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Pushkin and Horace

Remarks on “Exegi monumentum” and “Pamyatnik”

Neohelicon
Author:
John Kevin Newman
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My paper aims at examining the poetics of Sergei Dovlatov’s novel Sanctuary, with particular emphasis on motivic repetitions and the Pushkinian intertexts embedded in the novel. It reveals a complex relationship linking Dovlatov the author, Alikhanov the narrator, Alikhanov the protagonist and the narrative itself to Pushkin’s life, persona, his texts and language. By referring to two Pushkinian intertexts, I argue that Alikhanov’s understanding of Pushkin develops simultaneously as his relationship to his wife Tanya progressively becomes a text. Alikhanov recreates Pushkin’s ars poetica for himself by aphoristically identifying the poet with an indifferent nature. The fictional equivalent of this will be Tanya, whom Alikhanov the narrator describes with the attributes of indifference. This motif of indifferent nature establishes a connection between Pushkin’s lyrics and Dovlatov’s text. Pushkin, the greatest cultural subject in Russia’s collective memory, is salvaged by Dovlatov’s text through Alikhanov’s Tanya as well as the narrator’s own personal history; a history that necessarily evolves from Pushkin. Alikhanov the protagonist and Alikhanov the narrator interpret Pushkin in the context of their own crucial, existential questions, the questions of amorality and destiny, and the possibilities of late modern-postmodern prose writing.

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Marina Cvetaeva wrote a narrative prose work My Pushkin in France in 1937 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poet's death. Written in the form of autobiographical memories the work is distinctly set off from occasional essayistic writing then prevailing in emigration circles. In this article the author attempts firstly to enlighten the reasons that prompted Marina Cvetaeva to present Pushkin from an ultimately subjective and inner perspective such as only the autobiographical memory of the proper childhood can offer, i.e. the reasons that made her use rather introspection than the spirit of collective memory (as understood by M. Halbwachs), which took hold of the Russian emigration in the jubilee-year of 1937. Secondly the article analyses the work itself and the mechanism of the autobiographical memory by Cvetaeva herself, which may account for the fact that Cvetaeva's presentation of Pushkin was so different from the stereotypes taken for granted in the emigration community. The peculiar quality of Cvetaeva's Pushkin as “impulsive” and “rebellious” person is derived from the fact that what Cvetaeva is interested in her work are only those aspects of her childhood perception of Pushkin that are in accordance with her present state, which is to say with her self-appreciation, emotional states and convictions, as well as with her myth of the poet and poetic creativity in general.

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The heroine of Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin, Tatyana became the prototype of a brilliant series of female characters in 19th-century Russian literature. Various interpretations of her image can be grouped around an idealizing pole (Dostoevsky: “apotheosis of the Russian woman”) and a realistic one (Belinsky regarding the figure in her evolution from an ardent but naive provincial damsel to a dame of the Muscovite high society). Chekhov narrates in his short story После театра [After the theatre] about a 16-year-old girl Nadya, who, having returned home from the performance of the opera Eugene Onegin, and effected by Tatyana’s writing to Onegin, starts to write a letter to a young man, who, as she thinks, is in love with her; then, suddenly she decides to write to another young man who also pays court to her. At the same time, she experiences rapid changes of her mood: she bursts out now into tears, now into laughter without any real reason; and gradually, she becomes filled with an incomprehensible feeling of joy. Chekhov, who was not only a sensitive writer but also a sharp-sighted physician, reliably describes in Nadya’s behaviour the psycho-somatic symptoms of early puberty when the estrogenic hormones come into action. The undercurrent of this story is apparently a delicate ironical hint at Tatyana’s juvenile rapture over Onegin. Chekhov does not deglorify Pushkin’s heroine, he just supplements her realistic interpretation with the psycho-physiological aspect of the formation of her personality.

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Abstract

The present paper gives a positive answer to the question about the possibility of adequate poetic translation. It presents extracts of Russian poetry that contain various phonic devices (e.g. rhythmic variations, sound repetitions, vowel alternations, consonant clusters, etc.) which, in addition to other verbal means, make up the peculiar aesthetic value of a poetic work. The Hungarian translations of the extracts from Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman and Eugene Onegin, Tyutchev’s Autumn Evening, and Tvardovsky’s Vassili Tyorkin, made by the prominent poets and translators Lajos Áprily, Árpád Galgóczy, and Lőrinc Szabó, masterly reproduce the phonic qualities of the Russian texts, and prove the validity of the Pushkinian claim on the “alliance of sound, thought, and sentiment” in lyric poetry.

