HESPERUS £8.99 (152pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Alexander Pushkin, By Robert Chandler
Friday 20 November 2009
Hesperus's "Brief Lives" series of short biographies offers a sound and accessible alternative to the blockbuster literary life.
Pushkin, so pivotal to Russian history as well as literature as a pioneer in poetry, drama and fiction, but often so elusive to readers further west, makes stringest demands on a short-haul biographer.
Chandler, a superb translator from the Russian, rises to the challenge as he celebrates the writing while dodging the "crushing weight of reverence". He gives a swift but sensitive account of Pushkin's eventful life: part-African ancestry, romance, rebellion, exile, travel, death in that absurd duel in 1837. And, via pithy summary and apt quotation, we glimpse the works - such as Boris Godunov, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades – that fixed his role as the national icon claimed by Russians of all stripes.
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