Pushkin took his time writing this love story. Serialized, as many pieces of literature were during this time period, with the first chapter appearing in 1824 to its conclusion in 1832. Pushkin made minor revisions for an 1837 edition, which included the entire work.
Onegin, our aristocratic main character is a rather arrogant party-boy that has little care for the world around him. One would think that by age 26 he would have found a calling in life and not continued to have spent his days sleeping off the party and engagements from the previous evening.
Review of Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin was Russia's answer to Shakespeare. His work tends to be overshadowed by his more famous counterparts, Tolstoy for example, but this does not make him any less worthy of his literary achievements. The most famous Russian love poem, To***, comes from Pushkin's work, it begins:
I keep in mind that magic moment:
Whether referred to as poetry, prose or a novel in verse I struggle with meanings. Personally, reading the verses can be slow work as some will shine through and enlightening me, others will require me to re-read a few times to maybe stumble upon a meaning. This is my hang-up and not Pushkin's.
Translators embark on an important balancing act of trying to convey the original author's tone into a different language while keeping the meaning and readability alive. I selected the Oxford World's Classics version that was translated by James E. Falen. An example of this balancing act can be shown by comparing Chapter 1: Stanza 23 across translations. Does one of these speak to you more?
Translator: James E. Falen
Shall I abandon every scruple
And picture truly with my pen
The room where fashion's model pupil
Is dressed, undressed, and dressed again?
Whatever clever London offers
To those with lavish whims and coffers,
And ships to us by Baltic seas
In trade for tallow and for trees;
Whatever Paris, seeking treasure,
Devises to attract the sight,
Or manufactures for delight,
For luxury, for modish pleasure--
All this adorned his dressing room,
Our sage of eighteen summers' bloom.
Translator: Tom Beck
May I describe, with your permission,
Eugene’s secluded dressing-room
in which that devotee of fashion
would dress, undress, spray on perfume?
The novelties London produces
are sent to Russia to seduce us,
all in exchange for wax and wood
which we export for tawdry goods.
Whatever comes from modish Paris,
the fripperies for every taste
and those with cash enough to waste,
creations of Parisian prowess,
they all were purchased by our sage,
so wise at eighteen years of age.
Translator: Stanley Mitchell
Shall I attempt to picture truly
The secret and secluded den
Where fashion's model pupil duly
Is dressed, undressed and dressed again?
Whatever trinket-dealing London
To satisfy our whims abundant
Exports across the Baltic flood,
Exchanging it for tallow, wood;
Whatever Paris, in its hunger,
Having made our taste an industry,
Invents for our frivolity,
For luxury and modish languor -
These graced, at eighteen years of age,
The study of our youthful sage.
Translator: Henry Spalding
Faithfully shall I now depict,
Portray the solitary den
Wherein the child of fashion strict
Dressed him, undressed, and dressed again?
All that industrial London brings
For tallow, wood and other things
Across the Baltic's salt sea waves,
All which caprice and affluence craves,
All which in Paris eager taste,
Choosing a profitable trade,
For our amusement ever made
And ease and fashionable waste,--
Adorned the apartment of Eugene,
Philosopher just turned eighteen.
I found the Falen translation to be fairly easy to understand, there were a few parts that lost me along the way a bit. After reading I watched the 2000 production, Onegin, starring Liv Tyler and Ralph Fiennes as a treat. It did help to solidify my understanding of the story and helps fill in some of the areas that poetry tends to leave open.
I am interested in reading more of Pushkin's work and might take up his Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, The Queen of Spades, The Captain's Daughter, Peter the Great's Blackamoor selection from Oxford World's Classics next. I like the cover of the edition to the right, I saw one edition from Penguin that makes the Queen look evil nasty mean. Maybe she is, I haven't read the story.
Previous thoughts posted from Read-Along:
Update 1 (Ch 1 & 2);
Update 2 (Ch 3 & 4);
Update 3 (Ch 5 & 6);
Update 4 (Ch 7 & 8)
Title: Eugene Onegin
Author: Alexander Pushkin
Publisher: Oxford University Press (2009)
Source: Personal Library
Format Read: Paperback; ISBN: 9780199538645
Genres/Subjects: Fiction, Classic, Poetry, Russian, 19th Century
[Notice: Original posting 2014-02-14 at Plethora of Books Blog: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com]
Tags: 2014, Classics, Poetry, Russian