Join us for a book talk with Andrew D. Kaufman, author of The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky. This in-person event will be free and open to the public. We recommend arriving early for the best seating.
About the Book: In the fall of 1866, a twenty-year-old stenographer named Anna Snitkina applied for a position with a writer she idolized: Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A self-described “emancipated girl of the sixties,” Snitkina had come of age during Russia’s first feminist movement, and Dostoyevsky—a notorious radical turned acclaimed novelist—had impressed the young woman with his enlightened and visionary fiction. Yet in person she found the writer “terribly unhappy, broken, tormented,” weakened by epilepsy, and yoked to a ruinous gambling addiction. Alarmed by his condition, Anna became his trusted first reader and confidante, then his wife, and finally his business manager—launching one of literature’s most turbulent and fascinating marriages.
The Gambler Wife offers a fresh and captivating portrait of Anna Dostoyevskaya, who reversed her husband’s freefall and cleared the way for two of the most notable careers in Russian letters—her husband’s and her own. Drawing on diaries, letters, and other little-known archival sources, Andrew Kaufman reveals how Anna warded off creditors, family members, and her greatest romantic rival, keeping their young family afloat through years of penury and exile. In a series of dramatic setpieces, we watch as she navigates the writer’s self-destructive binges in the casinos of Europe—even hazarding an audacious turn at roulette herself—until his addiction is conquered. And, finally, we watch as Anna frees her husband from predatory publishers by founding her own publishing house, making Anna the first solo female publisher in Russian history.
The result is a story that challenges ideas of empowerment, sacrifice, and female agency in nineteenth-century Russia—and a welcome new appraisal of an indomitable woman whose legacy has been nearly lost to literary history.
About the Author: Andrew D. Kaufman is an associate professor, general faculty, and lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures, and assistant director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia. A PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, Kaufman is the author of The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky. The book was a finalist for the 2022 PEN America Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography and has been optioned for a film adaptation. Kaufman is also the author of Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times and Understanding Tolstoy, and coauthor of Russian for Dummies. His work has been featured on Today, NPR, and PBS, and in The Washington Post, and he has served as a Russian literature expert for Oprah’s Book Club. He is also the creator of Books Behind Bars, introducing incarcerated youth to the writings of Dostoyevsky and other authors.
To order The Gambler Wife, please see below for the New Dominion Bookshop book order form or call the shop at 434-295-2552.
"With enlightening research and engaging prose, The Gambler Wife recounts the improbable and profoundly influential relationship that lay at the heart of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s literary enterprise: his marriage to Anna Snitkina. Hers is an inspiring, unexpectedly modern story of partnership, ambition, and achievement, and Andrew Kaufman tells it brilliantly."
—Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess
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Andrew D. Kaufman photo credit: Sarah Cramer Shields