By Edmund Wilson

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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 constantly been "his skill to spot, whether he couldn't thoroughly describe, the master-spirit of an age." different critics are extra analytic or extra systematic, yet none rather fit Wilson's snatch of tradition and heritage, of activities and males. In A Window on Russia, which Wilson modestly calls "a handful of disconnected items, written at numerous instances while I occurred to have an interest within the a variety of authors," we come across that infrequent excitement of getting into a dwelling global the place the lifeless 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 experiences of Turgenev and Tolstoy and Pushkin. actual, 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 feedback on Tolstoy that equals the pithiness of Gorky's comment. but how memorably Wilson builds up a personality, an period; how attention-grabbing are his fussy info and leisurely summaries; how simply he makes his issues: the bureaucrats who flourish lower than the Soviets as they did lower than the Tsars, the peasants that suffer from one regime to a different, the depression authors who universally melancholy of Russia but can't undergo to be parted from her. incorporated within the present miscellany is the recognized controversy among Nabokov and Wilson over Evgeni Onegin, which first seemed within the big apple overview, and rather fantastic chapters on Svetlana and Solzhenitsyn which seemed within the New Yorker.

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Sample text

It is only by reading them thus that it is possible to get any idea of Chekhov's artistic development or his ultimate vision of Russian life. If we follow this line of development, we see that, beginning with satirical jokes, Chekhov goes on to master the art of the ironic anecdote, so often pathetic or tragic (it would hardly, one would think, be possible to complain of a good many of them that one did not understand the point); these, in turn, begin to expand into something more rounded-out (the dense but concise study of character and situation) and eventually-in what Mr.

None of the other Russian classics, so far as my experience goes, presents so many obstacles to the foreigner. The paragraphs confront one like solid walls; the sentences seem to go on for pages. The vocabulary is queer and enormous. In Gogol's Ukrainian stories, the Ukrainian words are a factor that has to be reckoned with, as one has to reckon with Scottish in Scott, and the glossaries provided by Gogo) himself fall far short of being complete-though the new editors have done something to supplement them.

He is a little 32 A WINDOW ON RUSSIA too weepy for our taste. In his poetry is audible, as it is not in Pushkin, that incurable minor key of resignation to grievance and complaint, that may move us when we hear it in an old Russian song but with which we become impatient when we find how habitual and incessant it is in all kinds of connections in Russian life. In Tyutchev's case, this key is associated with a humidity of emotional atmosphere that is also rather alien to us. There are moments when the Englishspeaking reader, in his exploration of Russian literature, seems to come upon something clammy that makes him instinctively withdraw his hand.

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