Reference Guide to Russian Literature

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Aleksandr Ivanovich Odoevskii 1802-1839
Poet

Biography

Born in St Petersburg, 8 December 1802. First cousin of Prince V.F. Odoevskii.Educated privately. Entered civil service, February 1815. Commissioned into Guards, 1821. Joined Decembrist Northern Society, December 1824. Participant in Decembrist Uprising, December, 1825; detained pending sentence in the Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg.Sentenced to 15 years' hard labour, commuted to 12 years. Surviving poetry written in exile. Transferred to active service. Died of a fever in the Caucasus, 27 August 1839.


Publications

Collected Editions

Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii i pisem. Moscow and Leningrad, 1934; reprinted The Hague, Europe Printing, 1967.

Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii. Moscow and Leningrad, 1958.

Stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1982.


Critical Studies

"Aleksandr Odoevskii", by V. G. Bazanov, in Ocherki dekabristskoi literatury. Poeziia, Moscow and Leningrad, 1961, 334-96.

"Aleksandr Ivanovich Odoevskii (1802-39)", by S. M. Kliuev, Russkaia rech', 6 ( 1977), 30-38.

A. Odoevskii, by V. P. Iagunin, Moscow, 1980.

"No v nas poryvy est' sviatye", by V. P. Iagunin, introductory article to A. Odoevskii. Stikhotvoreniia, Moscow, 1982, 5-26.

A History of Russian Literature of the Romantic Period, by William Edward Brown, Ann Arbor, Ardis, 1986, vol. 2, III-19.

The Life, Times and Milieu of V.F. Odoyevsky, 1804-1869, by Neil Cornwell, London, Athlone Press, and Athens, Ohio University Press, 1986, 228-31 and passim.

The corpus of verse bequeathed to posterity by the Decembrist poet Prince Aleksandr Odoevskii is small: 57 poems only are extant, amounting to slightly over 3,000 lines of verse. Taken alongside an amount of literary correspondence with important writers of the time, however, his poetry does make an interesting contribution not only to Decembrist literature but also to the general aristocratic cultural milieu of the first third of the I9th century.It is known that Odoevskii wrote substantially more poetry than has survived. His attitude towards his poems as artefacts was perhaps a little careless, and he seemed unconcerned about their publication during his lifetime. Much of what has survived was transcribed by Odoevskii's fellow exiles P.A. Mukhanov, N.I. Lorer, M.A. Nazimov, and A.E. Rozen, his first publisher. A few pieces were published from 1830-31 in the journals Literaturnaia gazeta and Severnye tsvety through the anonymous agency of Mukhanov, Del'vig and Viazemskii, but it was only after Odoevskii's premature death that anything like a representative selection came to see the light of day.

The tenor of Odoevskii's verse nature poetry, ballads, the hero-rebel, the glories of Russian history, exile and imprisonment was distilled from the cosmopolitan and cultured literary education that the poet received as appropriate to his station. There was an early affinity with literature and languages, and with Russian history. In particular his cousins Aleksandr Griboedov and Vladimir Odoevskii opened his eyes to the broad sweep of Russian literature, to music, to western literature and philosophy. A passion for free-thinking liberalism was transmitted to Odoevskii, via the confraternities and circles to which he found himself increasingly drawn, from readings of Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Schiller, and the economists Sismondi and Adam Smith.The romanticism of the Schlegels and Schelling, much in vogue, offered immediate attractions. Literary acquaintances, notably Griboedov, Bestuzhev, Ryleev, and Kiukhel'beker, encouraged the idealistic Odoevskii to associate his soaring, expansive, and enthusiastic literary sentiments with political agitation. In St Petersburg Odoevskii produced a body of committed, polemical verse, almost all of it now lost, and he tried his hand at literary criticism of a general type. He was taken effortlessly and as it were inevitably into the conspiratorial cenacle that was to hatch the failed uprising of December 1825. It could be said that Decembrism, as an intellectual and emotional focus, awoke the poet dormant in Odoevskii.For his part in that seditious plot Odoevskii was sentenced to a long term of hard labour, a sentence whose gravity was progressively mitigated over the years through the intercession of the poet's well‐ connected family and friends. It was during his initial detention in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg that the weight of his recent personal trauma first coalesced poetically with the literary ambience of his upbringing: here, and later, more convincingly, in Siberian exile, Odoevskii's muse came of age.

Odoevskii's own brand of romanticism, now emerging clearly, moved away from the metaphysical imponderabilities of Schelling and the mysticism of Zhukovskii towards the naive, civic high-mindedness of such as Raevskii, Ryleev, and Fedor

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