Articles, PR 10 (2007)

Pushkin's Novel «The Captain's Daughter» As Fictional Family Memoir

Leslie O'Bell[*]


Dedicated to J. Thomas Shaw with gratitude
for his scholarship and generosity of spirit


More often than not at the beginning of the nineteenth century the genre signal “zapiski” was used as the Russian equivalent of the French term “mémoires,” that is, the personal record of the events and experiences of a life.[1] At one point in The Captain’s Daughter, Grinev remarks point­edly that he is not writing a history of the Pugachev uprising but rather “semeistvennye zapiski,” a family memoir. “Ne stanu opisyvat´ orenburg­skuiu osadu, kotoraia prinadlezhit istorii, a ne semeistvennym zapiskam” (490). The present essay has two aims: first to consider the significance of the fact that Pushkin chose to cast The Captain’s Daughter as a family memoir and to write it in the voice of its hero, Petr Grinev, secondly to in­vestigate how Pushkin actually shaped the fictional memoir into a novel. If asked about the genre of Pushkin’s book, most would define it as a his­torical novel, and also a family novel, and add that as a literary prototype in Russia it paves the way to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. But what difference does it make that Pushkin’s book is written as a family memoir where the narration belongs to Grinev? What conditioned Pushkin’s choice, and how did he then work out his task? This was a new departure for him, since his major previous attempts at historical fiction, The Blackamoor of Peter the Great and Dubrovsky, had both been presented in the third person.[2] The first line of approach to motivate Pushkin’s use of autobiographical zapiski is that the novel gained a sense of documentary realism and a historically authentic voice in Grinev. Yet with Grinev’s memoir, there is an interest­ing interplay of perspectives between the presumably objective fact of the “found document” and its subjective, personalistic presentation. What is genuine is not so much the story that is told as the person who is telling it. The second approach would be that Pushkin enriched the text by means of what is actually a dual-level structure, in which he created the character Grinev, vesting many important things in his zapiski, but ultimately re­served to the invisible author a more comprehensive novelistic viewpoint about values and events. The author does not speak, but of course is pres­ent through the artful arrangement of the plot sequence, the sustained thematic fugue on figures like gifts, or acts of pardon, and so on. The third factor that may lie behind Pushkin’s decision to write the book as Grinev’s family memoir is the possibility of oblique autobiographical self-expression through the “I” of another.[3]

These ideas are all valid, and I would like to acknowledge them now, but go on to look somewhat differently at what the family memoir means for the novel and how it works there. Note that each of these three ap­proaches actually places the ultimate reference point of the novel outside of Grinev, or apart from him. Grinev serves mostly as a mediator, either as a vehicle to communicate real historical consciousness, a guide intro­ducing us into the main thing, the maze of plot and theme, or a mask con­cealing the ultimate prize, the self of the author. And in fact the Grinev of the novel does not privilege his memoirs as something unique to himself as an individual, but rather situates himself inside a family story, the semeistvennye zapiski. He is a rather reticent first-person narrator, but as we will see he is the key to Pushkin’s enterprise of writing the book as a family memoir.

Since Belinskii’s early critique, Grinev has often been reproached for playing the role of an observer or passive experiencer of historical and “providential” events instead of being the active shaper of his own des­tiny.[4] One must say in his defense that quite a few episodes in the novel contradict this notion, for example, when Grinev withstands repeated challenges to serve Pugachev, when he resolutely breaks away from his post in Orenburg to rescue Masha, exclaiming “I must go! I cannot fail to go!” (496), or when he refuses to drag her name into the inquest about his part in the uprising, though this puts his life in jeopardy. These choices are his deeds. He does, in fact have something to tell us about himself. However reticent he is, the book still amounts to his “novel of education.” Yet we should note that in the reception history of The Captain’s Daugh­ter, Grinev was first appreciated not for himself but as the conduit of a family chronicle. Apollon Grigor´ev and Strakhov shared this view of the book, primed by their own Slavophile sentiments, putting the family mem­oir, the zapiski, ahead of the historical novel which it also contains.[5] For them the chronicle existed to affirm conservative family values, allowing them to downplay the gentry son’s wayward encounter with Russian re­volt, russkii bunt.

