Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

8
The Shadowed Paths Of Ivan
Bunin

In Russian literature Ivan Bunin is considered the successor to Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy.There are points in common with Nikolai Gogol as well. * This line of succession is apparent in his philosophy of sex, but the frontiers beckoning Bunin are more extreme than those of the aforementioned classic authors.It is also evident that his work is not without the influence of Maupassant and Freud.

In Bunin there are many masterly descriptions of nature similar to those of Tolstoy or Gogol, which make his writing attractive.There is, however, a disturbing emphasis on sensuality in these descriptions that does not lead to harmony, into the radiant garden of love, but rather into the shadowed paths of lust. His attitude toward sex is not foreign to that of Anton Chekhov or Leo Tolstoy, but it is accentuated in Bunin.It is no coincidence that he titled the cycle of his stories on the feelings of love and passion: Shadowed Paths.

Here is a conversation from the novel The Well of Days about a parlormaid from the common folk:

I squatted on the floor, looking at her bare legs and at her bare black head, already full of inward tremors, but ... pretending to admire the embers and their dark, crimson glow ... suddenly I sat down beside her, embraced her, and threw her on the floor, catching her reluctant lips ... The poker rattled, some sparks flew up from the stove ... When afterwards I jumped out to the porch, I looked like a man who had suddenly committed murder... 1

This thought, expressed by Bunin's hero, surmises something contemporary feminists have affirmed, but the man goes on to reassure himself: "And what happened is only that natural, necessary thing which had to happen — after all I am already seventeen ... I was once more overwhelmed with triumph, masculine pride."2

____________________
*
Bunin, like Gogol, lived for some time in Malorossia and knew well the dispositions and customs of the Ukrainians.

-62-

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