself through his protagonist Ivan Nikolaevich. For most of Volume One, Ivan Nikolaevich must deal, as an imprisoned nobleman, with a population largely comprised of violent criminals. As commoners, these are people with whom he barely interacted in his earlier life, but he is now living cheek-by-jowl with them. His conflicts and faux pas with Buzzy, Goncharov, the cousins Burenkov et al. are by turns comic and dreadful. Ivan Nikolaevich nevertheless manages to befriend several and to learn their life stories. Iakubovich uses these character vignettes to cast light on Imperial Russia’s underclass. Though his circumstances do not afford the privileges he previously enjoyed, Ivan Nikolaevich does enjoy unusual access to the lonely and jaded prison commandant, Luchezarov—better known to prisoners as “Six-Eyes.” But despite his verbal jousts with Luchezarov, Ivan Nikolaevich finds himself contemplating suicide.

Volume Two begins with the arrival at the prison of two fellow revolutionaries—Dmitrii Shteinhart and Valerian Bashurov. Ivan Nikolaevich is overjoyed to find himself with like-minded compatriots, and the three self-styled reformers take it upon themselves to undermine Luchezarov’s increasingly despotic management and to improve conditions for all the prisoners. Several conflicts emerge, and Iakubovich uses these to both parody and indict the penal justice system and Russian bureaucracy. Finally, Luchezarov is forced from office and the prison regime he installed is condemned by a superior. Soon after, Ivan Nikolaevich leaves prison for forced settlement. This much briefer section of the work concerns his difficulty in readjusting to life outside prison and his joy at being joined by his sister (in real life, she was Iakubovich’s fiancée). The book ends with a melancholy reflection on the human destruction wrought by the tsarist penal system. 

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Author Information

Pëtr F. Iakubovich was a Russian dissident imprisoned in the late nineteenth century.

Andrew A. Gentes is an historian and translator who lives with his wife in New Hampshire.

Series

Anthem Series on Russian

East European and Eurasian Studies

Table of Contents

 

Characters; WITH COMRADES: In the Mining Smithy; Desired Guests; Shteinhart’s Story; Starting Over; The “Stolen” Manifesto; A Stand-Off; Heroes of the New Group, Pronia’s Discovery; The Misunderstandings Continue, Six-Eyes’s Intervention; A Story out of “Rocambole”; Farewells; Anxieties of a Different Sort; Triumph of a Lady Politician; Life Returns to Its Usual Rut; “Ataman Storm” and the Beginning of His Career; A Steep Fall; Shelai’s Renown, Passion for a Writer, Convict Dreamers; Nightmares; Day-Dream; End of the Shelai “Model Prison”; MARE ON THE ROAD; AMONG THE HILLS; EPILOGUE; From the Author (“Postscriptum”); Notes

 

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