Dostoevsky - TIMELY WRITING; UNTIMELY DEATH

With Anna’s help, The Gambler took shape.

Always more practical than her future husband, Anna gave Fyodor Mikhailovich good advice. Stellovsky didn’t want the book on time - he wanted unfettered rights to all Dostoevsky’s work for the next decade. Would the publisher anxiously await the manuscript - or - would he close his shop on November 1st so no one was there to receive the book?

A rogue is a rogue, especially when the deck is stacked in his favor. Stellovsky left town. No one was in his office to receive the manuscript.

Anticipating the publisher’s real intent, Anna convinced Dostoevsky to deliver the book to the police station where he would receive a time-dated receipt. He met the deadline with two hours to spare.

Anna Grigoryevna and Fyodor Mikhailovich were married (the link depicts their published correspondence from 1867) soon after The Gambler was finished. They had four children; two ("Fedya," a son, and Lyubov, a daughter) survived.

Another son, Alexei, inherited his father’s epilepsy. Called "Alyosha," by his family, the little boy died after a two-hour seizure. Inconsolable, his parents sought the help of Ambrosius, a Russian Orthodox monk. Here, too, reality was incorporated into Dostoevsky’s fiction. Ambrosius later became Father Zosima in Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoevsky continued to play the roulette wheel during the early years of his second marriage. Love of family, however, helped him to nurture his extraordinary writing gift.

He finished the epilogue of his masterpieceBrothers Karamazov (which is still widely studied and has been filmed, at various times, both in English and in Russian), two months before his death on January 28, 1881.

Three days earlier, he had fallen ill at his St. Petersburg apartment. No one expected him to die. But on the morning of the 28th, the writer told Anna that day would be his last. She didn’t believe him - perhaps he was hallucinating. But at his insistence, Anna (who survived him by many years) summoned the children. He told them good-bye.

Not long before midnight, resting on the sofa in his study, he was gone. (This is his death mask.) His beloved copy of Raphael’s "The Sistine Madonna," looked down on him. The immediate cause of death was hemorrhage of the throat.

Thousands of people came to his funeral. He is buried in the Trinity (Tikhvin) Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. His final resting place is not far from that of the composer Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). People from all over the world still visit his grave (as they do for another great nineteenth-century Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, who survived Dostoevsky by nearly thirty years).

Perhaps it is his main subject which continues to draw people to his stories. Dostoevsky’s skill in penetrating the oft-impenetrable - the depths of a person’s soul - endeared him to nineteenth-century Russians. And it is that unusual ability to understand, and then to articulate, the human condition which helps to explain his popularity today.

 

NOTE: Nineteenth-century, public-domain images of Dostoevsky and his life are available in many books written by scholars. The most extensive source for such images, which we relied upon for this story, is the following Russian-language book: Dostoevsky by Yury Seleznev, published by Molodaya Gvardiya in 1985.

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