God Sees the Truth, But Waits
"God Sees the Truth, But Waits" (Russian: "Бог правду видит, да не скоро скажет", "Bog pravdu vidit da ne skoro skazhet") is a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy first published in 1872. The story, about a man sent to prison for a murder he didn't commit, takes the form of a parable of forgiveness. English translations were also published under titles "The Confessed Crime" and "Exiled to Siberia". The concept of the story of a man wrongfully accused of murder and banished to Siberia also appears in one of Tolstoy's previous works, War and Peace, during a philosophical discussion among two characters who relate the story and argue how the protagonist of their story deals with injustice and fate.
Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov is a merchant living in a town in Russia, Vladimir. Although Aksionov is prone to drinking, he is not violent, and he is responsible and well liked by people that know him. One day he decides to go to a fair as a business venture, but his wife pleads for him not to go because of a nightmare she had the previous night. Aksionov doesn't consider his wife's dream and leaves for the fair.
Aksionov meets another merchant on his way, and the two decide to travel together. They check into an inn and have a good time drinking, then they retire separately. Aksionov wakes early in the next morning to get to the fair and leaves without the other merchant. Not far down the road, Aksionov is stopped by some policemen. They explain a merchant was just murdered and robbed, and then they search Aksionov's bag. They find a bloody knife, and despite Aksionov's claims that he is not the murderer, he is sentenced and sent to Siberia. After his trial flogging, his wife can finally visit him, and she sees that Aksionov's hair has begun to go gray from the stress.
Aksionov spends twenty-six years in Siberia, and, resigned to his fate, he dedicates his life to God. He becomes a mediator of sorts in the prison, and he is well respected by the other prisoners and also guards alike. One day some new prisoners, one of them being Makar Semyonich, are transferred to the prison. After overhearing several conversations, Aksionov is convinced that Makar Semyonich is the man who committed the murder for which Aksionov was blamed.
One day the guards notice that someone had been strewing dirt around the grounds, and they search the prison and find a tunnel. Aksionov had found out earlier that it was Makar Semyonich that was digging the hole, but after being questioned by the police, Aksionov declares that it is not his place to speak about the matter. Makar Semyonich approaches Aksionov later that day in a terrible state, and he eventually admits to Aksionov that it was he who killed the merchant. Aksionov forgives Semyonich, and he feels as if a terrible weight had been lifted. Makar Semyonich confesses to the authorities, and the process for Aksionov to be cleared is begun. Unfortunately, Aksionov dies before he can reach home, but he dies in peace.
It was adapted into a CBS Radio Mystery Theatre program, All Things Are Possible (1978) directed by Himan Brown.
Stephen King's 'Shawshank Redemption' is based on Tolstoy's story.
- "The Works of Tolstoi." Black's Readers Service Company: Roslyn, New York. 1928.
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