The Captain's Daughter (New York Review Books Classics)

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9781590177242: The Captain's Daughter (New York Review Books Classics)
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Alexander Pushkin s short novel is set during the reign of Catherine the Great, when the Cossacks rose up in rebellion against the Russian empress. Presented as the memoir of Pyotr Grinyov, a nobleman, The Captain s Daughter tells how, as a feckless youth and fledgling officer, Grinyov was sent from St. Petersburg to serve in a remote part of southern Russia. Traveling to take up this new post, Grinyov loses his shirt gambling and then loses his way in a terrible snowstorm, only to be guided to safety by a mysterious peasant. With impulsive gratitude Grinyov hands over his fur coat to his savior, never mind the cold.
Arrived at Fort Belogorsk, Grinyov falls in love with Masha, the beautiful young daughter of his captain. Then Pugachev, leader of the Cossack rebellion, surrounds the fort. Resistance, he has made it clear, will be met by death.
At once a fairy tale and a thrilling historical novel, this singularly Russian work of the imagination is also a timeless, universal, and very winning story of how love and duty can summon pluck and luck to confront calamity.

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Review:

[I]n any language, The Captain s Daughter would be a miniature masterpiece.

(T. J. Binyon, The Daily Telegraph)

One brilliant feature of The Captain s Daughter is that you don t know what sort of narrative is unfolding.... It is a baffled reflection, from the position of political enlightenment, on the extraordinary hold exercised by violence and fanaticism upon the human race.

(A. N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph)

First published in 1836, this novella shows Alexander Pushkin s mastery of almost any form.... Evocative, swashbuckling, romantic and sentimental, The Captain s Daughter centres on the peasant rebellion, 1773 75, of the Cossack Yemelyan Pugachov.... Robert and Elizabeth Chandler s translation reads wonderfully (caution: I know no Russian), and captures the plot s wildness, cruelty, and touching romance.

(Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator)

Oh, how thoroughly is that classical book magical. How thoroughly hypnotic (for Pugachev, all of him, in spite of our reason and conscience, is forced upon us by Pushkin breathed into us: we don t want to, but we see him; we don t want to, but we love him), so much is that book like sleep, like dreaming. All [of Grinyov s] encounters with Pugachev are from that same region of his dream about the killing and loving peasant. A dream prolonged and brought to life. It is because of that, perhaps, that we do give ourselves over to Pugachev, because it is a dream, that is, we are in the complete captivity and complete freedom of a dream. The commandant, Vasilisa Egorovna, Shvabrin, Catherine all that is bright day and we, reading, remain of sane mind and memory. But as soon as Pugachev enters the scene all that is over: it is black night. Not the heroic commandant, nor Vasilisa Egorovna who loves him, nor Grinyov s love affair, no one and nothing can overcome in us Pugachev. Pushkin has brought Pugachev on us...the way you bring on sleep, a fever, a spell...

(Marina Tsvetaeva, Pushkin and Pugachev)

The Captain s Daughter is one of the stories in which Pushkin created Russian prose.... [I]t is true poet s prose, absolutely clear, objective, unpretentious and penetrating.

(Robert Conquest, The Spectator)

Although revered as a poet, Pushkin is also a major prose writer, and during his last years even made himself into a journalist of sorts. Pushkin s greatest stories include the famous supernatural tale The Queen of Spades and the thrilling historical novel about the Pugachev rebellion, The Captain s Daughter. Everyone should read these.

(Michael Dirda, The Washington Post)

Pushkin, the father of them all: he is the one great Russian whom, to our embarrassment, we have to take on trust.

(V. S. Prichett, The New Statesman)

It is well known that The Captain s Daughter was conceived through the example of Scott s historical novels; it is worth knowing that, even in translation, it reads far better today than all but the best of Scott. Utterly free of the turgidity, the long-windedness, the decoration of that passé romantic school which inspired it.... Pushkin is one of the first writers to have treated romantic material with a realistic hand. Rather than profusion of background, his method is the sharp detail, the rapid stroke. When he makes use of incident to fill out a character, it is not melodramatic (except in the case of the villain of the piece), but conversational, humorous, matter-of-fact. Even the most conventionally romantic or melodramatic crises are lacking in florid gestures and told without special striving after effect. Pushkin, we may be sure, realized the ina --The Daily Telegraph

About the Author:

ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799 1837) is considered by many to be Russia s greatest poet, and through his poems as well as his experimentation with other genres dramas, short stories, novels he influenced generations of Russian and international writers. Among his best-known works in English translation are Boris Godunov, The Tales of Belkin, Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, and The Captain s Daughter.
ROBERT CHANDLER s translations from the Russian include Vasily Grossman s Life and Fate, Everything Flows, and The Road (all published by NYRB Classics) and Leskov s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Together with Olga Meerson and his wife, ELIZABETH CHANDLER, he has translated a number of works by Andrey Platonov. One of these, Soul, won the 2004 AATSEEL Prize. His translation of Hamid Ismailov s The Railway won the AATSEEL Prize for 2007 and received a special commendation from the judges of the 2007 Rossica Translation Prize.

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