Pushkin: A Biography

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9780060956554: Pushkin: A Biography

A compelling biography of the father of Russian literature, including new material relating to his death, by an acclaimed biographer and poet, published to tie in with the 2nd centenary of Pushkins death. Pushkin was Russia's greatest poet and his prose tales led directly to the flowering of the Russian novel through the 19th century. His story is a marvellous one, as poignant as Mozart's whom he resembled in his precocity, lack of guile and appetite forlife. Witty and incisively intelligent, he was nevertheless an object of suspicion for 2 Tsars. His genius aroused the enmity of beaurocrats who blocked him at every turn, and after a hopelessly unsuccessful marriage he was murdered in a dual aged 37.

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Review:

Pushkin towers over Russian literature and culture in much the way Shakespeare towers over British. Elaine Feinstein calls him "Russia's greatest poet, and the fountainhead of literature in the Russian language", a figure whose tragic life has the resonance of legend. It is frankly amazing, then, that there is no biography of this great man in print, and Feinstein seizes the opportunity to correct this lack. Indeed, Pushkin's extraordinary life makes unputdownable reading. His maternal grandfather had been an African slave, who had been adopted by Peter the Great and had risen to great eminence in Russian society. (He died a general).

Pushkin himself felt a curious mixture of pride and shame with respect to his black heritage; just one of many contradictions in his character. He was very short (five feet tall), but passionately amorous, and Feinstein takes us through his many love affairs. His poetic genius produced masterpiece after masterpiece--it is Eugene Onegin that is most famous today--although his passion was sometimes alarmingly hotheaded. He seemed to have been ready to fight duels on the slightest pretext; one time in an officers' club he scrambled the billiard balls of two officers who were playing, and the resulting quarrel resulted in a duel. Another time he slapped the bald head of the man in front of him at the theatre by way of applause--can we imagine Shakespeare being so impetuous? His death--in a duel, of course, this time over the honour of his beautiful wife--makes a fitting conclusion to Feinstein's fascinating book. --Adam Roberts

From the Publisher:

‘I can’t remember when I’ve been thrilled by a literary biography more than by Pushkin…Feinstein is the perfect person to take on “the Father of Russian Literature”’ Antonia Fraser, Guardian

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