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With their penetrating psychological insight and their emphasis on human dignity, respect and forgiveness, Dostoyevsky's early short stories contain the seeds of the themes that came to his major novels. Poor Folk, the author's first great literary triumph, is the story of a tragic relationship between an impoverished copy clerk and a young seamstress, told through their passionate letters to each other. In The Landlady Dostoyevsky portrays a dreamer hero who is captivated by a curious couple and becomes their lodger. Mr Prokharchin, inspired by a true story, is a sly comedy centring on an eccentric miser, and Polzunkov is a powerful character sketch which, in common with the other tales in this volume, questions the very nature of existence.

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