Review: Robert Chandler. «Brief Lives: Alexander Pushkin»

Robert Chandler. Brief Lives: Alexander Pushkin. London: Hesperus Press, 2009. 152 pp. ISBN 978-1-84391-912-4. Paper.


     As we all know and often lament, those who cannot read Russian ordi­narily esteem Alexander Pushkin’s works less than they merit, largely because so much of the poet’s ingenuity and lyrical brilliance is lost in translation. Resting on such a conclusion, however, oversimplifies the problem. Even for those who can read Pushkin in Russian, a full apprecia­tion of his genius benefits from knowledge of his life, his role in the devel­opment of Russian culture, and his place in the history of European literature. A biography that works in tandem with the translator’s mission of serving as a “post-horse of enlightenment” is thus a welcome supplement to international literature on Pushkin and his legacy. Robert Chandler’s concise biography achieves just that.

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Review: Andrew Kahn. «Pushkin's Lyric Intelligence»

Andrew Kahn. Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. xi + 398 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-923474-5. Cloth.


     In the words of Andrew Kahn, the aim of his book is “to show how Pushkin wrote poems about fundamental aspects of his creative and intellectual identity in response to the ideas and aesthetic questions of his age” (1). Kahn’s study clearly demonstrates that Pushkin’s distinct idiom and con­ceptual vocabulary can be better understood if evaluated in the context of the history of ideas and in conjunction with the views on creativity and inspiration that were prevalent in eighteenth-century Europe. By under­lining Pushkin’s closeness to eighteenth-century Russian literature, Kahn establishes a vantage point that enables him to read Pushkin’s lyrics as a semi-veiled dramatization of ideas and to reassess Pushkin’s links with European Romanticism. Kahn’s holistic approach to the evolution of Push­kin as a lyric poet stands in sharp contrast to the Structuralist approach which, in Kahn’s opinion, reduces the analysis of Pushkin’s ideas to a dis­cussion of “synchronic invariant motifs” (2). Kahn’s ambitious undertaking to recover Pushkin’s aesthetic vocabulary together with his artistic and professional concerns is subordinated to a desire “to address a Pushkinian sense of the creative mind that informs his understanding of mimesis” (2). Such an approach hinges on the problematic claim that Pushkin’s poetic thinking can be straightforwardly historicized, i.e., that the lyric hero al­ways acts as a mouthpiece for Pushkin himself.

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Review: Chester Dunning, et al. «The Uncensored "Boris Godunov"»

Chester Dunning with Caryl Emerson, Sergei Fomichev, Lidiia Lotman, and Antony Wood, The Uncensored “Boris Godunov”: The Case for Push­kin’s Original Comedy, with Annotated Text and Translation. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. xxv + 550. Index. ISBN 0-299-20764-1.


     Rarely have I learned so much from a single (albeit lengthy and complex) tome as from The Uncensored Boris Godunov, a book that combines a facing-page translation of Pushkin’s 1825 version of the play, meticulously annotated with background on the history of its writing and the Time of Troubles, together with the work of multiple scholars on related topics. Suffice it to say that the authors easily convince the reader of the need to displace the altered and censored 1831 version of Boris Godunov from its current position of canonized prominence in favor of Pushkin’s 1825 orig–inal Comedy About Tsar Boris and Grishka Otrepiev. The original, which Pushkin read aloud to great acclaim and tried unsuccessfully to publish, was not only better received, but is also more dramatically effective and historically accurate.

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Review: Henry M. Hoyt, trans. «Eugene Onegin»; and Stanley Mitchell, trans. «Eugene Onegin»

Alexander S. Pushkin. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse. Translation by Henry M. Hoyt. Bilingual Edition. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2008. 188 pp. ISBN 978-159858-340-3. $14.95. Paper. 

Alexander Pushkin. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse. Translation, introduction and notes by Stanley Mitchell. London: Penguin Classics, 2008. xlviii + 244 pp. Notes. Chronology. Map. Further Reading. ISBN 978-0-140-44810-8. $12.00. Paper.


     Всякое суждение о переводе классического произведения вольно или невольно отражает отношение критика к проблеме перевода. В предисловии к своей версии «Евгения Онегина» (1955) Владимир Набоков пишет: “The person who desires to turn a literary masterpiece into another language has only one duty to perform, and this is to reproduce with absolute exactitude the whole text, and nothing but the text.” Но предписанная Набоковым задача невозможна и теоретически, и практически. Никакой английский текст не есть и не может быть точным воспроизведением русского — в силу тысячи причин. Кроме того, когда мы употребляем слово «текст», создается впечатление о линейной последовательности слов, подлежащих «воспроизведению», в то время как поэтическое произведение обладает огромным количеством вертикальных связей, — в чем его главное отличие от прозы. Воспроизвести в переводе «абсолютно точно» все горизонтальные и вертикальные связи невозможно. Тут действует абсолютный запрет, подобный принципу неопределенности (Uncertainty Principle) в квантовой механике: «you cannot measure a particle's momentum and position simultaneously».

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Review: "Pushkin and the Wikipedia"


Michael Wachtel


     Wikipedia has become a common resource not only for students shirking the rigors of genuine research, but also for scholars seeking a quick and reliable answer to a basic question. In that capacity it has been extremely useful and time-saving to us all. Recent comparisons have shown that in many respects the Wikipedia is no worse than traditional encyclopedias. And of course the Wikipedia has the immense advantage of being a work in progress. Wrong information can be corrected; bad entries can be improved.

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