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Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book

Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book

by Gleb Struve (Editor)


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The story, or novella, as a literary genre has a much shorter history in Russia than in some Western countries, but it has nevertheless produced important works by some of the greatest names in Russian literature. This dual-language volume contains 12 such stories — memorable tales by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev, Bunin, and other masters. Each selection is presented here in the original Russian with an excellent literal English translation on the facing pages.
Also included are linguistic and cultural notes, a Russian-English vocabulary, study questions and more. In addition, Professor Struve has supplied an enlightening introduction to the Russian short story, as well as concise biographical/critical introductions to each selection. An especially helpful feature for students of Russian is the presence of stress accents in the Russian text, a feature usually found only in primers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486262444
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 02/01/1990
Series: Dover Dual Language Russian Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 592,183
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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By Gleb Struve

Dover Publications, Inc.

All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12028-7



Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was bom in Moscow. He was of mixed descent: on his father's side the family could trace its history in Russia six hundred years back, several of its representatives being mentioned, as minor figures, in historical annals. Pushkin's maternal great-grandfather was an Abyssinian princeling who was sent as a gift to Peter the Great by the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, became the Emperor's godson, and rose to be a general of the army. In 1828 Pushkin began writing a novel about the life of his African ancestor (The Negro of Peter the Great), but left it unfinished.

Pushkin received his education at the newly created and rather exclusive school, the Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo. It was there that he began writing poetry, his first work being published as early as 1814. It would be futile to attempt to characterize Pushkin's role in Russian literature within such a short space. One Russian nineteenth-century critic called him "Our all." Elaborating on that, Dostoevsky in his famous address at the unveiling of Pushkin's statue in Moscow in 1880 developed the theme of Pushkin's "panhumanity," seeing in it an expression of the receptivity of the Russian mind. Although in the second half of the nineteenth century social-minded Russian literary critics were inclined to dismiss Pushkin as a "pure poet," and opposed to him Gogol and other "realists," today Pushkin's place in Russian literature is beyond dispute. Besides the greatest body of lyrical poetry in the language, he wrote several longer narrative poems, including such a masterpiece as "The Bronze Horseman"; a novel in verse (Eugene Onegin)', a historical drama inspired by Shakespeare (Boris Godunov)-, four highly original "little tragedies," and several prose works of which the best known are the novel The Captain's Daughter and the story, or novella, "The Queen of Spades." The story chosen by us here comes from the collection entitled The Tales of Ivan Petrovich Belkin, which Pushkin published anonymously in 1830.

Pushkin himself said that in prose fiction, of which Russian literature could not yet boast in those days, he valued above all "brevity, precision, and naked simplicity." In his own stories these qualities are displayed to perfection. They are masterfully told anecdotes, pruned of everything superfluous, and very carefully constructed. There is invariably an original twist to the plot, and in each of the stories one can detect the element of a subtle literary parody, a take-off on this or that literary manner in vogue. There is no doubt that in "The Stationmaster" there is such a parody of Karamzin's fabulously popular story "Poor Liza," a mawkishly tearful story of a young peasant girl who commits suicide after being jilted by her gentleman lover. This is doubled by a parody of the biblical parable of the Prodigal Son: it is, after all, a story of a prodigal daughter who makes good. Although Pushkin was probably little concerned with the social-humanitarian implications of his story, "The Stationmaster" came to be regarded by the Russian critics and literary scholars as the seed out of which grew the numerous "philanthropic" tales about "poor clerks" and other underdogs of life.

Pushkin's life was cut short in its prime: he died on January 29 (Old Style), 1837, of the wound received in a duel which he fought, in defense of his wife's honor, with a young French émigré d'Anthes who served as an officer in one of the Russian Guards regiments.


