Sunday, 29 April 2018

Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin by Aleksandr Pushkin.

Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin (Повести покойного Ивана Петровича Белкина) is a small collection of short stories written by Aleksandr Pushkin, first published in 1831. They're framed as stories said to be written by the fictional Ivan Petrovich Belkin (Pushkin's alter-ego) and even begin with a note from the publisher:
In undertaking the publication of I. P. Belkin's Tales, now placed before the reader, we had hoped to include a biography of the late author, however brief, thus satisfying to some extent the legitimate curiosity of lovers of our native letters. To this end, we were minded to approach Maria Alexeyevna Trafilina, the heiress and next-of-kin of Ivan Petrovich Belkin; she was unable, however, to furnish any information, since she had not known the deceased at all. She advised us to address our enquiries on the matter to a certain worthy gentleman, a former friend of Ivan Petrovich. We followed this advice, and in answer to our letter, received the desired response, which we print below...
Pushkin goes on to give a brief description of I. P. Belkin before the stories begin. There's five:
  • The Shot
  • The Snowstorm
  • The Undertaker
  • The Stationmaster
  • The Lady Peasant
In the first, Pushkin, or Belkin rather, tells the story of Silvio, a strange gentleman who joins some military officers for cards. Silvio is an expert shooter, yet when, one night, he insulted by one of the officers he does not challenge him to a duel, as would be expected. He explains why: he had once been jealous of an officer and deliberately provoked him so that they would duel. When it came to it, the officer showed little care of the severity of the situation so Silvio bides his time. In the next story, The Snowstorm (which I think is the most striking of the collection), we learn about Marya Gavrilovna who was in love with an officer called Vladimir. They planned to elope but a snowstorm prevented their plans, and Marya later learns that Vladimir has died. Years pas and though she is still in love with Vladimir, she expects a proposal from Bermin, a man she has come to know. However, in a remarkable twist of fate, he explains to her why he can never marry her. Next, The Undertaker, an excellent horror story in which an overcharging undertaker is haunted by those whose funerals he arranged, and following that The Stationmaster in which the narrator meets Dunya, a stationmaster's daughter, who he becomes obsessed with. When he returns years later to find her he finds the station in disrepair and Dunya gone, kidnapped by Minsky, a captain. Finally, The Lady Peasant, a story about Lizaveta Muromsky and Alexei Berestov whose fathers hate each other. One day the maid of Lizaveta attends a party at the Berestovs and when she returns she describes the fun that was had. Lizaveta, intrigued, disguises herself so that she may see Beretov for herself. They fall in love, and in true Shakespearean manner everything falls into place.

Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin is a very good read, and it's an interesting mix. Pushkin is a brilliant story-teller, and it's fascinating to read these tales of old Russia, which were presented as fact. As I mentioned, The Lady Peasant has an air of a Shakespearean comedy, others have a touch of Poe, and the rest something of Thomas Hardy. A great collection and I'm looking forward to reading the rest from The Queen of Spades and Other Stories.

And that was my 17th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week - Arden of Feversham.

2 comments:

  1. who wrote "The Duel"? i had imagined it was Pushkin, but now i have my doubts... anyway i've read some of his stories and they... are very Russian...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it was Chekhov, but I'm, not sure...

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