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May 23, 1937 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1937-05-23

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Russia And orld_(
QR h g(,{y|\JQ Alexandre Push kin, 'Russian


Centennial Of Poet



Disparaging Of Pushkin Not
Of Long Duration In U.S.S.R

sort of a pardon do you want?" With-

(Of the Russian Dept.)
Soon after the revolution, in the
early stages of formation of the So-'
Viet Union, there was a tendency in
that country to disparage the artistic,
and literary achievements of the past.
They were regarded as the survival of
bourgeois civilization, and, therefore,;
suspect. As a consequence of this,I
Pushkin, together with other clas-I
sical writers, was ignored. But this
attitude did not last long. In one of
his lectures which the author of this
article attended, Prince D. S. Mirsky,j
one of the outstanding literary So-
viet critics of today, said: "Now wej
claim that the art of the past is our
heritage. Whatever was progressive
in the past is ours by right . . . Thet
attitude towards the literature of
the past is far from being negative.
The classics are becoming more andt
more familiar to us."
Pushkin, more than any other clas-
sical Russian writer, reflects this1
change. His works, even before the
celebration of the centenary of hisI
death, were being sold in millions ofi
volumes, and during the last few
months which preceded the celebra-
tion, 12 million 500 thousand copies of
Pushkin's works were pullished. TwoI
circumstances have contributed to'
this favorable treatment of the poet:
1. The Russian masses, having learned
- - ~ - to read, rushed to get acq'iainted with
expectations. His wife had little love the creator of their langu,"ge; 2. They
for him. Fascinated by the court, have soon discovered that the poet,
and soon a favorite of Nicholas, she although an aristocrat by his social
had no respect for his genius, and in- status, was revolutionary in spirit and
sisted upon drawing him into a whirl democratic at heart. Indeed, he drew
of society which was far too expensive hi nspiration d som y de
for his purse, and which was irksome from the people, was always closely
to him. Her coquetry and indiscre- associated with them, and even went
tions gave occasion for scandalous so far as to proclaim their superiority
gossip. Jealous, sensitively 'proud, over the upper classes.
Pushkin was goaded into blind fury, "Leave us, proud man,"-says an
until at, last he challenged his prin- old gypsy to Aleko, a nobleman who,)
cipal tormenter, D'Anthes, whose out of jealousy, has murdered the
name was commonly linked with that dalughter of this gypsy. "We are
of Natasha, though he was married wild people; we have no laws, we tor-
to her sister. And by a bullet from ture not, neither do we punish; we
D'Anthes' pistol he was mortally have no use for blood and groans;
wounded on a winter's day early in but we do not want to live with a man
the year 1837. of blood. Thou wast not made for
The story is clearly and impressive- the wild life. For thyself thou claim-
ly told. What emerges is a picture est license; we are shy and good-
of Russia in the early 19th century- natured. Thou art evil-minded and
the Russia of War and Peace, sprawl- presumptuous. Farewell, and peace
ing, ill-organized, full of talent, and be with thee."
glitter, and misery, despotically gov- It is Pushkin who, in the person of
erned by a purblind aristocracy, surg- Aleko, speaks of the "lack of freedom
ing here and there under the pressure in stifling cities," where "they bow
of liberal and humanitarian ideas. down to idols, and ask for money
Against this background Pushkin be- and chains."
comes believable, though at best he Pushkin is a singer of freedom, po-
remains a strange mixture of qual- litical as well as social. It is well
ities-of sensual appetite and ideal- known what price he paid for his
ism, of sensitive honor and oppor-I singing; he who spent many years in
tunism, of dissoluteness and genius. exile, and later, although apparently
Few readers who begin this account free, was constantly watched by the
of him will be satisfied until they police and by the Tsar, who desired
have traced it to the end. And when to be himself the censor of the poet.
they have finished, they will wish to But all this did not prevent Pushkin
plunge into Eugene Onegin, of which from continuing to plead the cause
a new translation has just appeared. of the oppressed serfs.

