Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 43

Exile's Return

On July 8, 1871, Dostoevsky and his family returned to Russia after four years of living abroad, making as unobtrusive a reentry as possible into the St. Petersburg he had quit presumably only for a summer vacation. Already published were all of Part I and two chapters of Part II of Demons, whose plot made spine-chilling use of the most spectacular event of the moment. Indeed, the public trial of the Nechaevtsy was taking place during Dostoevsky's arrival in the capital, and some of the essential documents, including the coldbloodedly Machiavellian Cate- chism of a Revolutionary (written by either Bakunin or Nechaev, and perhaps both), were placed in evidence and made publicly available on the very day he stepped off the train.

The Dostoevskys rented two furnished rooms near Yusupov Park, where they were soon assailed by daily visits from relatives and friends. As Dostoevsky complains in a letter to his favorite niece, Sofya Ivanova, “there was hardly any time to sleep.” 1 In the midst of this overwhelming conviviality, Anna suddenly felt labor pains at dinner and gave birth to a son, Feodor, on July 16, happily without suffering the severe contractions of her earlier pregnancies. Dostoevsky was overjoyed and hastened to convey the good news to Anna's mother (then abroad) and to his family in Moscow.

A week later, at the end of July, Dostoevsky himself was in Moscow to straighten out his accounts with Katkov, receiving payment for the chapters he had supplied in recent months. The new acquisition of funds enabled the Dostoevskys to envisage moving from their furnished flat, which “was very expensive, full of comings and goings, and owned by nasty Yids.” 2 The practical Anna, who had made a quick recovery after the birth of Feodor, soon turned up a suitable four-room dwelling and rented it in her own name, sparing Dostoevsky the legal formalities. Although forced to buy furniture, Anna believed she could retrieve the dinnerware and kitchen utensils, as well as the winter clothing, left in the care of relatives and friends four years earlier. But all had been lost— through careless reshufflings, or in the failure to pay insurance premiums sent

1PSS, 29/Bk. 1: 218; July 18, 1871.

2 Ibid.

-616-

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