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The Meeting (48)

September 4, 2021

“Afimya,” she said to the cook, “I’ll stay the night in your hut. Grab my cloak from the entryway; I need to go to town early, and I don’t want to wake anyone up…”

“Supposed to wake the guest early too, and get the samovar…”

“We’ll see how that goes.”

She left by the small porch. The lady and gentleman were getting up from the table. The girl ran in to inform the cook that the gentleman had kept kissing the lady’s hands at dinner. Now they are saying goodbye. The lady would not get up to see him off in the morning.

In fact, Alexandra Sergeyevna had realized that her toilette could not be finished in time for her guest’s early departure, but she assured him she would wake up and see him again without fail. Altasov understood what she was thinking and was delightfully firm.

“I shall never forgive myself if I deprive you of a single minute of the sleep you need—indeed you do need it, don’t be like that. No, no, don’t. You have a nervous temperament, and to interrupt your dreams, the bliss of repose—

“Sleep, the dawn comes
“Cold and early…”*

“O poet!”

“Let us say our farewells now. Farewell…”

“No… goodbye, until we meet again.”

“Meet again? When?”

“In September, in St. Petersburg.”

“Oh, but I’ll be here again in August myself!”

“You will? You’ll come?”

“I shall come to get you, to remind you, I shall take you away…”

“Really? And we shall see each other…?”

“‘Let’s drink to our meeting!’” he sang, filling two glasses. “A toast!”

The girl led him to Anna Vasilyevna’s room. Pale barege could still be seen in the hallway and the goodbyes still echoed in the air when Altasov locked the door. The window had remained ajar the whole evening; a damp shivering was setting in, as after tears. Altasov yawned and laughed, packing his things with pleasure.

“Lovely…! Now I just need not to spoil things in August. And until then keep things going—letters, packages, and such. And on to St. Petersburg for the honeymoon. Easier to finish things here, and it would be a better play to appear there with it already finished… Or even, I suppose, bother St. Petersburg…”

He fell asleep.


* These are the first two lines of an untitled 1847 lyric poem by Afanasy Fet (1820–1892).


previous | nextfirst installment
“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


— Афимья, сказала она кухарке: — я ночую у тебя в избе. Захвати-ка мой бурнус из прихожей; мне в город надо рано, так чтоб никого не разбудить…

— И гостя велено рано будить, и чтоб самовар…

— Это увидим.

Она ушла чрез маленькое крыльцо. Господа вставали из-за стола. Девочка прибежала сообщить кухарке, что за ужином барин у барышни все целовал ручки. Теперь прощаются. Барышня завтра не встанет его провожать.

Александра Сергеевна, в самом деле, сообразила, что ее туалет не может быть окончен к раннему отъезду гостя, но уверяла, что проснется, что непременно еще увидится. Алтасов понимал, в чем дело и был очаровательно резок.

— Я никогда не прощу себе, если лишу вас хоть одной минуты сна, который вам необходим — необходим, поймите, не капризничайте. Ну, да, да, не капризничайте. Нервная натура — и прерывать грезы, эту негу отдохновения —

Спи, еще зарею
Холодно и рано…

— О поэт!

— Простимся же теперь. Прощайте…

— Нет… до свидания. [1879 text: до свиданья]

— До свиданья? Когда?

— В сентябре… в Петербурге.

— О, так я сам в августе буду здесь!

— Вы? вы приедете?

— Приеду за вами, приеду напомнить, увезу вас…

— Неужели? и мы увидимся?..

— «Выпьем за наше свиданье!» пропел он, наливая два бокала. — Чокнемся!

Девочка провела его в комнату Анны Васильевны. В коридоре еще мелькнул бледный бареж и прозвучало прощанье, когда Алтасов запирал дверь. Окно оставалось весь вечер настежь; охватывала влажная дрожь, точно после слез. Алтасов зевал и смеялся, укладываясь с наслаждением.

— Славно!.. Теперь, не оплошать бы только в августе. А до тех пор поддерживать, поддерживать — ну, письма, послания. И — в Петербург, справлять медовый месяц. Здесь удобнее кончить и туда ловчее явиться, когда уж кончено… А то, пожалуй, ну его и Петербург…

Он заснул.


The Meeting (47)

September 3, 2021

In the grove the cook and the worker who had returned from town had been calling her for a long time. The girl, who had been eavesdropping from the entryway, told them that Anna Vasilyevna had run off.

“Time to serve the meal!” she shouted from the porch.

Anna Vasilyevna came up the porch stairs.

She remembered everything that needed to be done, she got out the Dresden cups and poured the bouillon, arranged the pastries bought from the town bakery on a platter, put the wine in the icebox—which Alexandra Sergeyevna had given particular orders about. The girl started off to set the table.

“I don’t need a place set for me,” said Anna Vasilyevna, handing her the heirloom silver.

“You’re not supposed to have one anyway. You’re to make a bed for the gentleman in your room.”

