Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature

Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature

Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature

Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature

Excerpt

To these pieces on Russian and Polish literature I have given the name 'excursions', meaning by that to acknowledge that in them I stray through fields where, by one not unreasonable set of professional rules, I have no rights and no competence. Of the Russian language I know little more than what I picked up, as a World War Two sailor in the Royal Navy, during eighteen months ashore in or near Murmansk and Archangel; and of Polish I know not a word except solidarnos+̀ć. What impudence, then, to suppose that my reflections on Russian or Polish texts have any validity or any value! And to be sure I am well aware that every one of my transactions must betray my lack of inwardness with the native tongues in which those texts are at home.

However, these excursions did not when I undertook them, nor do they now when I review them, present themselves to me as off-beat vacations from the serious professional business of describing and accounting for literature in English. Excursions, they may be — but diversions, no! I should dislike it extremely, if this collection should seem to perpetuate a long-established tradition of merchants and diplomats in their retirement whiling away the time by turning their hands to versions of, or essays about, Pushkin or Mickiewicz or Leskov or whoever. The products of such well-intentioned hands still burden the shelves of libraries, and too often convey the stultifying impression that Russian or Polish gentlemen of any period were essentially — ah, essentially! — not different from British or American gentlemen at the same date. Properly professional Schools of Slavic Studies are steadily, though not altogether rapidly, banishing such amateur publications to the dustier extremes of the library stacks.

And a good thing too, I'm sure. Yet I'm forced to remember that when, having returned from Russia in love with its melancholy spaces, I looked for some guidance into the culture that I'd grasped the skirts of, it was these graceful amateurs that alone could help me. Maurice Baring, Edwardian man of letters, and in a later generation C.M. Bowra — these I turned to, since they held the field, except for pedestrian Czech emigrés (the first professional Slavists) turning a dry-as-dust penny. My debt to Baring and to Bowra is . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.