Magazine article Russian Life

The Captain's Daughter

Magazine article Russian Life

The Captain's Daughter

Article excerpt


Alexander Pushkin (NYRB Classics, $14)

Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler


In his superb short biography of Alexander Pushkin (Hesperus, 2009), Robert Chandler notes that "Not only is Pushkin Russia's greatest poet, he is also the author of the first major work in almost every literary genre."

The Captain's Daughter, Pushkin's final published work, was Russia's first great prose novel. And it is the sort of linguistic and literary master-piece one would expect from a great poet working at the height of his art, steeped in the history that surrounds his work (the Pugachyov Rebellion).

Pushkin had been studying Pugachyov for years, and had released a monumental historical work on the rebellion just two years before, including a special edition (with instructive notes) for Tsar Nicholas. But if his history was remarkable for its use of primary (eyewitness) sources and a well-rounded if chaotic presentation of events, The Captain's Daughter was not interested in truth. Instead, Pugachyov becomes a vehicle for telling a touching story about forgiveness, duty and honor. …

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