February 21, 2014
- Via Robert Chandler on SEELANGS, here’s the table of contents of the latest New England Review. There are a lot of translations of Russian poetry and prose: Pushkin (Alyssa Dinega Gillespie), Dostoevskii (Michael R. Katz), and Chekhov (Rosamund Bartlett) from the nineteenth century, and quite a few more from the twentieth and twenty-first. Unfortunately most of it isn’t available online.
- Amateur Reader is seeing Hegel everywhere, including in Gertsen’s My Past and Thoughts (Былое и думы, published 1868). And here he is on Eugene Onegin (Евгений Онегин, written 1823-31). I always forget how over-the-top Nabokov’s translation is: “of the pampered senses joy,” “trample vernant blooms.” Google gives me 6 instances of “vernant blooms” on the whole internet, all this passage. I assume Nabokov’s train of thought must have been весенний = vernal, and вешний is related to весенний but less ordinary, so let’s stick a different suffix on and get “vernant.” But for my money “vernal” is already fancier and less comprehensible than either весенний or вешний, which are transparently connected to весна ‘spring.’
- In the years after the October Revolution, Aleksandr Chaianov “published (at his own expense) five short Gothic-fantastic tales in separate volumes with print runs of no more than 300 copies, mostly under the whimsical pseudonym ‘Botanist X,’” stories that are “indulgently intertextual, erratically citing Hoffmann, Pushkin, Karamzin, Catullus, and the occasional authority on agronomy.” From Muireann Maguire in a guest post at Writers No One Reads.
- Languagehat liked Gogol’s The Gamblers (Игроки, published 1842). My favorite Gogol play is Marriage (Женитьба, also published 1842), but reading LH’s post and being reminded of the deck of cards named Adelaida Ivanovna makes me want to give The Gamblers another try.
- And here is Phillip Routh on Sologub’s The Petty Demon (Мелкий бес, published partially in 1905, fully in 1907): “Initially I took this to be a comic novel because every character and every encounter highlight the absolute worst in human nature; since people aren’t that bad, the results are absurd. Peredonov, the main character, is made up of a plethora of vices, with not one virtue thrown in. Some examples: ‘Everything that reached his consciousness was transformed into something vile and filthy’ and ‘He had no objects that he loved just as there were no people he loved.’ Despite his odiousness, women are in hot pursuit of him as a husband. This sadist (yes, he’s that too) is a schoolteacher in a provincial town, and the haphazard plot revolves around his bumbling machinations to be appointed to the post of inspector. At the midway point the author escalates the level of outrageousness by introducing an androgynous, pubescent boy and having him engage in sex games with a young woman; this comes perilously close to pornography. He also has Peredonov, who from the beginning was paranoid and superstitious, turn into a full-blown maniac. No longer did I find anything comic about this novel; the grimy desolation that pervades it had became dull and monotonous, and I went into skimming mode. From the Introduction I learned that Demon was enormously successful in Russia when it came out in 1907. Some critics credited Sologub with exposing the petty and vicious vulgarity of provincial life, and that, in Peredonov, he was presenting an individual with a spiritual void. I don’t buy this. Without real people, no point about life can be made. This isn’t a novel about moral corruption; rather, it’s a corrupt novel conjured up by a man with an odd and undisciplined mind.” I feel like I had Routh’s reaction to the novel in every particular but the opposite one overall. I felt the “grimy desolation that pervades” the novel, but to me that made it horrible and mesmerizing. Peredonov doesn’t seem human, and usually anything we can’t interpret as being about people is boring, but magically The Petty Demon works anyway.