Review: Bethea, David. «The Superstitious Muse»

David M. Bethea. The Superstitious Muse: Thinking Russian Literature Mythopoetically. Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History.Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2009. 432 pp. ISBN 978-1-934843-17-8. Cloth.

 

Great poets transform mere words into verbal art. In the process, they may also transmute stories into myths and myths into stories. Poets cast their spell on readers and, when we are lucky, inspire their most discerning critics with a bit of their magic. Magic highlights this collection of David Bethea’s classic essays.

Bethea seems to have been enchanted, re-enchanted, and trans-enchanted by Pushkin’s ever-metamorphosing spirit. He is therefore an eerily appropriate guide to this elusive genius. “Let it be said,” Bethea explains, “that given his ‘protean’ genius and the remarkable capaciousness of his imaginative empathy, Pushkin could insert himself, or his ‘textual desire,’ into multiple roles” (231). If we substitute “critical” for “imaginative” in this sentence, the same may be said of Bethea himself.

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Review: Alma Classics' New Series of Pushkin Translations

Alexander Pushkin. “The Captain’s Daughter” and “A History of Pugachov. Translated by Paul Debreczeny. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics, 2011. 358 pages. ISBN-13: 9781847492159. Paper.

Alexander Pushkin. “The Queen of Spades” and Other Stories. Translated by Paul Debreczeny. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics, 2011. 352 pages. ISBN-13: 9781847491817. Paper.

Alexander Pushkin. Ruslan and Lyudmila. Translated by Roger Clarke. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics, 2012. 256 pages. ISBN-13: 9781847492968. Paper.

Alexander Pushkin. Love Poems. Edited by Roger Clarke. Translated by Roger Clarke et al. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics, 2013. 224 pages. ISBN-13: 9781847493002. Hardcover.

 

With this new series of translations, Roger Clarke has taken on the Herculean task of producing the complete works of Pushkin in English. Published by Alma Classics (formerly One World Classics), the series thus far consists of seven volumes—the four listed above plus “Boris Godunov” and Little Tragedies, Eugene Onegin, and Belkin’s Tales. They are a welcome resource to those who would teach Pushkin in translation and a wonderful option for anyone interested in reading Russia’s most esteemed poet through the medium of English.

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Review: Hokanson, Katya. «Writing at Russia's Border»

Katya Hokanson. Writing at Russia’s Border. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. x + 301 pp. ISBN 978-0-8020-9306-6. Cloth.

 

In this well researched monograph, Katya Hokanson explores the formative role played by the southern reaches of the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century, arguing, in an introduction, five chapters, and brief conclusion, that “peripheral areas, as sites of ongoing reconstitution of Russia’s imperial, cultural, and military identity, […] served as a catalyst to the creation of Russian national culture and literature” (20). Her de­tailed close readings of works by Pushkin, Bestuzhev-Marlinsky, Lermontov, and Tolstoy—all of whom had either been sent south by the government or lived there in self-imposed exile—provide a chronological assessment of the cardinal texts in Russia’s nineteenth-century literature of the southern border. As she concludes: “it seems that the [Russian] writer needs the other to write a Russian national story. […] Hence many texts that we think of as being untouched by concerns outside the metropole are actually heavily informed by periphery” (19).

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