Anna Vasilyevna tidied her room and prepared a bed for Altasov. She thought that she would not spend the next night here either, and—not mechanically, but quite calmly—took a little suitcase out from under the couch, got some undergarments and dresses from the wardrobe, and packed them, unhurriedly, just as usual. There was still plenty of room in the suitcase. She took a tiny box with her papers and money off the table and checked and counted everything. Everything is as it should be, only there wasn’t much money, not much of her own. This was her money; she had sent a hundred rubles as a gift for Holy Week… A gift…! Well, let it go toward her salvation. Looking for her might take a long time. She wasn’t about to ask that gentleman which street and which house…

She felt that it was getting cold again. No, no, none of these caprices. Need to stay healthy. For six months she had helped the man she loved turn over in his bedsheets, she had been there when he breathed his last sigh… Lord, you do sometimes seem to send us more than we can bear… No, none of that, and make sure no one notices… She locked the suitcase and pushed it back into its place.


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“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


В роще давно ее кликали кухарка и работник, воротившийся из города. Девочка, которая подслушивала в сенях, сказала им, что Анна Васильевна убежала.

— Кушать подавайте! кричала она с крыльца.

Анна Васильевна поднялась на крыльцо.

Она все вспомнила, что было нужно, достала саксонские чашки и разлила бульон, уложила на блюдо пирожное, привезенное из городской кондитерской, поставила в холодильницу вино — о чем особенно приказывала Александра Сергеевна. Девочка отправилась накрывать стол.

— Мне не надо прибора, сказала Анна Васильевна, выдавая ей старинное серебро.

— Да вам и не велено. У вас в комнате надо барину постель постлать.

Анна Васильевна убрала свою комнату и приготовила постель Алтасову. Она подумала, что и завтра тоже не будет ночевать здесь и не машинально, но совершенно спокойно вынула из-под дивана маленький чемодан, из шкафа немного белья и платья, и уложилась, не спеша, привычно. В чемодане было еще просторно. Она взяла со стола крошечную шкатулку, где были ее бумаги и деньги, просмотрела и пересчитала. Все как должно, только денег мало, своих. А это — ее деньги; она прислала к святой в подарок сто рублей… Подарок… Ну, пусть идет он ей же на спасение. Искать ее придется, может быть, долго. Не спрашивать же у этого барина, на какой улице, какой дом…

Она почувствовала [1912-13, 1987, and 1991 text: Анна Васильевна почувствовала], что опять холодеет. Нет, нет, этих причуд не надо. Надо здоровой быть. Полгода на простынях переворачивала милого человека, последний вздох приняла… [paragraph break in 1912–13, 1987, and 1991 text, both of which also put quotation marks before Господи and after приметил, with a final period rather than an ellipsis] Господи, да ты, никак, выше сил посылаешь… Нет, не надо; и чтоб [1912–13, 1987, and 1991 text: чтобы] никто не приметил… [paragraph break in 1879, 1912–13, 1987, and 1991 text] Она заперла чемодан и задвинула его опять на место.

The Meeting (46)

September 2, 2021

She stopped, beside herself. Everything was getting mixed up, the present, the past… “Bury her…” Once Sasha had cut her foot on some glass, the grass had blood on it; the university students were afraid for her mother. That was right in front of her…! Only now it was her maternal heart lying torn out and trampled… it hurts…! Sasha, God help you, what were you thinking? Why? I mean, if you did it for a crust of bread, but, my treasure, you have a crust of bread, you are knowledgeable, educated… And then if you didn’t have enough, and didn’t have the strength to earn your own money, what am I here for, daughter, my life, my heart… lying there in a pool of blood! Sasha, take everything from me, everything, I’ll give you nice clothes and good things to eat… Lord, it is for her, so she could be praised by those debauchers, that I worked… she sent the patterns… “My serfs…” Sasha, isn’t it a sin? I mean, I wasn’t the only one, innocent children also did some of the work, what did they do that you should make them work for something so shameful… You paid… My God, where did it come from, what money did she use to pay…? A house, diamonds… Alexandra Petrovna or whatever it is they call you, what are you? You’ll say your mother spent fifteen years as a gentleman’s lover, but your mother loved him and shared his sorrows more than lawful wedded wives ever do! Your mother came to him penniless and was still penniless when she left! Honest men, the likes of which no longer exist, used to kiss your mother’s hand, while you have that nice old man telling stories about you…

“What, have I turned into a fool? What could I expect? I’ll go see her, I’ll say what I need to say, I’ll get her to come to her senses, she’ll see I’m right! I’ll say what I need to say, I’ll fall at her feet… Sasha, Christ forgave people like you, but come to your senses! My light, my child… Oh, I won’t reproach you, I’m a sinner too… Come back to me, lay your head on me, my sweet, beautiful girl! My tears will wash you clean as the baptismal font… I’ll go to her. Right away… tomorrow. I’ll find her; what’s the use of waiting any longer? Who’s going to stop me? I mean, if I were locked in a room, and out the window I saw her being torn apart by wild animals, I’d jump out the window to get to her. I’ll go, I’ll find her; it’s all God. I’ll take a look at my… my darling, my joy…!”


