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Захудалый род

April 28, 2011

The first half of the 1870s, according to McLean, saw “the major works on which [Leskov’s] reputation chiefly rests: Cathedral Folk, ‘The Sealed Angel,’ ‘The Enchanted Pilgrim,’ A Decrepit Clan, ‘At the Edge of the World'” (221). A Decrepit Clan (Захудалый род, 1873-74) is a work I knew nothing about, and I was surprised to see it listed rather than earlier stories like “The Musk-Ox” and “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” or later ones like “Singlethought” and “The Rabbit Carriage” (Заячий ремиз, 1894, published 1917). Here I’m biased by what I’ve read, and in the last case also by Sperrle’s praise of Leskov’s last important story.

Jorge Ferrer's 2010 Spanish translation of A Decrepit Clan

What was A Decrepit Clan? It was an attempt at a multigenerational portrait of Russia’s “deteriorating gentry,” originally conceived as one section of a three-part chronicle of which the “clergy section had eventually become Cathedral Folk” (McLean 257). Leskov never finished even the gentry section, much less the whole chronicle. He kept creating praiseworthy characters in each generation of the Protozanov family and never got around to the decay he had set out to show (269). He also may have been intimidated by possible comparisons of his “family chronicle” (from the subtitle of A Decrepit Clan) to Sergei Aksakov’s famous Family Chronicle of 1856 (260).

In recent years A Decrepit Clan was the first play directed by Sergei Zhenovach at his Студия театрального искусства in 2006, and just last year it was translated into Spanish as Una familia venida a menos by Jorge Ferrer (h/t Melibro).

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