Friday, September 16, 2011

Review of "Selected Works: Poetry & Prose of Alexander Pushkin"

After reading “The Poor Knight,” Pushkin’s homage to Don Quixote in verse, it was difficult not to pick up the two volume Selected Works: Poetry & Prose of Alexander Pushkin I found in a bargain bin.  The poet’s delicate expression of the familiar coming to full life in this collection, I now count myself a fan and will gladly read anything else I come across. 

That the two volumes are written in a second language, something is undoubtedly lost in translation.  The subtle flavor of vernacular Russian is, unfortunately, a secret held in a box beyond my current skill to unlock.  What remains in English is worthwhile nonetheless, romantic, nationalist, and cultural ideals the major themes.  Despite feeling dated when juxtaposed against today’s poetry featuring minority agendas and random emotional dumps, something remains to be said for the classic style.  In fact, in the face of post-modernism’s poetry-art which is as obscure as Russian Cyrillic to the non-native, the clarity with which Pushkin writes is a breath of fresh air.  The verse metered and rhyming, it's easy to relax reading his observations on nature or laments on declining cultural standards. 

Notable among the poems is “The Prophet,” a short poem on the power of the writer and their word in society.  Likewise, a prose play called  “The Gypsies” captures perfectly the blood and salt lifestyle Westerners stereotypically perceive these wanderer/beggars to live.  Several other prose plays speak to the concerns of Mother Russia in Pushkin’s day - its faults and its glories.  All in all, the collection was a highly suggestive wink that what lays hidden beneath the confounding blanket of Russian is worth further reading.  Accordingly, I have placed Pushkin’s most famous work, Eugene Onegin, on the radar for future purchase – even if in English.

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