previous | nextfirst installment
“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


Она остановилась, безумная. Все смешивалось, настоящее, прошедшее… «Схоронить…» Саша однажды ножку о стекло разрезала, кровь была на траве; студенты испугались за мать. Это вот перед глазами!.. Только теперь это ее материнское сердце лежит, вырвано, растоптано… больно!.. Саша, Бог с тобой, что же ты это? Зачем? Ведь если бы тебе была неволя, нынче нет крепостных! Если бы ты из-за куска хлеба, но, сокровище мое, у тебя есть кусок хлеба, ты выучена, воспитана… Ну, недостало бы тебе, или силы недостало бы заработать, я-то на что же, дочка моя — жизнь моя, сердце мое… Вот оно в крови валяется! Саша, возьми все у меня, все, наряжу, полакомлю… Господи, это для нее, на похвальбу перед развратниками, я работала… она узоры присылала… — «Крепостные мои»… Саша, не грех ли тебе? ведь не я одна, ведь невинные дети трудились, за что ж ты их-то на такой стыд… Ты платила… Боже ты мой, что ж это, какими же деньгами она платила? Дом, бриллианты… Александра Петровна, или как там тебя зовут, что ты такое? Ты скажешь, твоя мать пятнадцать лет прожила любовницей у барина, так твоя мать любила, горе делила, как законные не любят и не делят! Твоя мать нищей к нему пришла, нищей вышла! Честные люди, каких нынче нет, у твоей матери руки целовали, а о тебе, вон, старичок сердечный рассказывает…

— Да что же я-то одурела, что ли? Чего же мне ждать? Я к ней поеду, я ей скажу, она у меня за разум хватится, она меня узнает! Я ей скажу, я ей в ноги упаду… Саша, Христос таких прощал, только опомнись! Свет моӣ, дитя мое… Ох, не попрекну, я сама грешница… Воротись ко мне, припади ко мне, милая, красавица! Я тебя, все равно, как от купели, моими слезами… Я к ней поеду. Сейчас… завтра. Найду ее; чего же еще ждать? Кто меня остановит? Ну, заперли бы меня, а я бы в окошко увидала, что ее звери терзают, я бы к ней в окошко кинулась. Поеду, найду; все Бог. Погляжу на свою… милка ты моя, радость моя…

Are odnodvorka, kumis, krasnaia gorka, zheny-mironositsy, zavalina, tabel’ka, and kuritsa better with footnotes or without?

September 1, 2021

There are a few things I’ve heard experienced translators say that really stuck with me and seem to come up a lot in practice. Right now I keep thinking of something I read in an interview with Lisa Hayden: try taking information you’re tempted to put in a footnote and incorporate it into the text somehow.

Sometimes the costs and benefits seem pretty clear. I could strike the footnote on tabel’ka and kuritsa as card games or variations, and readers would get 90% of it from context (installment 32). On the other hand, if I didn’t have a note on krasnaia gorka and zheny-mironositsy, something would be lost: it changes things if either the narrator or the priest explains that those are names for the two Sundays after Easter (installment 40). What would be ideal is finding folksy names for those Sundays used by enslaved Christians in an English-speaking country who also had to wait until after Easter to get married, but as far as I know they don’t exist.

The big footnote decision is what to do with odnodvorka, odnodvortsy, and odnodvorcheskii. These related words, which refer to people from an intermediate social estate found in the southern part of European Russia who weren’t enslaved but didn’t own serfs, come up four times (installments 13, 39, 41, and 42). I currently have footnotes for the first two. Part of me wants to get rid of them, and another part wants to treat odnodvortsy like vodka, verst, samovar, or moujik: a distinctively Russian concept that only needs to be transliterated.

It’s important to the plot and characters that Anna Vasilyevna is an odnodvorka. Her station is far enough below the well-off nobleman Tabaev that their relationship is a mésalliance: he doesn’t marry her for years, and his sister finds the connection appalling. But she was never legally owned by him, even before 1861, and their daughter did not become his serf on paper when she was born out of wedlock.

We’d have a different opinion of Tabaev if he’d seduced an enslaved woman or refused to marry a noblewoman. Anna Vasilyevna’s reflections on free love versus debauchery, and whether her and her daughter’s decisions to become a wealthy man’s lover have anything in common, would also hit us differently if she were from a different estate.

I’d like to link the places in the text that explicitly mention odnodvortsy. It would be nice if readers knew this was a “southern” detail, like the kumis people drink near this town of N. that might remind us of Khvoshchinskaia’s Ryazan. When Tabaev says “you’re free, come live at my house!” (installment 43), using vol’naia rather than svobodnaia, I want the reader to think of her legal status as a free woman, not her lack of romantic commitments. But I don’t want their love story to read like a lesson in the history of social estates.

