This collection of short stories, published in 1831 – Povesti pokoynogo Ivana Petrovicha Belkina (Повести покойного Ивана Петровича Белкина), The Tales of the late Ivan Petrovich Belkin -
represents a delightful sample of the greatest Russian poet's mastering of prose. The narrative's construction, the carefully crafted story telling, and the glorious unfolding of the plot to its end shall twinkle as the Ursa Major, in the skies of today's ever-growing army of creative writers.
|Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, portrait by Vasily Tropinin|
Much has been written and debated about the life, art and personality of the great Pushkin, whose poetry and existence still imbues today's Russian language, soul and culture, and will undoubtedly continue do so in the foreseeable future. Puskin's premature death at thirty-seven years old is regarded as one of the greatest tragedy in the epic and tragic history of his beloved motherland. What would the history of German literature be, say if Johann Wolfgang Goethe would not have been blessed with living well into his eighties? Even so, even so my fellow readers...Pushkin is the immortal vate that "invented" modern Russian literature, to whom all the magnificent nineteen century masters owe some of their own greatness.
It is my sole attempt here to just spend a few unworthy, mutilated words about the five short stories that appear in 'The Tales of the late Ivan Petrovich Belkin'.
Vystrel (Выстрел); The Shot.
The tradition of duels, the sentiments of honor and pride, the meaning of revenge and mercy, and the sanctity of love, that offers life a purpose.
Metel (Метель); The Snowstorm.
The sacrament of the Orthodox church marriage, the reversal of parents' will in socially divided aristocratic society, the recklessness of youth, the loss and cherish of one's first love, and the inevitable turning of wheel of destiny.
Grobovschik (Гробовщик); The Coffin Maker (aka Undertaker).
A dark-humored tale of a hardened and disgruntled artisan, the social value of work and professions, the desire of being accepted by the circle of peers, the loneliness of everyone's struggle, and the insight into a possibility of potentially changing one's course in life.
Stanzionny smotritel (Станционный смотритель); The Stationmaster.
The moving story of a humble Коллежский регистратор (Collegiate Registrar, the lowest of the fourteen ranks of Imperial Russia civil servants), who runs a posting station along the country's roads, and his daughter Dunya. A tribute to the biblical tale of the prodigal son's dissipation and redemption, and a compassionate eye to the fleeting and impermanence of earthy existence.
Baryshnya-krestyanka (Барышня-крестьянка); The Squire's daughter.
A parody of the everlasting debate of Russian traditionalism versus progressive westernization, the story recounts the hostility of two families of aristocrats and land-owner in the remotest district of the empire, the juvenile struggle for love and sincerity, the vain struggle against imposition of long-standing social rules, and the possibility of happiness and salvation offered by the quill of the poet.