August 5, 2014
- Scott G. F. Bailey is reading The Devils (Бесы, 1871-72): “I don’t know how it’s escaped everyone’s notice that Anton Lavrentievich Govorov is clearly working for the tsar’s secret police.”
- A recent production of Gogol’s Marriage (Женитьба, 1842) was “far too normal,” according to Notes of an Idealist. For example, “the intended bride Agaf’ya was a kind of Jane Austen heroine (and dressed appropriately), quite naturally agitated at having to choose a husband, when she should be both stupid and a threat.”
- Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings reviews a 2014 edition of Pushkin’s Belkin’s Stories, translated by Roger Clarke. As I understand it, it’s a reissue or a revised version of a translation that appeared in a set of Pushkin’s complete works in English published between 1999 and 2003 and featuring translations by Clarke and Paul Debreczeny. For more see Clarke’s website.
- Even Lizok’s review of Yuri Mamleyev’s Шатуны (which appeared in samizdat in 1966 and has a complicated publication history), translated by Marian Schwartz as The Sublimes (2014), is unsettling. Lizok calls this “metaphysical realist” novel about a serial killer “a book that is, whether I like it or not, a modern classic.” You can download a bilingual edition of Schwartz’s translation for free!
- Sarah J. Young is working on a book on “narratives of prison, exile and hard labour” and her post on two historians’ books on prison reforms and corporal punishment in nineteenth-century Russia has much to offer non-historians. Highlights: there’s a large gap between the picture that emerges if you look at the “rhetoric of reform” and the one that comes out of personal narratives from those who saw or lived through the prison system. It’s possible that after the abolition of serfdom, convicts were economically important as a source of free labor. And the degree to which different social estates were subject to corporal punishment was prominent in the legal definition of those estates, so that “the system treated peasants, both during and after serfdom, as if they were already criminals, regardless of whether any crime or misdemeanour had been committed, and convicts as if they were serfs.” As is often the case, the parallels to the U.S. leap out: in particular, I’ve read that post-Reconstruction Southern prisons recreated slavery and the plantation economy in all but name, and that pre–Civil War legal codes in places like Virginia prescribed corporal and capital punishment for blacks for a much wider range of crimes than they did for whites.
- Russian Dinosaur on Turgenev (and Annenkov, Botkin, Katkov, and others) on the Isle of Wight in 1860. A plaque commemorating Turgenev’s stay at a particular villa was down for repair and previously mounted in a hard-to-see place, despite the fact that “it’s somehow hard to imagine daily crowds of gawking ‘Bazarov Trail’ tourists with ‘Rudin Rules!’ T-shirts forcing the freeholders of Cedar Lodge to adopt evasive measures.”