In the current draft I’m not sure I’ve accomplished any of that. I settled on “from a family not much above the peasants” and “not much more than a peasant” as a non-jargon-y workaround to explain the idea of odnodvortsy, but it’s a long phrase to keep repeating and doesn’t always fit. For the third and fourth instances I switch to talking about “a free but serfless family that was one of only two such households in Oreshkovo” and “where the two families lived.”

A more literal approach to those same four phrases [additional context in brackets] might give “[A simple girl;] an odnodvorka,” “An odnodvorka, [grew up sitting on the zavalina],” “[She is an orphan, she also lives with strangers, with] odnodvortsy, of which there were only two households in Oreshkovo” and “[The next day Tabaev went to] the odnodvortsy settlement.”

Zavalina is the last word on my list of things that might or might not be worth a footnote; it’s a mound of earth around a hut used for insulation and for sitting on. Pictures of them often show neat wooden benches, but I gather they were sometimes just dirt.

People sitting on a zavalina.

What do you think? Do you like to see foreign words like odnodvortsy in translated texts? Would you rather see a word or two of plain English in the text plus a footnote? Or is it best to use many English words to convey what this one Russian word means without notes? Does it matter if the same or similar English words are used in all four places where odnodvortsy are mentioned? Is there any way to tie the odnodvortsy to the regional flavor of the story?

Any critiques of how I handled tabel’ka, zheny-mironisitsy, etc. are also most welcome.

The Meeting (45)

September 1, 2021

Anyone who lived through those years and remembers them knows how difficult it is to say what happened then. One’s first ideas, first love, first hours of regained health cannot be expressed in any words… Something solemnly quiet, like the eve of a great holiday; the house is clean, the candles have not yet been lit but are ready, and everything awaits the bell that will sound in the night. And even the receding night is so full of grace; something was accomplished during it, something was resurrected; the night now shines with the amber of rising dawn.. Reason, freedom…

Of course, people remember it different ways…

This irrevocable thing has been criticized more than once. Its goals have been called madness, it has been mercilessly mocked, it has been unconscionably slandered. It has been buried…


Anna Vasilyevna remembered where she was when she tripped on a felled tree in the grove.

“What is the matter with me?” she thought.

She saw before her the groves of Oreshkovo, and a tiny girl who would run in the twilight holding on to her dress.

She was a beautiful girl…

There were times when the young people hardly ever put her down; they took her along to building sites, to go fishing. They would give the mother a lesson, learn this, and they would definitely keep an eye on Sasha in the meantime… Lord, she was the apple of her father’s eye! She was mischievous, incorrigible…

Now she was grown up.

How could this be…? What kind of people were they there? This visitor, the writer fellow, wasn’t exactly young after all. Those men were young, but who ever heard so much as an immodest word from them? “Love,” they used to say, “not debauchery…” Or sometimes they would say, “whoever loves honestly is in the right, Anna Vasilyevna…”

They were the first ones to call her that; before, she had always been “Annushka,” They respected her. They explained in their own way that vain pride was stupid, that getting rich was sinful, they had read this; she had already understood this to be true before, only in her own way; they talked it through together, and it came out to be the same thing. They were lovely, simple people, dear, true friends. And how they loved him, and he… he became even better with them. They were so cheerful, they worked so hard, they knew so much. And they kept saying, “study, Anna Vasilyevna, study, it will give you a chance to be useful to your daughter…”

Look how useful she had been…! Creator, wouldn’t it have been easier to bury her then…?


previous | nextfirst installment
“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


Кто прожил эти годы и помнит, тот знает, как трудно пересказать их. Первые понятия, первая любовь, первые часы выздоровления не передаются никакими словами… Что-то торжественно тихое, будто канун большого праздника; дом убран, свечи еще не зажжены, но готовы, и все ждет колокола, который разольется в ночи. И самая уплывающая ночь такая благодатная; в ней свершилось что-то, в ней что-то воскресло; она уже светлеет янтарной восходящей зарей… Разум, свобода!..

Конечно, кто как помнит…

Это невозвратное осуждалось не раз. Его стремления называли безумием, над ним глумились без пощады, на него клеветали без совести. Его похоронили…


Анна Васильевна опомнилась, споткнувшись о срубленное дерево в роще.

— Что это со мной? подумала она.

Ей померещились рощи Орешкова и крохотная девочка, которая, бывало, в сумерках бежала, держась за ее платье.

Красавица была девочка…

Молодежь эта, бывало, с рук ее не спускает; с собой и на постройки, с собой рыбу удить. Матери урок зададут, учи, а покуда за Сашей, точно, приглядят… Отец-то, Господи, души в ней не чаял! Прoкaзница была, вострушка…

Вот выросла.

Как же это?.. Но что ж это за люди там? Приезжий этот, сочинитель, ведь уж не молоденький. Те были и молоды, но кто же когда слышал от них нескромное слово? — «Любить», говорили они, «а не развратничать»… Бывало, скажут: «кто любит честно, тот прав, Анна Васильевна»…

Они первые стали так ее звать; а то все была «Аннушка». Они ее уважали. Они по-своему объясняли, читали, что глупо чванство, что грешно богатеть: она прежде еще так понимала, только по-своему; перетолковали вместе — и вышло одно и то же. Славные, простые были, милые, настоящие друзья. А как они его-то любили, и он… он с ними еще лучше стал. Веселые какие, как трудились, как много знали. И все, бывало: — «Учитесь, учитесь, Анна Васильевна, дочке пригодитесь»…

Пригодилась!.. Создатель, да не легче ли было бы тогда ее схоронить?..

