Posted on December 22, 2021 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

On this day in 1849, notes Encyclopedia Britannica, writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and several other prisoners were led out to a public square, informed that they’d been sentenced to death, and offered last rites.

At the last moment, though, as guns were raised to execute the first round of prisoners, a messenger arrived with the “news” that the tsar had decided to spare their lives.

Dostoyevsky was still, however, sentenced to time as a Siberian prison camp laborer and then as a soldier.

And while he continued to write upon gaining his full freedom — including The Idiot, whose protagonist recounts the sensation of waiting for an execution — everything wasn’t exactly rosy for him.

Finally, Dostoyevsky made a consequential decision that improved his fortunes: he hired a stenographer who ultimately became a grounding force in his life as his wife and business manager.

Anna Snitkina received some recent well-deserved praise, with a new biography of her coming out this past summer: The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky by Andrew D. Kaufman.

You can learn a bit more about Snitkina in reviews of The Gambler Wife from the New York Times, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly over at Bookmarks.

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