Yes, The Captain’s Daughter is written as Grinev’s “family memoir.” However, we can contextualize this somewhat differently from Grigor´ev and Strakhov. In the first place, Russian memoir scholarship teaches us that just at the period when Grinev pens his fictional zapiski, the latter part of the eighteenth century, gentry memoirs in Russia did in fact tend to be addressed to the writer’s descendents, in a dawning of historical self-consciousness through the clan.[6] As Pushkin had put it a little earlier, “The family reminiscences of the gentry should become the historical memory of the nation.”[7] The sentimentalist rhetoric found in some of their dedications strongly resembles the tone of a draft introduction for an early version of The Captain’s Daughter where the hero speaks thus to his fu­ture grandson: “I begin my memoirs for you, or rather my sincere confes­sion, with full confidence that my avowals will serve for your benefit.”[8] Though this was far from the rule, towards the end of the eighteenth cen­tury the exceptional gentry memoir had begun to evolve from a bare chronicle of events into a connected life story with a personality at its cen­ter.[9] As we read in the scholarship, “The influence of sentimentalism on the genre of the autobiographical memoir was decisive.”[10] The confessional principle and didactic tone of the preface quoted above underscore the choice of sentimentalist rather than romantic prose as a model for the novel, an important stylistic hallmark. Pushkin and his fellow writers highly prized these memoirs, though they were just beginning to enter the sphere of general culture from the family archive. It has even been said, “The nineteenth century discovered the eighteenth-century memoir.”[11] Readers were eager to gain access to these materials, which had often not been intended for publication, and a number of journals had sections de­voted to documents drawn predominantly from the age of Catherine the Great.[12] Nevertheless, in Pushkin’s day crucial, politically controversial sources like the memoirs of Princess Dashkova circulated only in manuscript.[13]The Captain’sDaughter as a family memoir fits into this context of the renaissance of the eighteenth-century memoir.

Though Pushkin and those close to him like Viazemskii constantly urged survivors from the eighteenth century to write and publish their memoirs, it was the rare individual who responded, and the majority of memoiristic works belonged to the elite rather than to the honest old rank and file gentry whose reminiscences might provide a healthy counterbal­ance to the pernicious influence of the novaia znat´, in the view of critical “literary aristocrats” like Pushkin. Karamzin once observed that he him­self was not able to base his new Russian prose style on the spoken lan­guageof good society, though that would have been his wish, but rather he must write as good society would speak if it knew how.[14] Likewise, the memoir that Pushkin writes in The Captain’s Daughter grew as much from his creative intuition of the possibilities of the genre as it did from real models. Thus we would not be justified in speaking of the appropria­tion of established conventions from a pre-existing body of work, at least as far as Russian memoir literature is concerned. This is an ideal memoir, though one based in part on Pushkin’s research for the History ofPuga­chev, during which he read reams of archive material and interviewed prominent members of the older generation like Krylov and Dmitriev who had been witnesses of the uprising or its aftermath.[15] Pushkin, too, is not writing history, the History of Pugachev (which he had tried to do, with only partial satisfaction). He is going back one level into the sources, leav­ing the plane of historical truth to reenter the still available dimension of personal memory.

The emphasis on the person as the carrier of the message also has ideological significance, if as Lotman argued, the secret of The Captain’s Daughter is the way it allows the individual characters to rise above class and social prejudice to achieve relationships based on personal under­standing.[16]Personal integrity, individual honor, and independence had be­come the ideal of the newly emancipated nobleman and were to be the foundation of intelligentsia values for generations to come.

The usual approach to The Captain’s Daughter pairs it with Pushkin’s History of Pugachev, and contrasts them as a historical novel vs. history or fiction vs. non-fiction.[17] But it makes as much sense to see TheCaptain’s Daughter as a fictional family memoir which transforms what might be expected of semeistvennye zapiski, creating a prototypical source-novel. Pushkin establishes his reference-frame, but naturally goes on to fill it with his own content. To see how creatively Pushkin worked out his task we should examine how the two intertwined concepts of family and mem­oir are actually realized in the book. First comes the idea of family.

