Feinstein, Elaine Pushkin: A Biography

ISBN 13: 9780060956554

Pushkin: A Biography

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9780060956554: Pushkin: A Biography

Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin's preeminence as the father of Russian literature is undisputed. Lyric poet, writer of ironic fairy tales, and the author of the verse novel Evgeny Onegin, he lived a life as dramatic as any story he invented. From his banishment in southern Russia at the age of 21 to his marriage to the seventeen-year-old beauty whose flirtations resulted in his death by duel, Elaine Feinstein chronicles Pushkin's fascinating life while exploring the paradoxes of his personality. This compelling book also reveals new information surrounding Pushkin's death.

Impudent genius, libertine, wounded son, jealous husband, victim of snobbery and censorship--Pushkin was all of these. But above all he was a brilliant author whose vision, invention, and vitality continue to thrive in literature today. Feinstein, herself a distinguished poet and novelist, has seamlessly intertwined the subject and the biographer, capturing for the reader the essence of one of the most intriguing men ever to enter the pantheon of literary geniuses.

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Review:

Considered Russia's greatest poet as well as the spiritual father of its prose literature, Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837) is best known to English-speaking readers for the Tchaikovsky opera based on his masterpiece, Eugene Onegin, and for his turbulent personal life. British poet and novelist Elaine Feinstein devotes plenty of time to the latter, displaying an almost Russian gusto for the details of Pushkin's many love affairs and the circumstances leading to the duel to defend his wife's honor in which he died. Among the recently uncovered material her biography includes are letters suggesting that the man who shot Pushkin had a homosexual relationship with a Dutch diplomat who protected him after the fatal event. But Feinstein also quotes extensively from various translations (including her own) to give a vivid sense of a writer with "the facility of Byron, the sensuous richness of Keats and a bawdy wit reminiscent of Chaucer." These English renderings do better justice to his sexy, light lyrics than to more serious efforts, and Feinstein's thorough biography does not entirely convey to Western readers Pushkin's epic importance in Russia. It certainly offers a vivid sense of his volatile personality--good-natured yet quarrelsome, witty yet painfully sensitive--and of the intricate social world in which he moved, that of the Russian empire at the height of its power. --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Elaine Feinstein is a poet and novelist who was born in Liverpool and educated at Cambridge University. Her prose work includes biographies of D.H. Lawrence and Marina Tsvetaeva.

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