Narrative poems by Alexander Pushkin and by Mikhail Lermontov

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Random House, Oct 12, 1983 - Literary Criticism - 144 pages
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About the author (1983)

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, one of Russian's greatest poets, was born in Moscow on June 6, 1799. He studied Latin and French literature at the Lyceum. Pushkin was often in conflict with the government and was kept under surveillance for much of his later life. He was also exiled for a period of time. His works include Eugene Onegin and Ruslan and Ludmila. Pushkin died on February 10, 1837 in St. Petersburg of a wound received during a duel protecting the honor of his wife.

One of Russia's greatest nineteenth-century poets, Lermontov was at first an officer in an elite Guards regiment. Because of the views he expressed in a poem written on the death of Pushkin in 1837, he was arrested, tried, and transferred to the Caucasus. The poem, a passionate condemnation of the St. Petersburg elite for inciting Pushkin's ill-fated confrontation with D'Anthes, brought Lermontov instant fame. He returned to the capital a year later and began to publish regularly; two volumes of poems and the novel A Hero of Our Time appeared in 1840. Next year, as punishment for a duel, he was sent again to a line regiment in the Caucasus, where he distinguished himself in battle. In July 1841 he was killed in his last duel, the consequence of his own quarrelsome conduct. Lermontov was strongly influenced by Byron and Schiller, writing striking confessional poems that presented him in typically romantic defiance toward society. In his final years, he wrote more reflective and philosophical lyrics, as well as longer narrative poems, also derived from Byronic models. The most important of these is The Demon (1839), on which he worked for a number of years. The story of a fallen angel's love for a woman, it has provided Russian literature and art with a powerful archetype. Besides poetry, Lermontov also wrote plays and fiction, of which A Hero of Our Time is the most important. Made up of several tales by different narrators, the novel centers on Pechorin---a seminal example of the egotistical nineteenth-century "superfluous man," a specifically Russian derivative of the Byronic hero. Both this protagonist and Lermontov's complex narrative technique gave a powerful stimulus to Russian realist fiction.

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