Grinev’s family memoir, a fictional one which can meld together many individual sources, is a model memoir in another sense as well, that of the cultural archetype. It tells a mythic or symbolic family story where dis­rupted, irregular, and even frightening familial relationships are finally resolved in a marriage, where the pardon of Grinev is paralleled in the be­stowal of a universal blessing upon his union with Masha Mironova. This blessing first issues from Pugachev as would-be godfather to the young pair, and it comes in the end from Grinev’s parents, that hard-won tradi­tional blessing on which Masha insisted. Yet it is also sealed by the Em­press herself, who gives Masha a dowry, one which her own parents could not afford to bestow. As a result, the idea of family in The Captain’s Daughter actually includes much more than formal kin relations, and so does the family chronicle. Pugachev on the one side and Catherine on the other, though enemies in a civil war, end up as complementary shadow parents to Grinev and Masha. They adopt the main characters at a time in their lives when each one lacks family. The two young people, Masha and Petr, successfully form the married pair from which the line of the Grinevs now comfortably descends, but only after they are cast away as “orphans in the storm,” Masha literally and Petr virtually.

Let us review how family structures become displaced in the course of the novel, so that Grinev’s “family chronicle” really has to burst its bounds. The story begins when Grinev’s strict father thrusts his son out of the nest to make his own way in the world, and then harshly rebuffs his proposal to marry Masha, before Petrusha makes up for the youthful ad­venture of his duel with Shvabrin. Grinev is cast back on his own re­sources, feeling that his father has rejected him. As he began his journey, he already had the famous nightmare of the peasant with the bloody axe who impersonates his father and demands his recognition, prefiguring the role of Pugachev as what we could call his reverse father.[18] For the sake of economy I will not digress to discuss the ways in which Grinev’s servant Savelich functions as a comic mentor and temporary surrogate father, but one whom Petrusha quickly outgrows. The Mironov family also temporar­ily replaces Grinev’s mother and father as a focus of domesticity, providing an alternative model of “family values” which the reader both smiles at and admires. But their brutal death at the hands of Pugachev’s forces ef­fectively makes both heroine and hero into orphans of the storm. Grinev never recognizes Pugachev as his tsar, never makes him the “little father” of folk parlance, never kisses his hand in the gesture of familial obeisance which doubles as symbol of fealty in the traditional world. Instead, he ap­peals to Pugachev man to man on Masha’s behalf, challenging Pugachev to behave nobly, betting that he will want to keep Grinev’s respect. And Pugachev responds: like the benevolent father-tsar of a Russian fairy-tale, he says “Which of my men dares to offend the orphan?” (500). From this the chain of adoptions begins. Pugachev is ready to stand godfather for Grinev’s immediate marriage with Masha, but leaves them free to go. Masha arrives at Grinev’s parents who take her in like their own daugh­ter. Of course it is Masha who finally justifies Grinev to Catherine and therefore to his parents, righting the family chronicle gone wrong so that the traditional marriage can take place. But the novel implicitly frames Catherine’s adoption of Masha in ideal family terms which almost mirror Pugachev’s: while Masha has a claim on Catherine as the daughter of the brave Captain Mironov, Catherine, too, is duty bound to succor his or­phan. “Ia v dolgu pered docher´iu kapitana Mironova,” the Empress says, as the plot comes to its conclusion (540). And Masha, in gratitude, makes the ritual gesture of familial obeisance, falling at Catherine’s feet. She unites all the blessings, that of her own father, that of Pugachev, that of Grinev’s parents, and now that of Catherine, to transmit them to Petr. Thus ends what is really a rather unconventional family chronicle. That is how Petr Grinev becomes a paterfamilias, the progenitor of the Grinev line, whose grandson delivers the manuscript of his zapiski to the editor (a close literary relation of Pushkin). The family memoir has become a rodo­slovie, a positive origin story for the sons of the fatherland.

As we consider the lines of the family chronicle which Grinev says it is his aim to write, we almost forget that it is he who tells it, that these za­piski are his. In fact, the way in which the narration is conducted is just as unorthodox as the content of the family memoirs. In these semeistvennye zapiski, the meaning of zapiski must be stretched as much as the meaning of family.

