This image depicts pages from a book translated into English—published by J. M. Dent, Everyman’s Library, in 1916—featuring two of Dostoevsky’s novellas (Poor Folk and The Gambler). Online via Wikimedia Commons.


No one, least of all Stellovsky, believed Dostoevsky could write a complete book and deliver the polished manuscript in thirty days. Not wanting to give the author a way out, the publisher refused to grant an extension of time.

Friends offered to write parts of the new story, but Dostoevsky declined to take credit for words that weren’t his. Besides, he was the one who had intimate knowledge about the book’s subject: the sorrows, and occasional joys, of gambling.

When the situation looked completely hopeless, Alexander Milyukov had an idea. What about the "new" science of stenography? Was it possible for his friend to dictate a novel while a stenographer wrote what he said in "shorthand?" (The link depicts handwritten stenography.)

Twenty-year-old Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, newly graduated from stenography school, visited Fyodor Mikhailovich at his St. Petersburg apartment on October 4th. With less than a month before his book was due, the writer was not sure he could work with a stenographer. But Anna - who greatly admired Dostoevsky’s Memoirs from the House of the Dead - thought she could help.

If he were able to simultaneously develop the plot while dictating his book - something he’d never done before - the writer might be able to save himself from Stellovsky’s greed. At least he was familiar with his topic. A compulsive gambler, Dostoevsky’s weakness was the roulette wheel. Losing thousands at a Wiesbaden casino had caused him to ask Stellovsky for money in the first place. The main character of his book would suffer a similar affliction.

Desperate to deliver his novel on time, Dostoevsky began dictating to the new stenographer. The working title of his book was Roulettenburg. What happened over the next month is the subject of a play: Dostoevsky in Love.

With less than a month to go before Roulettenburg was due, Fyodor Mikhailovich worked on one novel during the day and another (Crime and Punishment) at night. His personal gambling experiences, and his tumultuous relationship with Polina Suslova, provided him with the substance of his new story.

In fiction, however, he was able to create what he had never known in real life. Polina’s devoted love, of a self-destructive gambler, only existed within the pages of a book.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Jun 16, 2019

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"SAVED - BY STENOGRAPHY" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2006. Jan 19, 2020.
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