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Leskov in Portuguese

January 6, 2013

In 2012 six short stories by Leskov were published in a Portuguese translation by Denise Sales. A review by Gustavo Melo Czekster mostly introduces Leskov, noting praise of him by Chekhov and Lev Tolstoi, and remarking that “unlike other authors of the period, who were preoccupied with depicting the universal at the expense of the society in which they lived, Leskov goes inside his readers’ houses and lives.” Sentences like that make me want to disagree (apologies to Czekster if I’ve misunderstood the language) – do The Devils and Anna Karenina tell us so little about the political debates and evolving mores and daily life of a particular society? And could the passions in “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” exist nowhere but Russia?

That said, I enjoyed the review and was especially interested to read of “intertextual references made by Leskov” to, among others, “William Shakespeare, Louvet de Couvrai, and Adam Mickiewicz.” Louvet stands out in that company, and I’d never heard of Leskov alluding to him. The name of his character Faublas (as Фоблас, Фоблаз, or Фобла) became in Russian a synonym for ladies’ man much like Don Juan. That Leskov used the name in this way (“на одну святую бросился бесстыжий мурин, но как она никогда мылом не мылась, то этот фоблаз от нее так и отскочил”) doesn’t prove he was engaging with Louvet on any very deep level, but in one of the stories Sales translated (Обман), a character is nicknamed Faublas and the name appears nine times in two short chapters, so maybe there’s something more to it.

The stories in the translation reviewed by Czekster are:

  1. “Kótin, o provedor, e Platonida” (Котин-доилец и Платонида / Kotin the He-Cow and Platonida, 1867)
  2. “Águia Branca” (Белый орел / White Eagle, 1880)
  3. “A voz da natureza” (Голос природы / The Voice of Nature, 1883)
  4. “A fraude” (Обман / Deception, 1883)
  5. “Alexandrita” (Александрит / The Alexandrite, 1885)
  6. “A propósito da Sonata a Kreutzer” (По поводу “Крейцеровой сонаты” / Concerning “The Kreutzer Sonata,” 1890, published posthumously 1899)

They were evidently chosen because they were mentioned by Walter Benjamin.

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