N. M. Karamzin: a Study of His Literary Career, 1783-1803

By A. G. Cross | Go to book overview

FOUR
SENTIMENTAL FICTION
1789-1803

REVIEWING IN 1803 a French translation of four of his early stories, Karamzin expressed his amusement and surprise that Henri Coiffier, the translator, should criticize "Frol Silin" as a conte rather than consider it a simple "description of good deeds."1 Yet the very nature of sentimental fiction as practiced by Karamzin encouraged this confusion: despite our knowledge that Frol had been a real person, a Simbirsk peasant, Karamzin's objections seem strangely misplaced, from the point of view of both form and content.

Reacting strongly against the principal prose form of pseudoclassicism--the interminable adventure novel with its involved and fantastic plot, incredible coincidences and puppet-like characters, Karamzin sought simplicity and naturalness, a world peopled by recognizable men and women, experiencing the joys and sadnesses of life, such as might, theoretically at least, befall anyone at any time in any estate. Literature was not to be divorced from life; it was part of life. In Russia Karamzin's stories were the first to establish this link and "Poor Liza" is the outstanding tribute to his success.

Earlier than Karamzin, writers like Fedor Emin with his Letters of Ernest and Doravra [ Pis'ma Ernesta i Doravry] ( 1766) and Pavel L'vov, the author of The Russian Pamela [ Rossiiskaia Pamela] ( 1789), had attempted to assimilate the manner, form, and subject-matter of Rousseau La Nouvelle Héloise ( 1761, first translated into Russian in 1769) and Richardson Pamela ( 1740, translated in 1787). Although they anticipated scenes, attitudes, even turns of phrase which Karamzin was to incorporate into his own work, they lacked the command of language and form, which

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N. M. Karamzin: a Study of His Literary Career, 1783-1803
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • One The Formative Years 1766-1790 1
  • Two The Moscow Journal 1791-1792 35
  • Four Sentimental Fiction 1789-1803 96
  • Five From Aglaia To The Pantheon of Russian Authors 1793-1801 143
  • Six Karamzin's Verse And Aonides 1796-1799 172
  • Seven The Messenger of Europe 1802-1803 193
  • Eight Into the Temple of History 218
  • Checklist of Original and Translated Reviews in The - Moscow Journal 233
  • Notes 243
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 295
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