Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 32

Khlestakov in Wiesbaden

Dostoevsky was again eager to travel abroad because it was there that he could hope to meet his ex-mistress Apollinaria Suslova, the young feminist writer who had never been entirely out of his mind during the past two years and with whom he had carried on a secret correspondence even as his wife was dying. Suslova had remained in Europe when Dostoevsky returned to Russia, and letters between the pair constantly went back and forth. Unfortunately, all of this correspondence has been lost (except for the draft of one letter preserved in Suslova's diary). That Dostoevsky still dreamed of renewing his relations with Suslova is evident from a letter he sent her younger sister, Nadezhda (who later became a close friend of Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya). Nadezhda Suslova was then pursuing her medical studies in Zurich, and since Apollinaria, living in Montpellier, was to join her there, Dostoevsky wrote letters to both addresses.

Nadezhda herself, whom Dostoevsky admired and often visited in Petersburg, had criticized him harshly for his supposed ill treatment of her sister; and he appeals to Nadezhda's firsthand knowledge of his character to counter the damaging effect of Apollinaria's complaints. For the past several years, he reminds her, “I have come to seek in your company some peace for my soul during all the times of trial, and recently it was only to you that I came when my heart was too full of grief. You have seen me in my sincerest moments and you can judge: do I feed on the sufferings of others, am I brutal, (inwardly), am I cruel?” 1 Apollinaria, he tells her sister, is herself “a great egoist. Her egoism and her vanity are colossal. She demands everything of other people, all the perfections, and does not pardon the slightest imperfection in the light of other qualities that one may possess.” Dostoevsky predicts that she will always be unhappy, because “the person who demands everything of others but recognizes no obligation can never be happy.” What little we know of Apollinaria Suslova's later life would seem to bear out this prophecy.2

1PSS, 28/Bk. 2: 121–122; April 19, 1865.

2 What information there is of Suslova (1839–1918) comes from her husband, V. V. Rozanov, a
morally dubious figure who sometimes advocated a vicious anti-Semitism and wrote simultaneously
for both progressive and reactionary newspapers under different pseudonyms. Rozanov and Suslova
were married when he was twenty and she forty. After six years, she ran away with a Jewish

-455-

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