Grinev’s memoir begins normally enough with a first-person account of his origins and his childhood, though this account is strongly tinged with retrospective irony about the backward life of the provincial Russian gentry and his own carefree ignorance. This irony is a hallmark of Push­kin’s style, of course, but is counterbalanced in Grinev’s writing by the geniality and seriousness of a sentimentalist narrator. The tone of The Captain’s Daughter thus receives an infusion of naiveté and optimism, which both warm and bemuse the reader. Grinev addresses us directly with the famous didactic commentary, “God preserve us from seeing Rus­sian revolt, senseless and merciless” (525). “Young man, if these memoirs come into your hands, remember that the best and most lasting changes are those which come from the softening of manners without any violent shocks” (455–56), etc. He is a consciousness, responding with “imaginative horror” (piiticheskii uzhas; 474) and with involuntary sympathy, evoking the terror and the pity that are our way into the tragic side of the revolt. His memoirs show us his heart and mind to an extent that few real eighteenth-century Russian personages could manage.[19]

In some ways, from his retrospective distance, Grinev has come to be remarkably self-conscious as a memoir-writer. He deliberately inscribes himself into the situation of Fonvizin’s play The Minor, stating, “Ia zhil nedoroslem” (395). In fact, especially as it begins, the memoir shows its debt to eighteenth-century comedy by quoting bits of dialogue featuring salty Russian prostorechie (“Akhti, gospodi!” “Molchi, khrych!”). Though Grinev is the narrator, he incorporates the voices of Savelich and of his mother and father. In fact, throughout the memoir, Grinev shows a fiction writer’s knack for just when to abandon narration for dialogue, and usu­ally quotes important exchanges verbatim rather than summarizing them. He transmits Pugachev’s folk sayings and makes us present both at their verbal bonding and their verbal sparring.

Grinev also reproduces the text of the note which Zurin sends him in order to collect his gambling debt, the first of many such instances where the “other” is directly represented through the written word in the novel.  Memoirs often do rely on documentary evidence, quoting or passing on im­portant letters and official reports. But in the context of Grinev’s narra­tion (and Pushkin’s authorial plan) we sense the referencing of the devices of the epistolary novel. Letter texts are reserved for the novel of education and the love story. And they often serve to advance the plot and to charac­terize their authors, rather than acting mainly as evidence or illustration. Grinev’s father writes to his old soldier friend, commending Petrusha to Mironov. He also writes to Petrusha reproving his duel and scotching his marriage plans and to Savelich with patriarchal wrath and fatherly con­cern for the same wayward son. Savelich replies in a combination of sub­mission and stout self-defense. Masha’s missive provides the impetus which brings Petrusha to her rescue and allows the reader to hear the ac­cents of the girl who unites “sense and sensibility,” “blagorazumnaia i chuvstvitel´naia devushka” (424).

Grinev does not always quote the text of important letters, however, veiling their exact content when they touch on the central question of his honor. This is true of the accusatory letter from the uncle in Petersburg received by Grinev senior, which “almost killed my father” (533). Likewise he hides the content of the petition which Masha presents to Catherine to exonerate him. We never get to read the framed letter from Catherine which contains the justification of Grinev and praises the heart and mind of the Captain’s daughter.

So when we consider how Grinev’s memoir is constructed we see that it is far more than a set of non-literary zapiski. Building upward from the basis of fairy-tale functions and motifs, like Pugachev as magical helper, it unites narrative, dramatic, and epistolary devices into what is truly a novel, referencing several eighteenth-century literary modes like the com­edy of morals and sentimentalism. Though Petr is sometimes considered a prosaic personality whose subjectivity is limited, in his lifetime he moves from the sphere of Trediakovskii to that of Sumarokov, and he obviously ironizes over the hopeless amateurism of his youthful verses to Masha.[20] More importantly, he is open to the sublime and the awe-inspiring, the highest poetic values of the eighteenth century. “Piiticheskii” is a word which Pushkin chose carefully, since “piit” is archaic for “poet.”

So Grinev’s memoirs are a literary symphony, stylized as a set of eighteenth-century zapiski. They mix literary modes and combine the comic with the tragic. For all that they say, they preserve a mystery within. Not surprisingly their originator is actually Pushkin, whose liter­ary agent, the publisher, appears at the end of the manuscript.