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When Musorgsky revised his opera Boris Godunov in 1871–1872 as a condition for its eventual performance in 1874, he made many changes that went far beyond what the Imperial Theaters demanded of him. Among these changes was the composition of a crowd scene outside Moscow, in which the rebellious populace hails the Pretender, to replace a crowd scene at Red Square in which a submissive, hungry crowd beg Boris for bread. The original scene came, like the rest of the libretto, directly from Pushkin’s eponymous play. The new scene reflected a new view of the historical events, and Musorgsky wrote his own text for it. The two scenes are ideologically at odds, particularly as regards their view of the Russian nation in relation to the Russian people. Moreover, the two scenes share the episode of the Holy Fool and the thieving boys, which Musorgsky transferred from the one score to the other. Obviously, Musorgsky regarded them as incompatible within a single production and thought he had made conflating them impossible. And yet, at the Bolshoy Theater in 1939, the two scenes were indeed played that way, inconsistencies and redundancies be damned. The Bolshoy production (which became widely known through recordings and film) might be written off, the way we tend to write off the art of the Stalinist era, as a politically motivated anomaly. But other productions, including one in San Francisco in 1992, and one that was mounted in 2010 at the Teatro Regio in Torino, have included both scenes without any such evident motivation, possibly because the Bolshoy production is now regarded by some as canonical. Is the historiographical contradiction involving our theme of Opera and Nation to be regarded as a blemish? If not, what considerations can be seen to outweigh it? Can Musorgsky’s political ideas be deduced from the work in which we assume they are embodied? And if they can be, should they be regarded as an aspect of the work that performers need respect?

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The paper (originally a chapter in a book published in Hungary, extensively investigating into the system of intertexts of Turgenev's novel, Rudin - cf. Budapest, 2002) raises the problem of the intertextual poetics of Turgenev's prose fiction as represented in his novel, Rudin. As elements of the intertextual system of this novel, on the one hand, Griboedov's comedy, Gore ot uma, on the other hand, Pushkin's novel, Evgenij Onegin are examined in detail from the specific point of view of how these literary works are creatively built into the semantic world of the Turgenevian text in a way that their joint presence there as an intertextual complex sheds light on the complicated poetic interrelation of these two texts themselves (interpreted in the contexts of the history of the text evolution and from the perspective of poetic meaning formation within the semantic universe). It is the motif of travelling (metaphorically construed as pilgrimage) which stands at centre stage in the analysis. The spatial dimensions of Chackij's figure as opposed to the dominance of the temporal semantic extensions of Sofia's poetic figure are under scrutiny as a crucial motivation factor for the plot construction. In the process of analysis the motif as belonging to the plot and the motif as representing a more abstract semantic unit with independent poetic development are consistently differentiated and also the semantic status of the pretext is separated from that of the intertext.

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В статье предлагается несколько стихотворений русских поэтов на тему моря. Описательный аспект в них пропитан эмоциональными переживаниями авторов. При этом меняющийся вид моря, его богатство световыми и звучными оттенками и переливами нарисованы c высоким поэтическим мастерством, позволяющим ощущать определенный параллелизм между динамикой моря и изме-нениями в душевной жизни человека. Эти романтические стихотворения содержат явные элементы реалистического подхода к действительности, а вместе с тем и некоторые черты, свидетельствую-щие о склонности авторов к трансцендентальности.

Элегия Жуковского «Море» (1822) – прекрасный пример олицетворения: море рассматривается как мистическое существо, которое живет, дышит и исполнено тревожной мыслью. Реалистичное изображение моря содержит скрытую аллюзию на переменчивые настроения человеческой души.

В стихотворении Пушкина «Погасло дневное светило…» (1820) поэт вспоминает о своей поте-рянной бурной молодости. В его же стихах «К морю» (1824) море как символ абсолютной свободы напоминает судьбы двух великих мужей века: Наполеона и Байрона.

В стихотворении «Море и утес» (1848) Тютчев выражает свою веру в миссию России как защит-ника христианства. Помимо аллегорического смысла, мастерство изображения яростных бурь волн против «спокойного и уверенного в себе утеса» предлагает прекрасную параллель с известными морскими картинами Айвазовского. В его стихотворении «Как хорошо ты, о море ночное» (1865) непрерывное движение моря намекает на трансцендентальное. Последние строки этого стихотво-рения говорят о неутолимой скорби поэта, вызванной недавней смертью его возлюбленной. Его же стихи «Волна и дума» (1851) представляют эмблематический символ взгляда поэта на аналогию природы и человеческого духа: наши мысли – это то же непрерывное, тщетное и обманчивое явле-ние как бушующие и отступающие волны моря.

