Arnon Grunberg

Daily bread

A second test

In his essay on Dostoevsky Coetzee writes: “Writing for his daily bread, Dostoevsky was always under pressure of deadlines. One such deadline led to his second marriage. Contracted to produce a complete novel at short notice, he hired a stenographer, a young woman named Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina. He gave her a dictation test, then offered her a cigarette. She declined, thus unwittingly passing a second test: she had proved she was not a liberated woman and thus probably not a Nihilist. Within a month, with her stenographic aid, Dostoevsky had dictated and revised “The Gambler”, and could return to the project he had interrupted, “Crime and Punishment”. Three months later they were married. He was forty-five, she twenty-one.”

In seven years I will be forty-five and I will start looking for a stenographer.