A feuilletonist, a cynical poet, and a homeopathic foot: bloggers on 1830s and 1840s prose
Languagehat recently read Ivan Lazhechnikov’s The Ice House or The Palace of Ice (Ледяной дом, 1835) and explains an odd phrase (a “gypsy’s daughter, getting into a carriage with the empress, is described as having a гомеопатическая ножка ‘homeopathic (little) foot’”), tracks down a perplexing epigraph attributed to “Opal I. K.,” checks how early “electrify” was used metaphorically in Russian and English, and sums up “if you like Scott or Dickens, you’ll probably like Lazhechnikov.”
Sarah J. Young’s list of the top ten fictional writers in Russian literature has a lot of well-known books on it (in several cases books I’ve read, but wouldn’t have thought to put on such a list), but the last two spots on the list are not covered in the average survey course:
10. Elena Gan, The Ideal. Gan’s 1837 society tale contains a brilliant portrait of a cynical Petersburg poet, Anatoly Borisovich. We see him the eyes of the normally level-headed Olga, as she becomes first infatuated and then disillusioned with him. Gan is one of several female 19th-century Russian writers who deserves to be far better known than she is.
9. Ivan Panaev, The Petersburg Feuilletonist. Included in Nikolai Nekrasov’s famous 1845 almanac The Physiology of Petersburg, Panaev’s sketch is a slightly heavy-handed, but witty depiction of the rise and fall of the most Peterburgian of literary figures. Replete with references to fashionable Petersburg life, it represents the most self-reflexive piece in a collection based on the idea of self-reflection, as the sketch-writer is typified to become the subject of a sketch himself.