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Thread: Aleksandr Pushkin

  1. #1

    Aleksandr Pushkin

    I've noticed that Pushkin, Russia's greatest poet and the father of Russian literature, doesn't really get as much attention as he deserves outside of the Russian-speaking world, although I suppose that's understandable to an extent as, from what I hear, even the most meticulous translations do him no justice. But I figure, if Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Nabokov, Akhmatova, and pretty much every single great Russian writer ever all bow and cower before the ghost of Pushkin, it's good enough for us, right? To call him Russia's answer to Shakespeare would even be selling him short, as he was not only on Shakespeare's level as a poet, but he also developed the Russian language as a whole and significantly augmented its vocabulary.

    I'm taking a Russian lit course at school and, after very briefly going over Russian folk stories like The Firebird and Igor's Campaign, we've been studying Yevgeniy Onegin (Nabokov's translations), and I have to say it's truly a fascinating book. The techniques Pushkin uses, like narrative digression and unreliable/self-conscious narrator were way ahead of their time and didn't become popular in the Western world until the 20th century. Also fascinating is the structure, in which the book is divided into two halves, with correlations between the two halves. Not to mention, on a purely technical level, the astonishing achievement of writing a whole 8-chapter novel made up of iambic tetrameter sonnets with an extremely unusual rhyme scheme (aBaBccDDeFFeGG, with capitals being masculine and lower-case being feminine rhymes) which, according to all Russian people I've asked, flows beautifully and is very easily legible. I've started learning Russian this year, and I intend to keep it going. Hopefully in about 5 years or so I can get to a level where I can read some of Pushkin's stuff and see for myself how good the real thing is, rather than a translation (however meticulously Nabokov translated it, by his own admission it's nothing compared to the original).
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    Moderator Logos's Avatar
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    He is a great author and not forgotten here, his biography and many english translations will be added to the site in the next few days
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    i am russian by nationality, and my parents have always taught me how great pushkin is, but until i actually began to read his poetry in russian did i understand what they mean. he is an excellent, genius writer. once i had an english teacher, though, who told me that pushkin is overrated, and his poetry isnt as great as it is perceived to be. HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND RUSSIAN. and pushkin NEEDS to be read in russian in order for you to understand his essence. the nuances of pushkin do not translate into other languages, at least that is what i think. im glad you like russian lit. kudos to you, man.
    I only wanted to live in accord with the promptings that came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?

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    is my namesian. Jamesian's Avatar
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    I've actually got a book of his "collected stories" which I've been trying to get around to lately. I kind of wanted to wait until I knew Russian to look into him, but I actually heard that he is one of the easier Russians to translate, so I was less concerned. I'm sure it's far superior in the original anyway, regardless.
    The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn't have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable.
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    Registered User Boris239's Avatar
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    My native language is Russian, so I can appreciate Pushkin in original. It's not very surprising that he is not as widely known outside of Russian as let's say Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In Russia he is considered the greatest partly because of his great influence on the Russian language. He wasn't, of course, the first Russian poet, but if you read some 18th century poets, the language there was completely different. His poems , as evereybody said, are not translated easily(true for all poetry), so it's difficult for a foreigner to appreciate the beauty. Personally, Pushkin is not my favorite Russian poet- I like Lermontov or Gumilev much more, but a lot of people told me that you appreciate his poetry more and more, as you become older.
    Superunknow was telling about "Eugene Onegin", but there is also a lot of other things by Pushkin that are worth reading: Belkin Stories( 5 or 6 short stories), Captain's daughter, Queen of Spades and Poltava, and a lot of other stuff.

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    I don't think Pushkin is important for universal literature as Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy. It's important for Russian literature because he's a pioneer for Russian literature. Let's say Goethe of Russia. But that doesn't mean he's great FOR world literature. His effect was limited, if you compare him great Dostoyevsky's effect on world literature you understand what am i trying to say.

    Btw, as i see there's few Russian people, i want to ask if any of you knows Ilf, Petrov, Zozula or Leonid Lenē?

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    Well, Turk, I don't know, there are for instance a few great operas based on Pushkin like Eugen Onegin or Pique Dame exactly for the reason that his storylines and their realisation are so dramatic and, like in Pique Dame, not only psychologically fascinating but also quite mysterious. They have been great movie adaptations especially of "children's poems". I personally adore the Tsar Saltan fairy tale which may be available in Russian since you can get it in a remastered German version (i.e. German dubbing). The characters in the movie speak in Pushkin's rhymes and the entire thing is beautifully done, so if anyone is interested try to get it. It's really worth it.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

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    Banned Turk's Avatar
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    I didn't say Pushkin is worthless, i just explain why Pushkin is not well known out of Russia.