A cog in the administration, Dictator of a posting station ... Prince Vyazemsky

Who has not cursed stationmasters, who has not bickered with them? Who, in a moment of rage, has not demanded from them the fateful book in order to write down in it his futile complaint at victimization, rudeness and inefficiency? Who does not consider them the outcasts of the human race, equal to the petty clerks of yore or at best to the brigands of Murom? Let us, however, be fair; let us try to put ourselves in their position, and perhaps we shall judge them much more leniently. What is a stationmaster? A veritable martyr of the fourteenth grade, protected by his rank from beatings only, and that not always (I refer to the conscience of my readers). What are the duties of this dictator, as Prince Vyazemsky facetiously calls him? Are they not really tantamount to a life at hard labor? No respite by day or by night. All the vexation accumulated during his dreary journey the traveler takes out on the stationmaster. Be the weather insupportable, the road bad, the driver stubborn, the horses reluctant—the station-master is to blame. The traveler who enters his poor dwelling looks upon him as an enemy; well and good if he can soon be rid of the uninvited visitor. But what if there are no horses? Lord, what oaths, what threats will be showered on his head! In rain and slush he is obliged to run the round of the village; in storms, in Epiphany frosts he retires into the passageway to have at least a moment's rest from the shouts and shoves of his irritated customer. A general arrives—the trembling stationmaster lets him have the two last troikas, including the special messenger's. The general departs without saying thank you to him. Five minutes later—bells! ... And a special courier throws on the table his travel document. Let us look into all this properly and, instead of indignation, our hearts will be filled with sincere compassion. A few more words: in the course of the last twenty years I have crossed and re-crossed Russia in all directions; nearly all the post roads are familiar to me; I am acquainted with several generations of drivers; few are the stationmasters whom I don't know by sight, few are those with whom I have had no dealings. I hope to publish shortly the interesting store of my traveling impressions; for the time being I shall only say that the class of stationmasters has been presented to the public in the most false light. These much maligned stationmasters are generally peaceful folk, by nature obliging, inclined to be sociable, modest in their ambitions and not too money-loving. From their conversation (which the traveling gentlemen mistakenly neglect) one may learn much that is curious and instructive. As for me, I confess that I prefer their conversation to the discourse of some civil servant of the sixth grade traveling on government business.

It is easy to guess that I have friends among the respectable class of stationmasters. Indeed, the memory of one of them is precious to me. Circumstances once brought us close together, and it is about him that I now propose to tell my gentle readers.

In the year 1816, in the month of May, I happened to be traversing N. Province along a post road which now no longer exists. My rank was low, I traveled by post-chaise in relays and my traveling allowance covered the price of only two horses. Because of that the stationmasters did not stand on ceremony with me and I often had to battle for what, in my opinion, belonged to me by rights. Being young and hotheaded, I felt indignant at the meanness and cowardice of a stationmaster when the latter would harness the troika he had got ready for me to the carriage of some high-ranking gentleman. It took me just as long to get used to the way in which a discriminating lackey would pass me while serving a dish at a governor's dinner. Today both the one and the other seem to me to be in the order of things. Indeed, what would happen to us if, instead of the generally expedient principle: "Rank should respect rank," a different one were to be brought into use, such as for instance: "Mind should respect mind"? What disputes would arise! And whom would the servants serve first with food? But let me return to my narrative.

The day was hot. Three versts from station X. drops of rain began to fall and a minute later a downpour soaked me to the skin. Upon arrival at the station my first concern was to change my clothes as quickly as possible, and my second, to ask for tea. "Hi, Dunya!" called the station-master, "Start the samovar and go and fetch some cream." At these words a girl of about fourteen came out from behind a partition and ran into the passageway. I was struck by her beauty. "Is that your daughter?" I asked the station- master. "Yes, sir," he replied with an air of pleased pride, "and she is so sensible, so quick at her work, the very image of her late mother." Here he began to copy my travel document while I occupied myself with examining the pictures which adorned his humble but neat abode. They depicted the story of the prodigal son: in the first, a re-spectable- looking old man in a nightcap and dressing-gown is saying farewell to a restless youth who hurriedly receives his blessing and a bag of money. In the next, the dissolute behavior of the young man is portrayed with bold strokes: he sits at the table, surrounded by false friends and shameless women. Next, the ruined youth, in rags and a three- cornered hat, is herding swine and having his share of their meal; his face expresses deep sorrow and repentance. Finally, his return to his father is shown: the kindly old man, in the same nightcap and dressing-gown, runs out to meet him; the prodigal son is kneeling; in the background a cook is killing the fatted calf and the elder brother asks the servants about the reason for all this rejoicing. Under each picture I read the appropriate German verses. All this is preserved in my memory to this day, as are the pots with balsamine and the bed with its motley curtain, and the other objects which surrounded me at that time. I can see, as though it were today, the host himself, a man of about fifty, fresh and hale, and his long green frock-coat with three medals on faded ribbons.

I had barely paid off my previous driver when Dunya came back with the samovar. The little flirt noticed at the second glance the impression she had made on me; she lowered her large blue eyes; I began talking to her; she answered me without any timidity, like a young« girl who had seen the world. I offered her father a glass of punch; to Dunya I handed a cup of tea, and the three of us began chatting as though we had known each other for ages.

[Russian Text Not Reproducible in ASCII].


Excerpted from RUSSIAN STORIES by Gleb Struve. Copyright © 1990 DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents


The Stationmaster,
The Nose,
A Living Relic,
The Three Hermits,
The Clothesmender,
In Bondage,
The Cave,
The Death of Dolgushov,
Yuletide Story,

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