justice rebels against the horrors


serfdom. Like his "Prophet," he'
makes use of his powerful style to
"burn with his words the hearts of
people." And these words, the beauty
of which is an inexhaustible source of
artistic delight to his readers, "burns"{
hearts, whether the great mast'
speaks of the beauty of nature, of his
tender feelings for his friends and for
his beloved old nurse, or when, full of
hatred and indignation, he protests
against oppression.
Pushkin's greatest contribution to l
Russian literature and the Russian
language is that he freed the former
from the theatrical . . . pompous
style used by his predecessors, and the
latter, from everything artificial and
conventional. Through his powerful
influence, he directed the literature
from pseudo-romanticism into the
channel of realism. Unlike his pre-
decessors and some of his contem-
poraries, Pushkin was not afraid to
face life as it was-to face and to
describe it. He was first to give to
the Russian reading public truly real-
istic works, both in poetry and in
prose. "One may say-said Dostoy-C
evsky-that if Pushkin had not ex-
isted, there would not have been the
gifted writers who came after him, at
least they would not have displayed
themselves with such power and clar-
ity, in spite of the great gifts with
which they have succeeded in ex-
pressing themselves."
That Pushkin, who from his very
childhood expressed himself in
French, used this language in speak-
ing to parents and friends, and whose
first verses were written in French,
should become the creator of the
Russian language and literature, is a
rather interesting phenomenon. Even
when a child, he rebelled against the
banishment of the Russian language
by the people of his class, which con-
sidered Russian as good only for the I
serfs,' and replaced it by French.,
Pushkin reacts against this stupid
etiquette: he prefers his mother-
tongue. Listening to the rich va-
riety of old legends and tales, which
his old nurse, a peasant woman, tells
him, he discovers there an inex-I
haustible wealth of beauty.
Later, having mastered the Russian
language to perfection, Pushkin
breaks the conventional, artificial
mould in which his predecessors have
j cast it. He breathes a new life into
it, and raises Russian literature toI
such heights as it had never attained
before, and here it has remained ever
Another great contribution of
Pushkin to Russian literature is the
artistic galleryof characters whih
he gave us. These characters, like
Aleko, the hero of The Gypsies, and
Onegin, the main character of Push-
kin's most famous novel in verse,
Evgeny Onegin, were the prototypes
of -a great many others that made
their appearance in Russian litera-I
ture. Lermontov's Pechorin, in The
Hero of Our Times, like Turgenev'sf
Rudin, from the novel of the same
* fl'r ~I

-- -=

ft SDE


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Phone 2-1350


name, or Lavretsky of A Nobleman's hat ideals and aspirations; she has
Retreat, are the direct descendants a strict moral code, which, rightly
of Aleko and Onegin. "In Aleko," says or wrongly, she follows without weak-
Dostoyevsky, "Pushkin had already ening. Tatiana is the most artistic
discovered, and portrayed with gen- character of the positive type of Rus-
ius, the unhappy wanderer in his na- sian woman in Russian literature. She
tive land, the Russian sufferers of has not been surpassed, not even by
history, whose appearance in society, any of the women in the rich gal-
uprooted from among the people, was lery of portraits of the active, high-
a historic necessity." Later, the same minded type given us by Turgenev.
Alekos and Onegins will appear, un- Liza, the heroine of A Nobleman's
der different names, in the works of Retreat, approaches her very closely.
Turgenev, Chekhov and Gorky. In spite of his greatness, Pushkin
As a contrast to Aleko and Onegin, was, until very recently, almost un-
the weak-willed wanders wrapped known outside of Russia. This is due
in "Byron's mantle," Pushkin gives to the fact that he is very difficult
us the type of moral, positive beau- to translate. Russian poetry in gen-
ty, the strong-willed Tatiana. Un- eral does not lend itself to transla-
like her two compatriots, Tatiana tion

Afi.am X,

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Following the sensational success off
Philip Guedalla's "The Hundred
Years," dealing with the historical
high spots of the century since Queen
Victoria's accession to the throne of
England, Hector Bolitho has written
"Royal Progress: 1837-1937" in which
he depicts the history of the same pe-
riod in the life of the British mon-

"When shall I see, my friends,
my people free and happy,
And serfdom gone, at last, at
the will of the Tsar?
When over Russia, of culture
and of freedom,
Will finally appear the beau-
tiful bright star?"



Like Gorky, Pushkin could have
said: "I have come into this world
to disagree." His profound sense of

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