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    Turk, to be Goethe of Russia is not that bad. After allk evrybody has read some Goethe- at least "Faust". Nobody says that Pushkin's influence on world literature can e compared to Dostoevsky's.
    And I've read Ilf and Petrov's "12 Chairs" and "Golden Calf". Both of them are absolutely hilarious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boris239 View Post
    Turk, to be Goethe of Russia is not that bad. After allk evrybody has read some Goethe- at least "Faust". Nobody says that Pushkin's influence on world literature can e compared to Dostoevsky's.
    And I've read Ilf and Petrov's "12 Chairs" and "Golden Calf". Both of them are absolutely hilarious.
    I didn't say to be Goethe of Russia is bad, i just wanted to mean that's why he's not so famous out of Russia. Think it; Goethe is not famous as other German poets-novelists such as Thomass Mann or Kafka too. Why? Because he's older and yeah let's be honest he's not that good, i mean while there are Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse or Kafka, why people would read Goethe? I'm not neglecting importance of Goethe or Pushkin, but it's truth. They are important because they are pioneers, that's all.

    On the other hand you say Goethe known more than Pushkin, but don't forget while Russia is Eastern, Germany is Western. If Pushkin would be German or English, he would known more, it's truth, i agree that. In Turkey, we have very good poets and writers such as Attila İlhan or Oğuz Atay, but they are unknown out of Turkey. Why? Because it's a world dominated by Western culture.

    Anyway... And i noticed something, someone says Nabokov is part of Russian literature. No, it's not right. Nabokov is a Russian who wrote in English, so he's a part of English literature.

    And yeah, btw, i asked Lenē, Petrov, Ilf and Zozula, is anyone have their short stories in English? I really want to read these authors more, but it's almost impossible to find their books in Turkey.

    Because they are not well known out of Russia.

  11. #11
    Registered User Boris239's Avatar
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    Nabokov has written not only in English but in Russian too, so he can be considered part of both.
    I would imagine that "12 chairs" is translated into English, so it's probably possible to find it.

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    Well, true, but only his first works was Russian. His major works were in English. Don't worry buddy, you still have Dostoyevsky, one of best 3 novelists of all times. If we call Nabokov Russian, we should call Joseph Conrad as Polish. And Ilya Ehrenburg would be Jewish. For example greatest poet of all times; Mawlana Jalal Ad-Din is also racially Turkish but he wrote his books in Persian, so he's a part of Persian literature.

    12 Chair s also translated in Turkish. I actually want some short stories, particulary humour stories of Zozula. Thx for your interest.

  13. #13
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    I have seen some references to Pushkin as "Russia's Bard", surely putting him up there with Shakespeare, the English Bard. Maybe because he was born into a long line of old Russian nobility, but he was born (1799) and started writing early (first publication 1814) in the 19th century, long before Lermontov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gorky, and Gogol etc. were born or were published, so he does have some claim to being an `original' or pioneer. See below links..
    http://www1.umn.edu/lol-russ/hpgary/...21/lesson4.htm
    http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/pushkin.html
    http://cr.middlebury.edu/public/russ...ASPushkin.html
    http://www.odessaglobe.com/english/people/pushkin.htm

    Recently his name has been tainted by scandal that he was hoarding pornographic materials. Other than that it's a great article:
    http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=114352005

    Does the westernisation of the Russian alphabet have anything to do with lack of translations or the difficulty in doing so? My understanding of partly why Pushkin (and some others in Russian Lit) aren't as popular as others is because of the vernacular speech they used, local idioms and sayings/terms/words not even common to other parts of the country, making translations to English awkward when there aren't really existing words/terms to use in their place. Pushkin wrote much of the southern Caucasus and Crimean regions/cultures when he was forced into exile there, far away from Moscow or St. Petersburg. He also wrote some works in French before translating them to Russian, furthermore complicating matters of translation to English.

    While Onegin is originally about a 100 page document, Vladimir Nabakov's translation to English became a 4 volume work! trying to get across all the complexities and nuance of the Russian original. Nabokov is credited with furthering the west's appreciation and accessing of Pushkin's work, but of course he has fiercly criticised other's translations. I agree though until I can read Russian who am I to imagine I have a good grasp of Russian literary works?
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  14. #14
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    Pushkin's no Dostoevsky.
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
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    Quote Originally Posted by jon1jt View Post
    Pushkin's no Dostoevsky.
    I don't think anyone is trying to say that he is. They have completely different writing styles, it's like comparing apples and oranges. I haven't read a great deal of his poetry, I tend to stick to his short stories but he has a such lyrical quality, even in translation that I just love, I can't even imagine how much more pronouced that quality in his native language. He can say so much with so few words, he can paint such a clear picture of people and events without pages and pages of description, they may be considered short stories yet they can span the same scope as a 300+ page book because there's nothing superfluous in the story telling at all and unlike so many great Russian writers, he never goes off on tangents.
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