These reflections must conclude, however, not with how Grinev’s memoirs bear the stamp of Pushkin’s art,[21] but rather how they incorpo­rate the untold memoirs of Masha Mironova. In the critical literature about The Captain’s Daughter, it is well-known that one of Pushkin’s sources for the tale of events in the Belogorskii fortress was Kriukov’s fic­tionalized memoir “Tales of My Grandmother.”[22] This rather primitive but lively account is told in the voice of its heroine, the daughter of a fortress commander. One might think that in making Grinev the sole memoirist of The Captain’s Daughter Pushkin is downplaying the feminine viewpoint. Though often feminine writing was placed outside the literary sphere and considered private, several outstanding eighteenth-century published memoirs did belong to Russian women, like Princess Dashkova and Na­tal´ia Dolgorukova, and Pushkin was well aware of this. What he does with Masha’s perspective is especially ingenious. Grinev can tell her life in the Belogorsky fortress, since he was the witness of it, and he produces her letter to account for the period of their first separation, in her own words and voice. But the entire end of their story, the episode with Cathe­rine, though retold by Grinev is actually a pereskaz of family tradition, as related by Masha. Though we do not hear her words, she is the one who tells Grinev’s story to his parents and to Catherine; she is the conclusive bearer of his truth. The great moment of resolution comes when Masha, after exclaiming “akh, nepravda!” (537), tells Catherine “everything that the reader already knows”: “Ia znaiu vse, ia vse vam rasskazhu… Tut ona s zharom rasskazala vse, chto uzhe izvestno chitateliu” (538). That is, with the sympathy of love, she incorporates the entire book into this embedded narrative with all the complexity and the inexpressibility that eludes easy summary. Masha Mironova is not only the title character of Grinev’s memoir, the Captain’s daughter, she is close to Pushkin’s Muse.

Having set his sights on the genre of zapiski, how subtle Pushkin has been in writing Grinev’s “family memoir,” which is not the expected family piece, not strictly speaking a memoir, and not entirely Grinev’s. In fact, Grinev has delivered a novel. Pushkin already had him playfully change masks and tease the reader at the end of a chapter: “Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind. What it consisted of the reader will see in the next chapter, as the old novelists say” (494). Viazemskii once remarked that he would gladly exchange the greater part of belles-lettres for a few volumes of memoirs,[23] whereas the formalist critics considered works like memoirs in themselves to be a fertile breeding ground for fiction.[24] Push­kin’s Captain’s Daughter elevates the memoir into literature while retain­ing all of its homespun virtues, proving once again that in the realm of fiction authenticity is often attained through much art.

University of Texas



O'Bell, Leslie. "Pushkin's Novel The Captain's Daughter as Fictional Family Memoir." Pushkin Review 10 (2007): 47 - 57.

[*] All page references to the text of The Captain’s Daughter are to the edition A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobraniesochinenii v desiati tomakh, 3rd ed., vol. 6 (Moscow: Nauka, 1964). In the notes I also cite the monograph edition A. S. Pushkin, Kapi­tanskaia dochka, 2nd ed. (Leningrad: Nauka, 1984), originally edited by Iu. G. Oksman. It contains essays by Oksman and G. P. Makogonenko and a number of appendices with supplementary textual materials. I will refer to this as KD. All translations in the article and notes are my own. For a more extended version of Makogonenko’s argument, see chap. 4 of his book Tvorchestvo A. S. Pushkina v 1830-e gody (1833–1836) (Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1982).

[1] For one example of this equivalency, see the preface of N. S. Vsevolzhskii to the reminiscences of Ia. P. Shakhovskoi (1810): “Of all historical evidence, none con­tributes so much to the elucidation of events and issues as those contemporary descriptions of manners called Zapiski (Mémoires).” As quoted in A. G. Tartakov­skii, Russkaia memuaristika: XVIII–pervoipoloviny XIX v.Ot rukopisi k knige (Moscow: Nauka, 1991), 104. Tartakovskii also quotes Viazemsky using the dual formulation (148).

[2] As early as 1833 the new technique was attached to the planned novel about Basharin (Oksman, “Pushkin v rabote nad romanom ‘Kapitanskaia dochka,’” in KD, 154). Of Pushkin’s works that might qualify as historical fiction only the unfinished “Rosslavlev” was written in first-person.

