Dostoevsky, the hand over the heart

It was debts that led Dostoevsky to true love.

In 1866 he signed a contract with his publisher that provided for him a salary of three thousand rubles that would pass into the hands of his creditors in exchange for the publishing rights of all his works, and the commitment to deliver a new novel that year. If not, he would lose all economic rights to his works.

Dostoevsky then hired Anna Grigorievna Snitkina, a twentysomething stenographer to whom he dictated The Player in 26 days.

Dostoevsky married Anna on February 15, 1867. To propose, he pretended to consult her on a plot for a story: an old writer who is in love with a young girl. Anna took the hint and said that she would certainly love him. «They started a family together, she helped him pay off debts and was a kind of business manager,» says his biographer Alex Christofi.

The book that brought them together, The Player, was a crossroads in Dostoevsky’s life: it was conceived while his first wife, Maria, was dying; one of the protagonists, Polina, is inspired by his lover; and his second wife, Anna Grigorievna, the love of his life, transcribed it.

They say that every time they said goodbye at the station, Dostoevsky from the other side of the window would place one hand on his heart and mark with his fingers on the other the days that he would be away. It was the tender gesture of a sad, fighting man with an imposing voice, who went from revolutionary to conservative but who always believed that «beauty will save the world.»

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