The Meeting (44)

August 31, 2021

A year later they had a daughter. This happened right around the first news of the coming abolition of serfdom. They say sometimes that “the cup of sorrows runneth over,” though fate in its craftiness can always find a way to add another drop to the overfull vessel; no one has yet complained that the cup of joys runneth over. Tabaev, however, thought he was experiencing something of the kind. He did not know how he could keep up with it all. At home there was Anyuta, charming, quietly proud as a seventeen-year-old mother; a child you could never get enough of looking at; the village with its honest, practical people, who spoke so reasonably, waited with such dignity. Then, afterward… Have to see what would happen then.

He went to N., took a look at the noblemen, in the evening, at the club, where they sat with four candles around their green tables, not unsealing their decks of cards, biting their lips, pondering, quickly looking around at whoever walked up, and depending who it was, sadly greeting them or staying silent. In their houses they were more open and noisier. The ladies made even more noise; French, which had been discarded during the war so as not to offend the national feeling, became suddenly prominent again, on account of the servants…

Tabaev went to St. Petersburg, and was just barely able to make up his mind to tear himself away; there people were jubilant… His sister wasn’t far away, he visited her too. There he was met with advice: sell absolutely everything as quickly as possible so he wouldn’t live to see the day when fires would be set on all four sides and the house at Oreshkovo and the whole village would be burned to the ground. He can’t remember when he last laughed so hard, and he brought lots of stories back to Anyuta. That same winter they opened a school with father, Father Pyotr, a “real” school with a teacher from among the old university students.

A year passed in work, peace, expectation. As a well-to-do landowner, Tabaev was elected a member of the N. Committee on the Peasant Question. He had in fact made an effort to get elected. He put all of himself into the cause, he adored the cause and because of it believed he was needed. He parted from his Anyuta and his Sasha for half a year, did whatever he could to make quick trips back to see them during the rare intervals, endured the rattling of the post carriage back so he wouldn’t be late for meetings. He worked whole nights through, wrote and said a great deal, argued and offered dissenting opinions even more. He made some implacable enemies, knew this, and did not get discouraged. He was called “restless,” “dangerous”; he only laughed… In the spring of 1859 he was home, satisfied, excited, like a man who has done his duty, like a sailor who has seen land…


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“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


Через год у них родилась дочь. Это случилось как раз при первых вестях об отмене крепостного права. Говорят иногда, будто «чаша скорбей переполняется», хотя судьба и в переполненное ухитряется еще прибавлять капельки; на переполненную чашу радостей еще никто не жаловался. Табаеву, впрочем, показалось, что ему достается нечто подобное. Он не знал, куда разорваться. Дома — Анюта, прелестная, тихо гордая, как семнадцатилетняя мать; ребеночек, на которого не наглядишься; деревня — честный, дельный народ, толкующий так здраво, ожидающий так достойно. Там, дальше… Надо посмотреть, что там.

Он съездил в N*, посмотрел на господ, вечером, в клубе, где они сидели между четырех свечей за зелеными столами, не распечатывая карт, прикусывая губы, призадумываясь, торопливо оглядываясь на подходящих и, смотря по тому, кто подходил, грустно приветствуя или замолкая. В своих домах они были откровеннее и шумели. Дамы шумели еще больше; французский язык, ради национального чувства оставленный во время войны, вдруг опять пошел в ход, ради прислуги…

Табаев поехал в Петербург, откуда едва решился вырваться; там ликовали… До сестры было недалеко, он навестил и ее. Там его встретили советы: скорее продать все, все, чтобы не дожить до дней, когда орешковский дом и все село запылают с четырех концов. Он не помнит, когда столько хохотал, и навез рассказов Анюте. Той же зимой с батюшкой отцом Петром они открыли школу, уж «настоящую», с учителем из старых студентов.

Год прошел в работе, в мире, в ожидании; как крупный помещик, Табаев был выбран членом N-ского комитета по крестьянсному делу. Он и сам постарался, чтобы его выбрали. Он весь жил в деле, он обожал дело и потому считал себя нужным. На полгода он расстался с своей Анютой, с своей Сашей, урывался взглянуть на них как-нибудь в редкие промежутки, ломал бока на перекладной, чтоб не опоздать к заседаниям. Он работал целые ночи, писал и говорил много, еще больше спорил и подавал отдельные мнения. Он нажил себе непримиримых врагов, знал это и не унывал. Его называли «беспокойным, опасным», он только смеялся… Весной 1859 г. он был дома, довольный, возбужденный, как человек, исполнивший свою обязанность, как мореход, завидевший землю…

