Pushkin's Evgenii Onegin

Article excerpt

Sally Dalton-Brown. Pushkin's Evgenii Onegin. Critical Studies in Russian Literature. Series Editor: Neil Cornwell. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1997. 145 pp. Bibliography. Appendix. Index. E6.95, paper.

The subject of this book is the best-known work of the best-known Russian writer. As the primus inter pares in Russian literature, Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin, has been the source of inspiration for generations of renowned Russian literary scholarship. Thus, one of the challenges facing any critic is the question: will his or her work advance anything of interest, or will it merely add to the incredibly vast amount of existing criticism on the subject.

This slim book, altogether not exceeding one and a half hundred pages, has a three-partite organization: Part One: Criticism; Part Two: The Text; Part Three: Interpretations. Yet this ingenuous and artless arrangement of the subject hides rare ingenuity in approaching an apparently so much "overtalked" work as Pushkin's "novel in verse." The first part, which is approximately thirty pages in length, provides us with a quick survey of both Russian and Western criticism on the Onegin. In spite of its brevity, it offers the reader not only a fair and general view of the greater part of scholarly research into this "encyclopaedia of Russian life." What originally was launched as a sketch, at times ceases to be "sketchy" and informatively illuminates what positions Russian literary scholars have been taking in the course of their research and, also, what makes for the specific "Russian" character of their work. This systematic guide through the history of interpretation of the Onegin offers the reader "live" insight into how a particular literary theory actually "functions," and how this literary theory inspires and generates new theories and interpretations. It also prepares the reader for the author's own subsequent interpretation. Dalton-Brown has thus aptly provided herself with an opportunity of putting her findings and ideas against the proof of literary criticism on the same subject.

Dalton-Brown's book offers a new, "upgraded," reading of the Onegin. Her book in its entirety, if in an implicit form, demonstrates that good literary scholarship is always in correlation with philosophical thinking inasmuch both ask questions without actually finding the final-and-only answer. …