Dostoevsky's faseination for mental breakdown and violence (20 murders in his four main novels) was based on his own life,and these two unmistakably autobiographical works bear this out.
The House of the Dead is fiction, but based on his four years in a Siberian prison. An educated upper-class man is condemned to live among criminals and brutal guards, with arbitrary punishments, lousy food, disgusting living conditions, hard toil and many floggings. Somehow he avoids bitterness and recrimination; faith in hummanity survives. With its breadth of characterisation, acute sense of detail and strong narrative interest, this work can still shock, entertain and inspire.
In The Gambler we sec the Russian community in a German spa town. Drawn to the casino , Alexey becomes obsessed with roulette. In a gripping story, full off psychological interest, his growing mania eclipses even his interest in Polina, a heroine of demonic and vibrant sewuality. Dostoevsky himself was reseued from a similar gambling obsesion by the young stenographer who took down this work at his dictation and mairred him soon afterwards.