Brief Lives: Alexander Pushkin by Robert Chandler
This is a short biography of Pushkin written by Robert Chandler (143 pages). I got it in part because I’d been very impressed by Robert Chandler’s notes to Life and Fate, which he translated.
I found this very useful and well written. I hadn’t realised the centrality of Pushkin in Russian literary culture, or how many of his ideas had crossed over. For example, how the play/film Amadeus was based on a story by Pushkin. I knew how Lermontov had been influenced by Pushkin, thinking of his death (in a duel) as a form of legalised murder, but I didn’t know the context.
Pushkin was heavily influenced by the Decembrists. It’s interesting to think of the impact those events had on Russian cultural life. Perhaps the autocratic personalized state meant that the only form of political expression was through cultural forms? Obviously the Decembrist movement was a political movement, but it didn’t get very far. I wonder if there is any similar event in other cultures.
I found the descriptions of his poetry very useful, how a presence of Apollo can be felt even though he is not mentioned by name via the rhyming scheme (Arion). Also I was interested in the ideas of Anna Akhmatova writing about Pushkin’s talent for encryption in poetry.
A short biography like this can be criticised as being too brief and not much better than reading Wikipedia. While Wikipedia is really good, I found this more informative. Anyway this is longer than a Wikipedia article, so it’s a different scope.