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Letters to the Editor |

Familial Neuro-oromotor Dysfunction Syndrome With Dysmorphia in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Eric Altschuler, MD, PhD
Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003;129(12):1357. doi:10.1001/archotol.129.12.1357-a.
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I have noticed a discussion of a familial neuro-oromotor dysfunction syndrome with dsymorphia in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's (1821-1880) classic novel Crime and Punishment (1866) (part I, chapter 2), ". . . Kapernaumov's lame, and he suffers from a speech disorder, like the numerous members of his family. His wife has a speech disorder too. . . ."1(p24-25) The condition of the Kapernaumovs is discussed further in part IV, chapter 4: ". . . He [Kapernaumov] has a stammer, and he's lame too. His wife's that way, as well. . . . She hasn't actually got a stammer, but she can't get her words out properly. She's kind, very. And he's a former house-serf. The've got seven children. . . . Only the eldest one has a stammer, and the others are simply ill . . . and they don't stammer. . . ."1(p377) The exact nature of the malady of the Kapernaumovs cannot be discerned, but Dostoyevsky clearly seems to be describing a nontrivial neuro-oromotor dysfunction syndrome, also disfiguring, with a familial component to its etiology.

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