The civil servant Ivan Matveich and his wife Yelena Ivanovna are spectators of an exhibition – in a shopping arcade – of a crocodile owned by a German, when Ivan is suddenly swallowed alive by the animal. Unsuccessful in his attempts to be freed from his prison, due to the German’s concern for his crocodile and excessive desire for compensation, the civil servant gradually comes to appreciate his new environment, while his wife begins to enjoy her new-found freedom.
Inspired by Gogol’s surreal tales, Dostoevsky’s hilarious story has been interpreted by some as a vitriolic piece of social criticism and a veiled attack on the revolutionary philosopher Nikolai Chernyshevsky.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81) is considered one of the greatest writers of all time. His works include such seminal novels as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Karamazov Brothers.