A Russian Childhood by Sofya Kovalevskaya (auth.)

By Sofya Kovalevskaya (auth.)

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Just as it has been pointed out that Anyuta herself was the prototype for Aglaya Epanchina (for example by E. H. Carr, Dostoevsky (London, 1962), 101, 167. 45 CHAPTER ONE Earliest Memories I would like to know whether there is anyone who can pinpoint that precise instant of existence when a clear awareness of his or her own "I" emerged for the first time: the earliest glimmer of conscious life. I cannot do it at all. When I start sorting through my first memories and classifying them, the same thing happens to me every time: these memories always seem to slide apart before my eyes.

She was deeply antagonistic to any kind of uncensored learning or independent exploration; so she drove Sofya into reading clandestinely. She removed the pleasure even from play by making it compulsory. In the six years of Miss Smith's residence in the Krukovsky household, perhaps the most destructive feature of her pedagogic practice-certainly the one most hateful to Sofya-was her calculated policy of isolating the child from the rest of the family and particularly from Anyuta, whose vibrancy and physical beauty, independence and advanced social views made her ideologically unacceptable and personally abhorrent to the governess.

The three-month romance of Anyuta and Dostoevsky in Petersburg in the winter of 1865 begins to take on an almost Dostoevskian coloration as it progresses from its first phase (in which Anyuta is filled with awe of her literary idol) to a stage of warm family friendship (in which Dostoevsky freely discusses his epilepsy, his work and some of his thematic preoccupations, including the rape of a tenyear-old girl) to a final stage in which the power relations between the two are reversed. This reversal is precipitated by an embarrassing scene at a Krukovsky soiree during which Dostoevsky's clumsy possessiveness toward Anyuta culminates in his humiliation in the presence of all the guests (the prototype, as has been pointed out, of the celebrated scene in The Idiot where Myshkin, a guest in the Epanchin drawing room, launches into a tirade, breaks a vase and has an epileptic fit).

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