Good, but by other aesthetic standards

August 30, 2021

While much prose by Russian women is complex, ironic, and probing—many of Krestoskii’s works, for example, and a number of the fictions Catriona Kelly discusses in her History—these “good-by-most-aesthetic-standards” fictions are not what interests me most. Rather, I mainly explore writings by women that are not “good” in the same terms that works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and company are. I claim that the fictions I discuss are intriguing, important, and worth reading in other ways and that, just as [Margaret] Cohen’s argument suggests, exploring these works that differ from canonical values leads to a fuller and more complex understanding of Russian literature and of aesthetic categories. Throughout I ask: what is intriguing, moving, or important about this prose? Why did people read it in its day and why might people want to read it today? (17)

That’s from Jehanne M. Gheith’s 2004 book about Evgeniia Tur and Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia (V. Krestovskii), and it has me thinking about how, out of the small amount of nineteenth-century fiction by Russian women that I’ve read, I tend to post about (and sometimes translate) the ones that are “‘good’ in the same terms” as canonical works by men. I’ve also read a few works by women that don’t necessarily meet these conventional aesthetic standards, but held my interest anyway. Maybe I should be paying more attention to things like Anna Pavlova-Novinskaia’s “The Ikimsky Family” (Семейство Икимских, 1864) and Izabella Laskos’s (Iza G.’s) Magnolia (Магнолья, 1871)? (I did post about them once each, here and here.)

Gheith’s whole book is excellent. I read it for the chapter on Khvoshchinskaia’s fiction, but the chapters about her biography (a series of girls and women were crucially important to her writing, and when they died she lost inspiration) and criticism (she pointedly adopted a male critical persona and wrote about women writers from a complicated “we male readers” perspective) were amazing. Lots of good stuff in the Tur chapters too, though I came to those with even less previous knowledge. I also liked a contrast Gheith draws at the end:

Tur made her way into the literary world mainly through men, she perceived male literati as her main source of creative support, and she identified more with male literati than with female ones, yet she wrote mainly about female worlds. Krestovskii’s creative lifeline was made up mainly of women, yet she frequently wrote about male worlds and often adopted a male narrative perspective. Is it just a coincidence that Tur and Krestovskii are opposites in this way? Or will we find this to be a pattern as we discover more about Russian women’s writing in the nineteenth century? (189)

I see no reason to think it’s not a coincidence, but it would be interesting if it proved to be a pattern, and as Gheith says elsewhere, it’s difficult to check since we don’t know much about the biographies of even relatively prominent women writers of the time.

The Meeting (43)

August 30, 2021

He did not dare try to win her over with affection and gave her no gifts; giving gifts never occurred to him. Just once, when he was showing her a valuable edition of a natural history book with illustrations in color, and she asked him to leave it with her so she could look at it more in the evening (the evenings had grown long), he brought her a candlestick and two stearine candles… Love is always ridiculous if you tell its story.

All this changed very soon. The conversations, pictures, books of arithmetic and Biblical history—all this “spoiled” her. The girl started doing little work; she was scolded. She did not go out of the house, but you can hardly send away the master. She started being reproached for her relationship with the master… Something suddenly pierced her heart, something frightening and shameful was understood. It was as if she had already known earlier that this thing existed, but had never thought about it. She was horrified and cried; Tabaev guessed what she would not have told him or anyone in the world.

He resolved the matter simply.

“Why should you live with people you aren’t related to?” he said, “You’re not a serf, come live at my house!”

He came up with the idea that she should help the old woman who served as his keyholder and learn to keep house. She believed this easily. The “people she wasn’t related to” understood things even more simply and let her go right away. Tabaev hired a girl to do work for them.

He knew that he had acted appallingly, but he loved her passionately and sincerely. She loved him devotedly, selflessly, and saw forgiveness for herself only in her love. No one explained this to her; the girl understood it herself, without mental contortions, with the purity of her childlike conscience, the lofty emotion of a suddenly mature woman. She loved him, not the gentleman who gave her peace and comforts, who offered pleasure she neither wanted nor took; she could easily have taken power over him but did not even understand what power was. What she held dear was this dear man, kind, rational, just. He was loved by everyone. He cared about every soul, every cause, every need. The reservists who came back with him told stories about him… She would burst into tears and rush to pray to God for him… But why pray? He is a saint…

He was handsome and young; happiness was so enjoyable. And the times were so good…!


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“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


Он не смел приласкать ее и ничем не дарил, подарки не приходили ему в голову. Только раз, когда он показывал ей дорогое издание естественной истории с раскрашенными картинами, и она просила оставить ей еще посмотреть вечером (вечера стали уж длинны), он принес ей подсвечник и две стеариновые свечки… Любовь всегда смешна, если о ней рассказывать.

Все это переменилось очень скоро. Разговоры, картинки, книжки арифметики и священной истории, все это было «баловство». Девка стала мало работать, ее бранили. Из дома она не выходила, но барина не прогонишь. Ее стали попрекать барином… Что-то вдруг колыхнуло ее сердце, что-то понялось страшное и позорное. Она как будто и прежде знала, что это есть, но никогда об этом не думала. Она ужасалась и плакала: Табаев догадался, о чем она не сказала бы ни ему, никому на свете.

