Words new to me: мурмолка
A murmolka was a men’s hat like the one in this 1890s painting. (There’s a very nice gallery of them here.) A Wikipedia contributor helpfully explains that “in the mid–nineteenth century, the murmolka became fashionable among Russian Slavophiles; it was worn by K. S. Aksakov, A. S. Khomiakov, and others; and it was used polemically as a symbol of Slavophilism by opponents of that movement.”
That’s just how it turns up in Sophie Engelhardt’s (Ol’ga N.’s) “A Stumbling Block” (Камень преткновения, 1862):
“Listen, Boris Pavlovich,” he began. “You’re one of the most honest men in the world; you wear a caftan and a murmolka: you’re an out-and-out Russian peasant, and for all that — it’s a strange thing! — you bear a striking resemblance to a man of my acquaintance, a man of high society who could not be said to be beyond reproach, a genuine eighteenth-century marquis. He is no more, and I will not take it upon myself to lie for a dead man.” (623)
This is the female main character’s friend and onetime suitor Mukhranov, leading up to the speech that lets her see the similarity between her late husband, a bad man of ultra-Western tastes, and her current love Tramonin, a good man of unfortunately rigid Slavophile views. Neither would let her be free.
The story had some themes I’ve seen in Ol’ga N. before:
- characters discuss the proper attitude to take toward a male relative fighting in the Crimean War, as in “The Old Man” (Старик, 1857)
- gender roles are fought over through characters explicitly discussing George Sand, as in the 1864 story “Liza” (other Russian authors do this too, of course)
- we learn about a woman (the Slavophile love interest’s great-grandmother, who, he asserts, was just like the woman he loves and is writing to) exclusively through the words of a male character, as in “Martha” (Марфа: Быль, 1876)
- and the way men try to control the main character’s language (her husband would only let her speak French; her Slavophile beau gives her a Russian dictionary as a gift to help her prune Gallicisms from her conversation, 608-09) reminded me of the post where I first heard of Ol’ga N.
I thought I’d found some other new words in “A Stumbling Block,” but голлоу was just a typo for (очертя) голову, and as far as I can tell, янтарные сливки wasn’t the forgotten special thing I first took it to be, but just a description of the color of some cream. Unless anyone knows another kind of amber cream?