Novels, Tales, Journeys: The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin, trans. from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Knopf, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-307-95962-1
Pushkin (1799–1837), arguably Russia’s greatest poet, finds worthy translators in Pevear and Volokhonsky, who have compiled an indispensable edition of the master’s complete prose. Pushkin’s great ambition, keen curiosity, and comprehensive range are all in evidence here, beginning with the unfinished “The Moor of Peter the Great,” a historical fiction about the writer’s grandfather, an African courtier of the czar. Russian history also figures in the short novel “The Captain’s Daughter,” set during a bloody 18th-century peasant rebellion, as a young officer in a besieged rural fortress develops a strange comradeship with the Cossack ringleader of the uprising. In “Dubrovsky,” a young aristocrat flouts the law after his inheritance is unjustly denied him. Always mindful of his position vis-à-vis European literature, Pushkin both draws on romanticism and lampoons it; in the short story “The Queen of Spades,” rational young engineer Hermann comes to believe in a mystic secret of gambling, and in his quest to learn the secret wrecks several lives, including his own. Pushkin moves with great facility from bored, hotheaded St. Petersburg aristocracy to the pastoral peccadilloes of country squires and the deprivations of peasant life (“The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin”), and even farther afield, to the exoticized landscape of the Caucasia (“Journey to Arzrum”). Pushkin the storyteller is witty and compassionate, panoramic and precise. Although he’s best known in the States for poetry, in this thoughtfully annotated, syntactically loyal edition, readers will discover another facet of a prodigious talent. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Release date: 11/22/2016
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-307-95963-8
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-307-94988-2
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