Given that the two books here under review both carry forms of the words "Pushkin" and "elegy" in their titles, it is not surprising that they have similar aims: to trace the development of the Russian elegy from the middle of the eighteenth century through the first third or so of the nineteenth. In addition, both books, as products of the newly open cultural climate after glasnost´ and the fall of Soviet communism, strive to recuperate a central genre of Russian poetry that seemed to embarrass Marxist positivism as a pothole in the road to realism.
Efim Kurganov's monograph on the role of the anecdote in Russian literary culture at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries is a welcome addition to Pushkin studies and to the study of Russian literature and culture in general.
The book—a dissertation for the degree of doktor filosofii—consists of an introduction, five chapters, a conclusion, appendix, and bibliography. In the introduction Mr. Kurganov tackles the problem of "legitimizing" the anecdote as an object of literary and cultural study. His argument here is very convincing, especially as it relies not only on studies carried out by Iurii Lotman concerning the worthiness of oral literature (ustnaia literatura) for scholarly study and, indeed, the peculiarly "oral" nature of Russian culture, but on the words of one of Pushkin's most illustrious contemporaries, Prince Viazemskii. The latter's Staraia zapisnaia knizhka will figure largely in the final chapter as a primary source that also serves as a programmatic precedent for Mr. Kurganov's own methodology.