[3] Only Makogonenko reflects at length on Pushkin’s choice of the memoir form and the narrative voice of Grinev, which he considers one of Pushkin’s signal achieve­ments in the novel (KD, 210–11). Andrew Wachtel considers it only as a device which may hint at “a possible dialogic relationship between this account and the History of Pugachev.” See his An Obsession with History: Russian Writers Confront the Past (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 71. On the correlation of narrator and author in the book, see Makogonenko (“Istoricheskii roman o narod­noi voine,” in KD, 213–16). Oksman, on the other hand, thinks that Pushkin uses Grinev as an Aesopian device to mask and blunt the political pathos of the novel (“Pushkin v rabote nad romanom ‘Kapitanskaia dochka,’” 178). On the novel as displaced autobiography, see Irina Reyfman, “Poetic Justice and Injustice: Auto­biographical Echoes in Pushkin’s ‘Captain’s Daughter,’” SEEJ 38: 3 (1994): 463–78; and esp. N. N. Petrunina and G. M. Fridlender, “U istokov ‘Kapitanskoi dochki,’” in their Nad stranitsami Pushkina (Leningrad: Nauka, 1974), 73–123. Some of this treatment is incorporated into Petrunina’s later essay “Kapitanskaia dochka,” in her Proza Pushkina: Put´ evoliutsii (Leningrad: Nauka, 1987), 241–88. Petrunina follows Pushkin’s source research and comments that he must have read the annals of the Bibikov family through the prism of the annals of the Pushkins (Proza Pushkina, 259). In general, there is an aspect of apologia pro vita sua in the novel, a confession and justification of the author’s life: through Grinev the author vicariously experiences revolt, being torn between two camps, a final trial, and pardon. The son who was caught up in the Pugachev rebellion stands in for the author who was involved, yet honorably involved, with the agents of the Decembrist uprising.

[4] Belinskii called Grinev “worthless” and “apathetic” (nichtozhnyi, beschuvstvennyi kharakter geroia povesti; quoted in KD, 241). Oksman thought Grinev a debased and neutralized version of the original idea of a hero for the novel (KD, 64).

[5] For excerpts, see KD, 245–47. Grigor´ev: Pushkin’s “identification with the views of the fathers and forefathers”; Strakhov: “The Captain’s Daughter, strictly speak­ing, is the chronicle of the Grinevfamily, the story that Pushkin had already dreamed of in the third chapter of Onegin, a story depicting ‘the traditions of a Russian family.’ … The center of gravity in the work is always in family relation­ships rather than anything else.”

[6] Tartakovskii, Russkaia memuaristika, 79–82.

[7] In “A Novel in Letters” (1829), as quoted in Tartakovskii, Russkaia memuar­istika, 62.

[8] “Nachinaiu dlia tebia svoi zapiski ili luchshe iskreniuui ispoved´, s polnym uver­eniem, chto priznaniia moi posluzhat k pol´ze tvoei” (KD, 99). Petrunina relates the introduction to a similar device in Bibikov’s memoirs and to the literary tradi­tion of “letters to my son” of Lord Chesterfield and others (Proza Pushkina, 258).

[9] Tartakovskii, Russkaia memuaristika, 58, 73. He singles out the memoirs of P. I. Rychkov, whose Orenburg siege chronicle Pushkin published as an appendix to the History of Pugachev, as perhaps the first example of this development (61).

[10] Ibid., 69.

[11] Ibid., 100.

[12] Ibid., 100–02, 112. Tartakovskii mentions specifically Syn otechestva with its ru­bric “History of the Eighteenth Century.”

[13] Ibid., 126.

[14] “Frantsuzy pishut kak govoriat, a russkie obo mnogikh predmetakh dolzhny eshche govorit´ tak, kak napishet chelovek s talantom.” N. M. Karamzin, “Otchego v Rossii malo avtorskikh talantov?” (1802), in Izbrannye sochineniia v dvukh tom­akh (MMoscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1964), 2: 185.

[15] Dmitriev in particular was seen by Pushkin’s contemporaries as the memoirist of his generation, someone who could bridge the gap of experience between the two centuries. See Tartakovskii, Russkaia memuaristika, 159–64. It is well known that aspects of Grinev’s novelistic biography are built on elements of Dmitriev’s remi­niscences, most importantly the scene of Pugachev’s execution. For Dmitriev’s memoirs, see I. I. Dmitriev, Vzgliad na moiu zhizn´, ed. A. G. Cross (Cambridge, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 1974).

[16] Iu. M. Lotman, “Ideinaia struktura ‘Kapitanskoi dochki’” (1962), reprinted in his Pushkin (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo SPB, 1995), 212–28. “The basis of the authorial position is the striving for a politics which raises humanity to a principle of gov­ernment, not substituting political for human relationships, but transforming the political into the human” (prevrashchaiushchii politiku v chelovechnost´,” 223). “Pushkin starts to prize in a historical personage the ability to display human au­tonomy [chelovecheskaia samostoiatel´nost´] and not be subsumed by the state bu­reaucracy, legalities and political games which buttress him” (226).

