“The Grand Inquisitor”
Originally appearing as a chapter in the novel The Brothers Karamazov, “The Grand Inquisitor” was later published as a piece of short fiction capable of standing alone on its own. This work is an example of a story-within-a-story in which Jesus has returned to Earth during the era of the Spanish Inquisition and meets with the Grand Inquisitor after being arrested. Jesus learns he is obsolete as the Church has now joined forces with Satan.
The Heavenly Christmas Tree
A young street urchin freezes to death the night before Christmas only to awaken in the middle of a Christmas tree celebration. He is hugged and welcomed by other children who lead him down a path toward the tree at which waits his mother who had previously died.
An unidentified narrator recalls his nights of loneliness and alienation in St. Petersburg and how he met a young woman with whom he fell in love. The love remains one-sided, however, as the woman cannot get past losing the man she really loves and they are ultimately reunited. The simple framework has allowed this to become one of the most adaptable of all of Dostoevsky’s tales.
Dream of a Ridiculous Man
Another lonely man in St. Petersburg meets another young woman. Actually, a young girl whom he shuns at her moment of need. He goes home with the intent of shooting himself to death but before then he slips into the netherworld of dreams. In this dream world, the act of suicide is successfully undertaken but only succeeds in transporting him to worlds where anguish and nihilism are defied by his guilt over his treatment of the needy young girl. He awakens with the intent of atoning forever for that single act of unkindness.
One of the most absurd pieces of short fiction in the Dostoevsky canon. A man and woman are visiting an exhibit at which a crocodile is on display. The man makes the mistake of teasing the animal and pays the price for his ignorance: he is swallowed whole. Rather that dying, however, he remains very much alive and commits to trying to carry out his job as a civil servant as efficiently as possible while living inside the surprisingly comfortable environs inside the crocodile.
A Gentle Creature
The story of a pawnshop that is frequented by a young woman. Eventually the young woman and the pawnbroker marry, quarrel and begin sleeping in separate beds. After the woman falls ill and recovers, the pawnbroker swears he has changed and promises to become a better man. Shortly thereafter, his wife commits suicide by defenestration.
A Nasty Story
Two civil servants get to drinking and one of them announces he is going to embrace a philosophy of extending kindness and care to the less fortunate. To put his philosophical desire to the test, he crashes the wedding of a subordinate at his place of work and proceeds to make an utterly fool of himself that not only ends without those below him expressing admiration for his care and kindness towards them, but also places his drunken, passed-out self into the only available place for dumping: the nuptial couch.