The Landlady (1847) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A fascinating, evocative short story written by Dostoyevsky early in his career. I really liked the more Gothic and supernatural elements; perhaps it’s because I recently finished “The Idiot” that I felt I could do with a story less painfully real and true-to-life! I lack the cultural background to understand the ways Dostoeyevsky drew on Russian folklore with this story, but I very much enjoyed that folkloric atmosphere the story had anyway.

The characters are more thinly sketched than they’d have been in an actual novel, but the main three (Ordynov, Katerina, Murin) make a strong impression. The story itself felt inconsistent to me. I liked the premise and the more atmospheric set-up of the first half or so, but felt the ending too abstract and inconclusive to really satisfy me. I greatly enjoyed the sort of delirious dream sequences (if that’s indeed what they were), but the ending felt sort of thematically neutered to me. I’m unsure what to really take away from the story, if indeed there was any didactic lesson or thematic exploration to draw from, anything like that.

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While it lacks a lot of what I particularly like about Dostoyevsky, “The Landlady” is still an enjoyable, strange little story. I give it three mysterious texts, and a new lodger.

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