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By Edmund Wilson

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contents:
Russian Language 3
Pushkin 15
Tyutchev 28
Gogol: The Demon within the Overgrown backyard 38
Seeing Chekhov simple 52
Turgenev and the Life-Giving Drop 68
Sukhovo-Kobylin: "Who Killed the French Woman?" 148
Notes on Tolstoy 161
Notes on Pushkin 185
A Little Museum of Russian Language 197
The unusual Case of Pushkin and Nabokov 209
Svetlana and Her Sisters 238
Solzhenitsyn 270

The glory of the past due Edmund Wilson, as Frank Kermode remarked, has continuously been "his skill to spot, no matter if he couldn't thoroughly describe, the master-spirit of an age." different critics are extra analytic or extra systematic, yet none really fit Wilson's clutch of tradition and background, of activities and males. In A Window on Russia, which Wilson modestly calls "a handful of disconnected items, written at a number of occasions while I occurred to have an interest within the quite a few authors," we come across that infrequent excitement of getting into a dwelling international the place the useless hand of academia by no means casts its shadow. actual, the essays are asymmetric, the sooner surveys of Gogol and Chekhov, for example, are moderate affairs, with no the variety and poignancy of Wilson's reports of Turgenev and Tolstoy and Pushkin. real, he's no phrasemaker. He tells us that "Gorky rightly acknowledged that Tolstoy and God have been like bears in a single den," and there's not anything in his personal comments on Tolstoy that equals the pithiness of Gorky's comment. but how memorably Wilson builds up a personality, an period; how interesting are his fussy facts and leisurely summaries; how simply he makes his issues: the bureaucrats who flourish lower than the Soviets as they did below the Tsars, the peasants that suffer from one regime to a different, the depression authors who universally depression of Russia but can't endure to be parted from her. integrated within the present miscellany is the recognized controversy among Nabokov and Wilson over Evgeni Onegin, which first seemed within the ny evaluate, and rather perfect chapters on Svetlana and Solzhenitsyn which seemed within the New Yorker.

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Sample text

Puis apres, comme moi, souffre et meurs sans parler. says Alfred de Vigny's wolf. But Tyutchev, after Mile Denisova's death, begs God to dispel his dullness of soul in order that he may feel his pain more severely, and this somehow disconcerts the Western reader. So does Tyutchev's conception of Nature. Nature, for Housman and Vigny, is indifferent to men, and so they defy her. Those are the tears of morning, That weeps, but not for thee ... says Housman; and Vigny: Vivez, froide Nature, et revivez sans cesse So us nos pieds, sur nos fronts, puisque c'est votre loi; Vivez, et dedaignez, si vous etes deesse, L'Homme, humble passager, qui dut vous etre un Roi; Plus que tout votre regne et que ses splendeurs vaines J'aime la majeste des souffrances hurnaines: Vous ne recevrez pas un cri d'amour de moi.

December 6, 1952 SEEING CHEKHOV PLAIN To write about Chekhov, for a critic of the Englishspeaking countries, has usually meant to grope among the incomplete and scrambled translations of Constance Garnett and others. Here is a book on the subjectChekhov: A Biographical and Critical Study, by Ronald Hingley-by an Englishman who knows Russian and who has been able to avail himself of the new material published by the Soviets. It is a curious feature of Soviet life that the pitiless discouragement of talent in the field of contemporary literature has seemed hardly, in the field of scholarship, to have affected the publication of editions of the Russian classics that are sometimes of unprecedented excellence.

But the attitude of Tyutchev is quite distinct. Nature, in a sense, is indifferent to man, but man does not need to fight her. She is neither opponent nor friend: she has a life and a soul of her own which are larger than the life of man TYUTCHEV 35 and which will eventually absorb and obliterate him. Tyutchev gives final expression to his fundamental point of view in a poem written not long before his death. Do the oaks, he asks, that grow on ancient barrows, that spread their branches and grow grand and speak with their leaves-do they care into whose dust and memory they are plunging their long roots?

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