[17] For one treatment, see chap. 4 of Andrew Wachtel’s An Obsession with History, 66–87. Wachtel develops the notion of “intergeneric dialogue.” See also Svetlana Evdokimova, Pushkin’s Historical Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1999. While polemicizing in her introduction with Wachtel’s notion of the complementarity of Pushkin’s history and fiction (12–14), Evdokimova devotes only a brief section to The Captain’s Daughter, in connection with the theme of chance and historical necessity (74–84).

[18] I will not go into the possible Freudian interpretation of Grinev’s dream. This has been paraphrased by historian Marc Raeff as “a restatement of the Oedipal conflict … the dream would express the feelings of the young Grinev (representing the Westernizing nobility) towards his castrating father (i.e., Pugachev) his love-hate of the father who possesses the mother (i.e., the people).” But Raeff prefers to consider Pugachev as natural brother to Grinev. In his own, historical analysis of the Pugachev uprising, Raeff writes of the movement’s “childlike desire to return to the quiet and security of the protective family.” “The ruler ought to be a father to his people, his children…” See Marc Raeff, “Pugachev’s Rebellion,” in Precondi­tions of Revolution in Early Modern Europe, ed. Robert Forster and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), 161–201, esp. 198–201.

[19] Dmitriev’s written memoirs proved a disappointment to contemporaries, who found them stiff compared to his brilliant oral story-telling. See Tartakovskii, Rus­skaia memuaristika, 161.

[20] Makogonenko writes of Grinev’s irony, but still sees him a prosaic character by contrast with the poetry of the figure of Pugachev (“Istoricheskii roman o narodnoi voine,” 212, 216). Yet this “prosaic” character is given one of the most highly charged dream sequences in all of Pushkin. “Fire” courses through his veins when Masha plants on him her “hot fresh kiss” as he lies recovering from his duel with Shvabrin in chap. 5.

[21] See the pages on The Captain’s Daughter in V. V. Vinogradov’s O iazyke khudo­zhestvennoi literatury (Moscow: Gos. Izd-vo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1959), 591–600. He writes of the “originality and expressivity of those new forms of nar­ration and representation taken as it were from historically genuine “family mem­oirs” but raised to the heights of the literary art of the publisher’s time” (600). As its title indicates, Vinogradov’s study is more concerned with style and language than with narrative per se. Among other things, he notes how Pushkin creates the impression of period style by referencing derivatives of eighteenth-century speech styles which still existed in the 1830s.

[22] For the text of A. P. Kriukov’s “Rasskaz moei babushki,” see KD, 118–145. See also the study by Peter Brang, Puškin und Krjukov: Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der “Kapitanskaja dočka” (Berlin: Osteuropa Insitut, Slavistische Veröffentlichungen Band 14, 1957). Perhaps Pushkin also felt confirmed in giving Masha a voice in the memoir through his partial publication of N. A. Durova’s memoirs of the “kavalerist-devitsa.” However, Masha is no amazon, and a pants role does not suit her. Unlike the woman of Durova’s memoirs, Masha is afraid of the very sound of gunfire. According to the notes in the Izmailov edition of Pushkin’s letters, Push­kin corresponded with Durova in 1835–36 and published excerpts from her mem­oirs in The Contemporary for 1836. He seems to have become familiar with their text quite late, between January and June of 1836. The Captain’s Daughter was finished in fall 1836, but had been in gestation much longer, and nothing indicates a fundamental change in the image of Masha. See A. S. Pushkin, Pis´ma posled­nikh let, 1834–37, ed. N. V. Izmailov (Leningrad: Nauka, 1969).

[23] As quoted in Tartakovskii, Russkaia memuaristika,100.

[24] “Literaturnyi fakt” (1924), reprinted in Iu. N. Tynianov, Poetika. Istoriia litera­tury. Kino (Moscow: Nauka, 1977). “Everyday life [byt] teems with the rudiments of various intellectual activities.” “The new constructive principle falls upon the fresh, accessible elements of everyday life.” Thus the letter, formerly a document, becomes a literary fact in Pushkin’s day. See pp. 264–65.


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