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“And the quick-tempered youth was ready to prove that no Chichikovs, Nozdryovs, or Korobochkas existed in the world.”

March 30, 2016

How often do you learn of a nineteenth-century Russian novel written by a woman you know nothing about that’s so good it makes someone fume about the “unjust workings of literary history and canon formation”? If, like me, you haven’t read Elena Vel’tman (1816-1868), you should read Languagehat on her novel Victor (Виктор, 1853).

Elena Vel'tman, née Kube (1816-1868)

Elena Vel’tman, née Kube (1816-1868)

The book has one character who quotes Rousseau, Petrarch, and… Trediakovskii from memory, and another who “reads Gogol’s preface [to Dead Souls] inviting readers to send him their accounts of whatever part of Russia they know so that a complete picture can be built up, and decides he will ride around the countryside and tell the author about it.” It sounds fun, and I’m all the more interested since it may have influenced A Thousand Souls (Тысяча душ, 1858) — that’s also something I know courtesy of Languagehat, who sent me a quote from A. P. Mogilianskii suggesting the connection between Victor and Pisemskii.

E. Vel’tman didn’t even make my list of women writers with and without pseudonyms a few years ago. Iu. Akutin writes that there was some confusion about her name. Apparently, she was born Elena Ivanovna Kube. She reluctantly married the wealthy P. D. Krupenikov, but published under her maiden name, Elena Kube. At some point the writer’s mother married a man named Sabaneev, which led people to incorrectly believe that Elena Kube was a pseudonym and that her actual last name was Sabaneeva. Later the writer met A. F. Vel’tman and married him after managing to get a divorce from her first husband.

Besides Victor, Elena Vel’tman wrote

  • “So It Was a Dream?” (Так это был сон?, 1846)
  • “Oksana” (Оксана, 1847)
  • “The Marchioness Luigi [?]” (Маркиза Луиджи, 1848) [Druzhinin, then at The Contemporary, accused The Muscovite of hypocrisy in 1849 for simultaneously publishing this story and criticizing George Sand]
  • Lydia (Лидия, 1848)
  • “On Women’s Education in Public Schools” (О воспитании женщины в общественных училищах, 1848)
  • “The Alcibiades of His Family” (Алкивиад своей семьи, 1849)
  • The Alphabet and Reading for the Earliest Ages (Азбука и чтение для первого возраста, 1862)
  • Report on the Education of Children in the Home (Уведомление о детском домашнем обучении, 1862)
  • “On Russian Nannies” (О русских нянюшках, 1862)
  • Sacred and Notable Places in the Moscow Kremlin (Святыни и достопамятности московского Кремля, 1865, 2nd ed. 1873, 31 pp.)
  • The Adventures of Prince Gustav Eriksson, Who Was Engaged to the Tsarevna Xenia Godunova (Приключения королевича Густава Ириковича, жениха царевны Ксении Годуновой, 1851-67).

(Most of these are from a numbered list that goes up to 13 but skips 6 and 7, so maybe there are others out there.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kaggsysbookishramblings permalink
    March 31, 2016 1:01 am

    I’m guessing there’s nothing in translation, then? 😦

    • March 31, 2016 9:10 am

      Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Everything on WorldCat under her name is in Russian, and she’s obscure enough today that she doesn’t have her own Wikipedia page in Russian or English (though she’s mentioned on her husband’s).

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