Он решил дело просто.

— Что тебе жить у чужих людей, сказал [1879 text: людей! сказал] он: — ты вольная, пойдем ко мне.

Он придумал, что она будет помогать его старухе-ключнице и приучаться к хозяйству. Она легко поверила. «Чужие люди» поняли еще проще и сейчас ее отпустили. Табаев нанял им работницу.

Он знал, что поступил отвратительно, но он страстно и искренно ее любил. Она любила преданно, беззаветно, и только в своей любви видела себе прощение. Никто не объяснял ей этого; девочка поняла сама, без мудрствований, чистотой своей детской совести, высоким чувством вдруг развившейся женщины. Она любила его, не барина, который доставил ей покой и удобства, предлагал удовольствия, которых она не хотела и не брала, она легко могла бы взять власть над ним, но даже не понимала, что такое власть. Ей был мил — милый человек, добрый, рассудительный, справедливый. Его все любили. Он входил во всякую душу, во всякое дело, во всякую нужду. Ополченцы, что с ним воротились, рассказывали про него… Она заливалась слезами и бросалась молить за него Бога… Да что молить! он святой…

Он был хорош собой и молод; счастье было такое веселое. Да и время было такое хорошее!..

The Meeting (42)

August 29, 2021

The next day Tabaev went across the gully to where the two families lived. It was not easy to find this always busy hired hand during the workday, but he did. She brought him joy, he had no other name for the emotion he felt looking at this charming child. She was a child. Childhood at sixteen is rare in any situation. Everything brought her joy, she loved everything. She could see that there were bad things in the world, but she thought that it was “just like that” and it would pass, or “there was nothing to be done about it,” or “it must be for some purpose,” or “out of stupidity,” and no matter what “God will forgive”… This was not slow-wittedness, but a purity that positively failed to comprehend evil. She loved to pray, but prayed in rather her own way. She had a sensitive and heartfelt understanding of all kinds of moral tribulations, down to subtleties that even a mature adult would have understood only after careful analysis; she had a way of grasping them simply, and she could paraphrase them simply, in direct, simple words. She was made entirely of truth, which would have been frightening if not for her constant childlike gaiety. She was not rambunctious, nor meek; she was a free child. Her mind wanted to know, to know a great deal, all that there was. She asked in detail about everything in the world and did not know how she could make it until father would start teaching her “the Law.” Then—she couldn’t even imagine what would happen then: “all will become clear,” she would say. She became attached to Tabaev precisely because he told her about many different things, and she listened laughing with delight. He was infatuated with her.

Soon their meetings and conversations became known to the whole village, but the girl was not even trying to hide them. At twilight, after the cows had been driven in and the people had gone away, she would sit in front of her hut and wait for the gentleman. Sometimes they were even joined by others, and everyone spoke and listened.

“Idyllic…” Tabaev said caustically to himself as he left, but he would come again the next clear evening.


previous | nextfirst installment
“The Meeting” is a translation of “Свидание” (1879) by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia.


Табаев пошел на другой день на однодворческий поселок. В рабочую пору мудрено встретить всегда занятую батрачку, но он встречал ее. Она его радовала, иначе он не мог назвать чувства, которое испытывал, глядя на этого прелестного ретбенка. Она была ребенок. Детство, в шестнадцать лет, редкое во всяком положении. Ее все радовало, она все любила. Она видела, что есть на свете дурное, но ей казалось это «так», пройдет, или «делать нечего», или «стало быть, для чего-нибудь», или «по глупости», и всегда «Бог проcтит»… Это была не тупость, а чистота, положительно не постигающая зла. Она любила молиться, но молилась как-то по-своему. Чутко и жарко понимала она всякие нравственные огорчения, до тонкостей, которые и развитой взрослый понял бы только после внимательного разбора; она схватывала их как-то просто, разом, и высказывала просто, прямыми, простыми словами. Она вся была правда, перед которой было бы страшно, если бы не ее вечная детская веселость. Она была не бойка и не смиренница; она была свободный ребенок. Eе уму хотелось знать, много, все узнать Она обо всем расспрашивала, что есть на свете и не знала, как дожить, когда батюшка станет учить «закону». Тогда она уж не могла сообразить, что это будет: «все раскроется», говорила она. Она привязалась к Табаеву именно потому, что он много всего рассказывал, и слушала, хохоча от восторга. Он в нее влюбился.

Скоро их встречи и разговоры стали известны всему селению, но девочка и не скрывалась. В сумерки, когда стадо пригнали, народ убрался, она садилась перед своей избой и ждала барина. К ним даже иногда присоединялась компания и все толковали, слушали.

— Идиллия… со злостью говорил себе Табаев, уходя, но в первый ясный вечер приходил опять.

Which text?

August 28, 2021

I should commit to a Russian text of “The Meeting” (Свидание, 1879) to use as the basis of my English translation and as the Russian text to include (in new orthography) in the e-book version.

