Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview
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“A Little Diamond”

The publication of Crime and Punishment, which created even more of a sensation than had House of the Dead five years earlier, marked a new era in Dostoevsky's literary career. Once again he was in the forefront of Russian literature, and it was now clear that he, Turgenev, and Tolstoy were in competition for the palm as the greatest Russian novelist. The final chapters of the novel had been completed with the aid of Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, the stenographer who had worked with him on The Gambler, and by this time a major change had also occurred in his personal life. He had proposed marriage to Anna and been accepted.

The charming story of their meeting and courtship, recounted in the Remi- niscences that were edited and published after her death, is one of the most luminous episodes in a life otherwise filled with gloom and misfortune.1 Difficulties and hardships aplenty would continue to plague Dostoevsky and his new bride, particularly in the early years of their marriage when they lived abroad. But thanks to the sterling moral qualities and sturdy good sense of Anna Grigoryevna, the erratic and turbulent Dostoevsky would finally attain that relatively tranquil family existence he so much envied in others.

The reserved and attractive young lady who turned up at Dostoevsky's flat at half-past eleven on the morning of October 4, 1866, prepared to take dictation, came from a comfortable family of mixed Ukrainian and Swedish origin. Anna was raised in a strict but, according to her own account, harmonious family atmosphere in which the children (she had an older sister and younger brother) were well treated. “Life in our family was quiet, measured and serene, without

1 The so-called memoirs of Anna Grigoryevna, Vospominaniya, were never completed by her,
and a selection of the manuscript was first published in 1925 by L. P. Grossman. A revised version
appeared in 1971, edited by S. V. Belov and V. A. Tunimanov, which was translated into English
under the title of Reminiscences. In 1973, a volume of the literary-historical annual Literaturnoe
published a hitherto undeciphered portion of Anna's shorthand diary of the courtship
period. This account fills out, as well as sometimes diverges from, what she included in the memoirs
written in the later years of her life.


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