I didn’t expect to be fascinated by a story of a man confined to house arrest for more than three decades.
This story is set in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was on trial for a poem he wrote in 1918, which was deemed corrupting. For that crime he was sentenced to indefinite house arrest. The Count accepted the sentence and carried himself with dignity, as expected of a man of his standing.
At the time of the trial, the Count had been residing in a suite at the Metropol Hotel for four years. He was instructed to return to the Metropol for his sentence, but instead of the luxurious suite, he was moved to a small room in the attic. If he left the Metropol, he would be shot on sight.
House arrest seems like a sentence worse than a life in prison — to be free, but confined within a building. As the story unfolds, perhaps it was not the worst fate to befall a man. The house arrest shielded the Count from the post-revolution turmoil and a world war.
Mishka, the Count’s best friend, was sentenced to eight years of hard labour. Upon his release, he went to see the Count. “Who would have imagined,” said Mishka, “when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia.”