So far I know about six published versions:

  • 1879: in the journal National Annals, no. 2, pp. 499–450

    This is the first publication of the work and the most aggressive in using free indirect discourse. (Some later editions add quotation marks and paragraph breaks to more neatly separate the narrator’s words from characters’ thoughts.) It also uses a lot of ellipses (all the options that exist in Russian: … !.. ?..) and is freer with exclamation points in direct speech. The town is the town of “N.” (a Latin capital N with a period after it when other punctuation permits), with the adjective “N-ский.”

  • 1880: in volume 2, Mothers (Матери), of the collection Novellas (Повести)

    This seems to be the last version of the text published during the author’s lifetime, but I haven’t managed to get a copy. I also don’t know how closely Khvoshchinskaia was involved in any changes made for this edition (Gheith suggests that Suvorin may have been responsible for at least the category-titles of the volumes of Novellas, 171).

  • 1892: in volume 5 of Collected Works, pp. 133–159

    The text closely resembles the 1879 edition, with less use of free indirect discourse and slightly different punctuation. In at least two places a single word is changed or added in a way that significantly changes the impact of a sentence. Some apparent typographical errors not present in 1879 are introduced. The town is the town of “N*” (a Latin capital N with an asterisk), with the adjective “N-ский.”

  • [1912–1913]: in volume 1 of Complete Collected Works, pp. 257–316

    Used as the foundation of the 1987 and 1991 texts. This is the edition of Khvoshchinskaia’s works usually cited by Jehanne M. Gheith in her book on Tur and Khvoshchinskaia. The town is the town of “Энск” (a Cyrillic spelling out of the pronunciation of the letter N, with a derivational suffix for cities added, followed by case endings as needed), with the adjective “энский.” In several places where 1892 and especially 1879 had free indirect discourse, this version uses paragraph breaks and quotation marks to attribute words to a particular character or the narrator.

  • 1987: pp. 363–416 in a multi-author collection of stories, The Meeting: Prose by Russian Women Writers of the 1860s–1880s

    Collection compiled by Viktoriia Vasil’evna Uchenova. The notes to the 1987 text say it follows “Krestovskii V. Poln. sobr. soch.: V 3-kh t. Spb., 1913, t. 1.¨

    Some French words are transliterated or misspelled (merci in the 1879, 1892, and 1912–13 text becomes both мерси and mersi).

  • 1991: pp. 448–497 in a different multi-author collection of stories, Through a Sensitive Heart’s Epiphany…: Novellas and Stories by Russian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century

    Collection compiled by N. I. Iakushin, whose notes say the text follows the 1987 collection. I haven’t yet found any places where the 1987 and 1991 texts diverge.

I read the 1879 text first. The Russian on the blog posts here is my conversion of the 1892 text into the new orthography. Unfortunately I’ve never seen the 1880 edition, which I think is the last one published in the author’s lifetime.

The stakes aren’t that high, since the texts don’t diverge as much as they could. Here are the biggest questions:

Do Tabaev’s progressive friends teach and treat patients (1879), or teach, treat patients, and preach (1892, 1912–13, 1987, 1991)? Here it seems plausible that the word проповедывали ‘they preached’ was changed to и ‘and’ at the last minute for censorship reasons in 1879 and was reinstated in 1880 or 1892, but I’m not sure.

When Altasov tells his story about Mademoiselle Ada and Anna Vasilyevna runs out, does Alexandra Sergeyevna say “C’est sa fille” (1879) or “C’est donc sa fille” (1892, 1912–13, 1987, 1991)? Elsewhere in the story, Alexandra Sergeyevna tries hard not to know, or not to publicly acknowledge knowing, that her brother and Anna Vasilyevna had a daughter well before they were married. The version of the sentence without donc seems to imply more clearly that she knew about Anna Vasilyevna’s daughter all along; with donc it’s easier to imagine that she’s pretending she just figured it out.

And how much free indirect discourse should there be?

Here’s a passage where, in the 1879 and 1892 texts, a single paragraph moves from what seems to be the narrator’s words to what seems to be Alexandra Sergeyevna’s thoughts, but later editions break up the paragraph and add quotation marks to make the shift explicit. In this passage the paragraphs are left intact, but instead of a gradual shift from the narrator’s words to Altasov’s thoughts at a difficult-to-determine place in the “Altasov found it very unpleasant…” paragraph, new punctuation suggests that the shift happens abruptly at the paragraph break with “Service in the provinces is more pleasant…” These aren’t the only examples of this kind of change.

The changes made in 1912–13 sometimes strike me as aesthetically clumsy. I personally like the 1879 version best. What bothers me is that I don’t know if the 1892 edition had editors making posthumous changes Khvoshchinskaia might not have approved of (as I suspect happened with the 1912–13 edition, though I don’t know the details) or if the 1892 edition is faithfully reproducing changes Khvoshchinskaia herself made for the harder-to-find 1880 version of the story.

Any advice?