The Poet and His Readers: Three Lyrics and an Unfinished Story of Alexander Pushkin
Now and then, in the course of events,
when the flow of time turns into a muddy
torrent and history floods our cellars,
earnest people are apt to examine the
interrelation between a writer and the
national or universal community; and
writers themselves begin to worry about
their obligations. I am speaking of an
abstract type of writer. Those whom we
can imagine concretely, especially those
on the elderly side, are too vain of
their gifts or too reconciled with
mediocrity to bother about obligations.
They see very clearly, in the middle
distance, what fate promises them—the
marble nook or the plaster niche.
One of the features of Pushkin’s longer works, made famous in Eugene Onegin, are his many asides addressed to his “dear reader.” Often delivered as apologies for straying from the plot or clarifications of the narrator’s opinion about the matter at hand, they add to our curiosity about the author’s relationship with his readers. How does Pushkin envision, accommodate, or avoid his reader? For that matter, how much does this vary from genre to genre or evolve as the poet matures? These questions could occupy volumes and warrant analysis from an array of academic approaches—textual, archival, and sociological to name a few. This paper, first, will attempt to scratch the surface and illustrate some complexities of the question through an analysis of three short lyrics from different periods in the poet’s life. Then, it will frame, elaborate upon, and connect its observations in light of “Egyptian Nights,” a short, unfinished prose work from the last years of Pushkin’s life.