Fyodor Dostoevsky: a Glimpse at the Life of a Genius (Part Three)

The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” F.Dostoevsky

Anna, the Angel

The devastating affair with Apollinaria threw Dostoevsky down into a terrible state of mind, but he had to return to work. Hounded by creditors, with a broken heart and an empty wallet, the writer could not afford more but to hire a stenographer and work on his new novel, The Gambler. This was how a charming Anna Snitkina, who had been dreaming about getting to know the famous writer, appeared in his home.
Quite soon, they got to know each other really close. At first, the writer could only see an untiring assistant, but soon he realized that she had become a lot more. The difference in their age was striking – twenty five years – but little by little Dostoevsky found himself being unable to live without this woman. They got married in February of 1867, ten years after the writer’s first marriage. Dostoevsky was 46 then.

Young and inexperienced Anna accepted her husband’s weird sexual habits, she tried to take them for granted (there was violence, domination, and pain, which Dostoevsky took as a norm of sex life). Anna wrote in one of her notes once: “I am ready to spend the rest of my life standing on my knees in front of him.” All in all, the relationship satisfied both, but not the writer’s relatives, who never stopped badgering and harrassing the girl. Being aware that this confrontation could break the marriage, Anna suggested a trip abroad for a couple of months. Finally, the couple left Russia, and ended up spending four years in Europe.
They lived in Germany, Switzerland, Italy. During that time, they buried their first newborn daughter, and gave birth to another baby – also a girl, Lubov (the word means “love”). They nurtured their love, they tried to get used to living together, they built their relationship little by little. It was not all smooth, they had many quarrels, but with time they learned to respect and treasure each other. He was painfully jealous, he grew a terrible complex because of their age difference, and another- because of his passion for gambling. She managed to deal with all that. She forgave and supported him whatever he did. Back in St.Petersburg, she gave him a gift of two sons. “Many Russian writers would feel a way better, if they had wives like Dostoevsky’s wife,” Leo Tolstoy used to say.
Due to the peaceful environment created by Anna in their home, Dostoevsky stopped having epilepsy attacks, he became calm and his character improved really much. Unfortunately, he was not destinied to live a long life… in January of 1881, the writer fell ill. One morning, he called for Anna and told her: “Remember, Anna, I have always loved you as much as I could, I never cheated on you, even in my thoughts.” By the evening of that day, he passed away.
Anna never got married again. She devoted the rest of her life to serving the name of her talented husband. She published a full collection of his works, put together his letters and notes, encouraged their friends to write a biography of Dostoevsky, opened a Dostoevsky School in Staraya Russa, and wrote a wonderful book of memoirs about her life with one of the greatest minds of her time.

Today, Dostoevsky is still as welcome by his readers as he was in the 19-th and the 20-th centuries. To a large part, this is so due to untiring effort of his wonderful wife Anna, who remained his friend, supporter, partner, as well as his best financial manager and promoter till the end of her life.


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