November 16 in Literary History: Dostoevsky Sentenced to Death

The most significant events in the history of books on the 16th of November

1849: Fyodor Dostoevsky is sentenced to death for anti-government activities. At the last moment, the death sentence was commuted to four years’ hard labour and exile at a prison camp at Omsk, Siberia, followed by enforced military service. He will go on to become one of the leading Russian novelists of the nineteenth century, along with Leo Tolstoy.

1930: Chinua Achebe is born. This Nigerian novelist was given the name Albert at birth – after Prince Albert, the Chinua Achebeconsort of Queen Victoria, Achebe later shed the colonial associations of his given name by giving it back: he adopted the forename Chinua from a line of Nigerian prayer. His most famous novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), took its title from W. B. Yeats’s poem ‘The Second Coming’. He is also known for his impassioned criticism of Joseph Conrad as a ‘bloody racist’, especially for Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness.

1939: Michael Billington is born. He is a famous theatre critic and reviewer – indeed, he is Britain’s longest-serving theatre critic. He also wrote the authorised biography of playwright Harold Pinter.

1948: Bonnie Greer is born. This American-British playwright and novelist was President of the Brontë Society from 2011 until 2015. In 2011 she published a biography of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. She is also an active tweeter and can be followed on Twitter @Bonn1eGreer.

Image: Chinua Achebe speaking at Asbury Hall, Buffalo, as part of the ‘Babel: Season 2’ series by Just Buffalo Literary Center, Hallwalls, & the International Institute; by Stuart C. Shapiro in 2008; Wikimedia Commons.

3 thoughts on “November 16 in Literary History: Dostoevsky Sentenced to Death”

  1. One more to add. On this day, Sir Charles Grandison and Harriet Byron, the main characters in Samuel Richardson’s novel Sir Charles Grandison (1753-1754) were married. Of course, Richardson is better known for his other two novels, Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748).


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