Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20

Homecoming

The publication of Dostoevsky's two Siberian novellas marks the end of his artistic exile and the beginning of his return to the center of Russian cultural life. These works appeared in print during 1859, and at the very end of this year, in mid-December, Dostoevsky finally realized his long-awaited dream of returning to St. Petersburg. This homecoming, however, did not take place all at once; even after arriving in European Russia, he was forced to stagnate for a few months in Tver, a city on the railroad line between Petersburg and Moscow. The Ministry of War had denied him the right to live in either of the two cities where he could obtain competent medical treatment, advising him to ask for authorization from the tsar through the Third Section.

Early in July 1859, Dostoevsky began the journey from Siberia to European Russia, which took about a month and a half and again involved a huge sum of money, which he scraped together with the help of a loan from Pleshcheev. The party paused at Omsk for a few days to pick up Pasha Isaev, who had been withdrawn from the Siberian Cadet Corps. A moving moment occurred when Dostoevsky's tarantas, rolling through the Ural Mountains, reached the frontier between Asia and Europe. Ten years before, a prisoner in shackles, Dostoevsky had passed this frontier in the midst of a howling snowstorm; now it was a fine summer afternoon when they stumbled on “the handsome column with an inscription, and beside it, in an izba, an invalid "a wounded veteran acting as caretaker". We got out of the tarantas, and I crossed myself; God, at last, had led me to see the Promised Land. Then we took out our plated flask full of a tangy wild-orange brandy … and we drank our good-bye to Asia with the invalid; Nikolaev "the guide" also drank and the coachman too (and how he drove afterwards).” 1

Much of Dostoevsky's energies during the months passed in Tver were taken up with negotiations over his permission to move to Petersburg, but as a selfdescribed “literary proletarian” 2 whose only source of livelihood was his pen, he was constantly turning over ideas for new works and calculating the possibilities

1Pis'ima, 1: 270; October 23, 1859.

2 Ibid., 2: 603.

-273-

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