Бунин посвятил два стихотворения морю. В одном из них (1895) вид спокойного ночного моря вызывает у наблюдателя восхищенное предчувствие вечной красоты и неземной истины. В другом стихотворении (1897) описание бурного Северного моря напоминает унылое настроение поэта. Па-раллель между этим зрелищем и подавленным состоянием души поэта проявляется в уничижитель-ных семантических тонах эпитетов и предикатов.

В стихах Бальмонта «У моря ночью» (1903) вид ночного моря возбуждает у поэта отчаянное ви-дение нависающей смерти.

В своем коротком стихотворении (1884) Надсон сравнивает море с мощным органом в величе-ственном соборе, но вместе с тем оно приводит видение кого-то «безумно смеющегося и грозящего».

При этом цитированные романтические стихотворения содержат явные элементы реалистиче-ского подхода к действительности, хотя в то же время некоторые их черты свидетельствуют о склон-ности авторов к трансцендентальности.

The paper presents a selection of poems about the sea, written by Russian lyric poets in the 19th century. The descriptive aspect in the poems is imbued by the emotional experience and actual mood of the authors. At the same time, the changing sight of the sea, the abundance of its luminous tints and sounding modulations are shown with high poetic mastery suggesting a certain parallel between the dynamism of the sea and the alternating states of the human mind. Parts of the texts indicate the authors’ disposition to transcendence.

Zhukovsky’s elegy Море [The Sea] (1822) is a fine example of personification: the poet addresses the sea regarded as a mystical being that lives and breathes, filled with anxious thought. The realistic portrayal of the sea contains a hidden allusion to the changing moods of the human soul.

Pushkin’s poem Погасло дневное светило… [The Day Star is Gone] (1820) recalls reminiscences of his lost turbulent youth. In the poem К морю [To the Sea] (1824), the sea as the symbol of absolute freedom reminds of the fates of the two outstanding men of the century, Napoleon and Byron.

Tyutchev’s poem Море и утес [The Sea and the Cliff] (1848) pertains to the Western European revolutionary events of 1848. In the form of an allegory, the poet expresses his belief in the mission of Russia as the defender and stronghold of genuine Christianity. Apart from its allegorical sense, the mastery of depicting the furious storms of waves against the “calm and self-confident Cliff ” offers a fine parallel to the well-known maritime paintings of Ayvazovsky. The poem Как хорошо ты, о море ночное [How Fine is You, the Sea at Night] (1865) includes a hint at transcendence in the description of the continually moving sea. The last lines of this poem allude to the unappeasable grief of the poet caused by the recent death of his beloved. The poem Волна и дума [The Wave and the Thought] (1851) is an emblematic symbol of Tyutchev’s view on the parallelism of nature and the human mind: our thoughts are regarded as just the same incessant, idle, and deceptive phenomena as the storming and receding waves of the sea.

Bunin devoted two poems to the sea. One of them (1895) presents the sight of the tranquil nocturnal sea, arousing a delighted state of the observer, his presentiment of everlasting beauty and “unearthly truth”. The other poem (1897) describes the stormy Northern Sea with its piercing wind and heavy waves. The parallel between this sight and the depressed state of mind of the poet appears in the pejorative semantic tones of the epithets and predicates.

In Balmont’s poem У моря ночью [At the Sea by night] (1903), the sight of the sea by night stirs up in the poet a desperate vision of imminent death.

In his short poem (1884), Nadson compares the sea with a powerful organ in a majestic cathedral but at the same time a vision appears to him of “somebody insanely laughing and threatening”.

In the cited poems, the romantic (i.e. individual and emotional) attitude to the sea is integrated with superior skill in describing elements of reality, and reveals a certain inclination of the poets to transcendental experience.

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The paper entitled “The poetic development of the motifs word and deed in Turgenev's novel, Rudin” examines the structure and the semantic evolution of the motifs under scrutiny. It throws light upon the different semantic configurations the variants of word and deed systematically form in different layers of the text-on the plot-level where they reveal themselves focussing around the main hero of the novel (see the protagonist's debate with Pigasov or his complaint about his fate); in their linguistic representations including their lexical and phonic manifestations (cf. e.g. the expression ???????? ??????); in the consequently constructed motif clusters, which reveal significant semantic parallelisms (cf. the semantic sequence of variants: fire-love-wandering-speaking), and in the intertextual practice of the novel. The interpretation formulates the idea of the isomorphic structural and semantic composition of the motifs word and deed, relating their poetic meaning to the problem of semantic motivation. This latter one “overwrites” the evaluation of Rudin's figure offered in the framework of his unrealized love story with Natalya or given by the characters or the narrator. The paper aims at elucidating the true semantic character of the literary figure, deeply embedded in his intertextual role incarnations, out of which the Rudin-Onegin parallelism is paid special attention.

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