By Sofya Kovalevskaya (auth.)
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We clamber up on it with the help of a chair, but the moment we reach the very peak the mountain collapses 49 A RUSSIAN CHILDHOOD under us, and we're buried under a soft sea of down. This gives us enormous amusement. No sooner do I think of our nursery than immediately, by an inescapable chain of associations, I begin to perceive a certain smell. It is a mixture of incense, low-grade oil, May balsam, and the smoke from a tallow candle. It has been a long time since I have had occasion to smell that special smell.
Litvinova (another woman mathematician who was inspired by Sofya's example back in 1868 to pursue her own career) notes more perceptively that it was characteristic of Kovalevskaya to set herself unattainable goals, but not to take pleasure in their fruition (Soha Kovalevskaya, St. Petersburg, 1893). " A Soviet biographer (avoiding confrontation with the irrational elements in her subject's personality) emphasizes the near-impossibility of a woman's being allowed to teach in Russia at that time.
VIP, 301-302) He proposed marriage to her, but there was a condition attached: she would have to give up her work. Even if she had been willing to do that, she could not back out of the prize competition at that point; her involvement was already known to all her colleagues. She lived through the months before the deadline in an almost schizoid state, working to exhaustion and tormenting herself with the suspicion that he was growing cool to her. 21 At the end of December, 1888, accompanied by a sober, withdrawn Maxim Maximovich, she went to Paris to receive her award.