I heard about the book ‘The Wives’ in a lecture by S. Ramakrishnan, a tamil writer in you tube. He mentioned it in one of his long lectures about Dostoevesky. This book by Smiron Popoff, is about the wives of great Russian writers like DOstoevesky, Tolstoi and others..
First about Dostoevesky. He had been punished with a harsh sentence of hard labour in Siberia. He escapes death very narrowly when orders for shooting these prisoners is cancelled when the first group of prisoners are about to be shot. This for the charges that he was present in a meeting of friends where they were reportedly conspiring to overthrow the King of Russia, the Zar. From then on his ordeal of life starts. When he writes, it is inevitable that he writes about his experiences. He was always on the edge of poverty, on the wrong side of the law (not because of his criminal intents). A young woman, far younger than him, who had read his novella, wishes to meet him. Since she knows stenography and at one point of time D was in need of a stenographer, she is engaged. From then on their relationship blossoms into love and they ultimately married.
She happens to be the muse he needed very badly. She understands his emotional imbalances and adjusts her life according to the needs of D. She voluntarily and without murmur, undergoes the sufferings that her marriage thrusts upon her. She takes dictations, corrects the proofs, makes suggestions for improving the language. Ultimately she edits and publishes his works. She gives solace and brings peace and tries to organize his wayward life. It is as if her life’s ambition is to live for his literature. But for her, it would have been a different Dostoevesky.
Similarly, the Tolstoi’s wife also plays an important and vital role in his achievements. Though she had been insulted and humiliated by Tolstoi and his immediate followers during the last days of Tolstoi, she had been instrumental in making Tolstoi what he is in literature. The age difference of more than 15 years did not matter to her in her love for Tolstoi or his writing.
This books also tells about other writers like Nobokov, Solshenytzin. One of the horrible things that comes out of the books is that the Russian ruling elite, both before and after the revolution had committed countless atrocities in the name of justice and killed lakhs of Russian citizens. This alone makes me think that the cost of becoming a superpower, either through leftist revolution as in Russia or rightist agenda in USA is denial of basic rights of its own citizens who disagree with the Governments. This has been happening all the time all over the world. The worst perpetrators appear to be the strongest Nations in the world.
A well researched book, throws lights on the inner and outer worlds of writers who stood up to the powers that be, while expressing their anguish and lived experience of their times. Contribution of the wives of these great writers is truly very great amazing and inspiring.