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Novels, Tales, Journeys

Cover of Novels, Tales, Journeys

Novels, Tales, Journeys

The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin
From the award-winning translators: the complete prose narratives of the most acclaimed Russian writer of the Romantic era and one of the world's greatest storytellers.
The father of Russian literature, Pushkin is beloved not only for his poetry but also for his brilliant stories, which range from dramatic tales of love, obsession, and betrayal to dark fables and sparkling comic masterpieces, from satirical epistolary tales and romantic adventures in the manner of Sir Walter Scott to imaginative historical fiction and the haunting dreamworld of "The Queen of Spades." The five short stories of The Late Tales of Ivan Petrovich Belkin are lightly humorous and yet reveal astonishing human depths, and his short novel, The Captain's Daughter, has been called the most perfect book in Russian literature.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the award-winning translators: the complete prose narratives of the most acclaimed Russian writer of the Romantic era and one of the world's greatest storytellers.
The father of Russian literature, Pushkin is beloved not only for his poetry but also for his brilliant stories, which range from dramatic tales of love, obsession, and betrayal to dark fables and sparkling comic masterpieces, from satirical epistolary tales and romantic adventures in the manner of Sir Walter Scott to imaginative historical fiction and the haunting dreamworld of "The Queen of Spades." The five short stories of The Late Tales of Ivan Petrovich Belkin are lightly humorous and yet reveal astonishing human depths, and his short novel, The Captain's Daughter, has been called the most perfect book in Russian literature.
From the Hardcover edition.
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    Introduction


    Alexander Pushkin was mortally wounded in a duel on the afternoon of January 27, 1837, at Chernaya Rechka, just outside Petersburg. "It is thus that the figure of Pushkin remains in our memory—with a pistol," Andrei Sinyavsky wrote in Strolls with Pushkin.* "Little Pushkin with a big pistol. A civilian, but louder than a soldier. A general. An ace. Push­kin! Crude, but just. The first poet with his own biography—how else would you have him up and die, this first poet, who inscribed himself with blood and powder in the history of art?"

    Pushkin was just thirty-seven when he died, but he had already been acknowledged as Russia's greatest poet, a title that has since been defined and redefined but never disputed. In the decade before his death, however, he had also become the true originator of Russian prose. Sinyavsky is right to say that Pushkin lives in Russian memory as more than a writer, more than a poet—as "Pushkin!" In a speech delivered at a commemoration in revolutionary Petrograd in Febru­ary 1921, the poet Alexander Blok said: "From early childhood our memory keeps the cheerful name: Pushkin. This name, this sound fills many days of our life. The grim names of emperors, generals, inven­tors of the tools of murder, the tormented and the tormentors of life. And beside them—this light name: Pushkin." Yet his personal presence is in marked contrast with the essential impersonality of Pushkin's art. It is not that he celebrated himself and sang himself: he never did. In a letter to his friend Nikolai Raevsky, written in July 1825, Pushkin criti­cized Byron (whom he generally admired) for the constant intrusion of his personality: "Byron . . . has parceled out among his characters such-and-such a trait of his own character; his pride to one, his hate to another, his melancholy to a third, etc."* And he contrasts Byron's practice with the multifarious receptivity he had come to admire in Shakespeare—his "negative capability," as Keats called it. Sinyavsky intensifies Keats's paradox: "Emptiness is Pushkin's content. Without it he would not be full, he would not be, just as there is no fire without air, no breathing in without breathing out." Impersonality, openness, and lightness are the essential qualities of his prose.




    Our collection includes Pushkin's few finished and published works of fiction—The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, The Queen of Spades, Kirdjali, The Captain's Daughter—each different and all mas­terpieces. It also includes his experiments in various forms, borrowing from and parodying well-known European models, consciously trying out the possibilities of Russian prose. The closest he came to a self-portrait is perhaps the character of Charsky in the fragmentary Egyp­tian Nights; otherwise he appears in person only in the nonfictional Journey to Arzrum, where, as D. S. Mirsky wrote, "he reached the limits of noble and bare terseness."


    Pushkin's family on his father's side belonged to the old military-feudal aristocracy, the Russian boyars, dating back some six centuries to the founding of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. He proudly refers to their "six-hundred-year standing" more than once in his letters. He was also proud of the rebelliousness of some of his ancestors, o†ne of whom was executed by Peter the Great for opposing his political reforms, another of whom (his grandfather) was imprisoned for pro­testing against the "usurpation" of the throne by the Prussian-born Catherine the Great. The new gentry that arose in the eighteenth cen­tury as a result of Peter's...
About the Author-
  • ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837) was a poet, playwright, and novelist who achieved literary prominence before he was twenty. His radical politics led to government censorship and periods of banishment from the capital, but he eventually married a popular society beauty and became a regular part of court life. Notoriously touchy about his honor, he died at age thirty-seven in a duel with his wife's alleged lover.
    RICHARD PEVEAR and LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY have translated works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov, and Pasternak. They were twice awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize (for Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina). They are married and live in France.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 5, 2016
    Pushkin (1799–1837), arguably Russia’s greatest poet, finds worthy translators in Pevear and Volokhonsky, who have compiled an indispensable edition of the master’s complete prose. Pushkin’s great ambition, keen curiosity, and comprehensive range are all in evidence here, beginning with the unfinished “The Moor of Peter the Great,” a historical fiction about the writer’s grandfather, an African courtier of the czar. Russian history also figures in the short novel “The Captain’s Daughter,” set during a bloody 18th-century peasant rebellion, as a young officer in a besieged rural fortress develops a strange comradeship with the Cossack ringleader of the uprising. In “Dubrovsky,” a young aristocrat flouts the law after his inheritance is unjustly denied him. Always mindful of his position vis-à-vis European literature, Pushkin both draws on romanticism and lampoons it; in the short story “The Queen of Spades,” rational young engineer Hermann comes to believe in a mystic secret of gambling, and in his quest to learn the secret wrecks several lives, including his own. Pushkin moves with great facility from bored, hotheaded St. Petersburg aristocracy to the pastoral peccadilloes of country squires and the deprivations of peasant life (“The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin”), and even farther afield, to the exoticized landscape of the Caucasia (“Journey to Arzrum”). Pushkin the storyteller is witty and compassionate, panoramic and precise. Although he’s best known in the States for poetry, in this thoughtfully annotated, syntactically loyal edition, readers will discover another facet of a prodigious talent.

  • New Criterion "Novels, Tales, and Journeys, a new translation of Pushkin's prose, displays the author's immersion in Russian life even more directly than the poetry that has come to define his legacy; short novels like The Captain's Daughter present Pushkin's thoughts on social strife without the intermediate layer of verse."
  • Los Angeles Review of Books "Brilliant. . . . [Pushkin] took up narrative prose on a whim, but, as this collection makes clear, he mastered it gloriously."
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