PUSHKIN: A Biography

T. J. Binyon, Author
T. J. Binyon, Author . Knopf $35 (768p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4110-7
Hardcover - 727 pages - 978-0-00-215084-2
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This work won the Samuel Johnson nonfiction prize in Britain, and it's easy to see why: it's a fascinating treatment of an equally fascinating subject. By chronicling Pushkin's literary successes and his personal failures, Binyon draws a compelling portrait of the writer and his milieu. One of Russia's most celebrated authors, Pushkin (1799–1837) lived a life as captivating as his poems and stories. In fact, as British academic Binyon (Murder Will Out) shows in this landmark work, Pushkin interspersed snippets of his brief life in such work as Eugene Onegin and The Bronze Horseman. Displaying a broad knowledge of primary source material, Binyon details Pushkin's life, which has all the suspense of a good novel. A known womanizer in his early adult years (he was especially fond of married women), Pushkin later married and settled down. But his past came back to bite him when a man tried to seduce his wife. Although Binyon argues convincingly that the suitor was unsuccessful, the incident prompted a duel that caused Pushkin's death in his late 30s. While his life was full of controversy—he was accused of being both too reactionary and too liberal—it was not particularly happy. Even while he was churning out his masterpieces, he was prone to two weaknesses: depression and debt. This is a must-read for students of Pushkin and for those interested in 19th-century Russia and literary history. (Oct. 20)

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