The Eternal Husband

Part of The Art of the Novella

This remarkably edgy and suspenseful tale shows that, despite being better known for his voluminous and sprawling novels, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a master of the more tightly-focused form of the novella.

The Eternal Husband may, in fact, constitute his most classically-shaped composition, with his most devilish plot: a man answers a late-night knock on the door to find himself in a tense and puzzling confrontation with the husband of a former lover—but it isn’t clear if the husband knows about the affair. What follows is one of the most beautiful and piercing considerations ever written about the dualities of love: a dazzling psychological duel between the two men over knowledge they may or may not share, bringing them both to a shattering conclusion.

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY was born in 1821 in Moscow, the son of a tyrannical doctor subsequently murdered by his serfs. After studying engineering, Dostoevsky published his first novel, Poor Folk, in 1846 to great acclaim. Two years later, however, he was sentenced to death for being a member of a secret intellectual society seen as anti-Czarist. While standing before the firing squad, Dostoevsky was given a last-minute reprieve, and sent instead to prison in Siberia for ten years. His novels and the political journals he edited would rankle authorities for the rest of his life. This, plus devastating gambling debts, led him to frequently flee to Europe, even as he composed masterworks such as The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. He died in St. Petersburg in 1881.