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Pushkin Paperback – 10 Jun 1999
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Pushkin was arguably Russia's greatest poet, and his prose writings led directly to the flowering of the Russian novel through the 19th century. The publication of this biography is designed to tie in with the second centenary of his death in a duel at the age of 37.
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I cant remember when Ive been thrilled by a literary biography more than by Pushkin Feinstein is the perfect person to take on the Father of Russian Literature Antonia Fraser, GuardianSee all Product description
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I had hoped by reading this biography to understand this 'passion for Pushkin' more fully. I had hoped to sense the greatness of the poetry. Unfortunately, I did not.
I did however get a clear sense of the overall Pushkin story, the themes and interests of his life, the character of his major works.
Much of this involves the story of Pushkin's erotic involvements in which he was not always the kindest of persons. His feeling of and for women primarily to their physical attractiveness. This had a central part in his not necessarily wise choice for a wife, and the story of jealousy, duelng for his honor, and his early death.
In a way one has a sense that Pushkin had the mentality of a different time in relation to women.
Feinstein makes it clear that in another realm Pushkin was more ethically commendable. He worked very hard and it is said created masterpieces in each realm each genre he touched upon. I will admit that my own readings of what many consider the greatest Pushkin of all, the verse- novel 'Evgeny Onegin' and the premier Pushkin story 'Ace of Spades' left me less than deeply moved. The brilliance, the great verbal play which are considered such an essential part of Pushkin's genius have never come across to me.
There are however moving parts in this biography. Pushkin's loss of his greatest friend just as he was about to be married, his dedication to and learning from the peasant woman who raised him and in the process endowed him with a deep sense of Russian myth and folk- tale, his courage in going it alone over and over again even against the will of the political authorities- these are strong positives in the Pushkin story.
Great Literature is one of mankind's most important spiritual sources. It can give us inspiration and love of life, hope and meaning. Pushkin has done that for so many. This book gives a fair account of the major works he created in doing this. It is not his fault nor is it the fault of the excellent author of this biography that in this case I do not really 'get it'.
Three minor complaints:
First, Ms. Feinstein makes multiple references to other biographies of Pushkin. Sometimes this is done properly in the context of new material that has been discovered since those other biographies have been discovered. However this has the effect of making her seem egotistical, as in "they're wrong, and look how much more I know than they do". More importantly, it's annoying to someone unfamiliar with those other biographies. I understand the impossibility of presenting the full and honest truth given the ambiguity and differences in interpretations from the original materials and lack thereof left over from Pushkin's life. But the way she compares and contrasts the information comes across badly.
Second, the pace of the book is uneven. In Ms. Feinstein's defense this may simply be a conflict between what she finds interesting (and therefore worth going into detail) and what I find interesting. The section on Pushkin's childhood reads quickly, while the section on his marriage drags painfully.
Finally, Ms. Feinstein seems luridly fascinated by Pushkin's love life. The information on his loves and lovers should have presented with a little more historical objectivity and a little less romance novel swooning.