This work seeks to account for the disparity between Griboedov's "Woe from Wit" and his other works, by examining his plays and poems, letters and travel notes, the memoirs of his contemporaries, his literary sources and social milieu. The early works in which Griboedov exercised his craft, his single work of art and the few later works are related to three distinct periods in his life. Positive and negative influences are discussed. The former include Griboedov's association with Shakhovskoi, his wide knowledge of Russian, Classical and European literature, his admiration for the "Book of the Prophet Isaiah" and the salutary shock of a duel; the latter, Griboedov's ability to write a passion out of his system and his reaction to the Decembrist uprising. A comparison with earlier Russian verse comedies shows Woe from Wit to be rooted in neo-classicism. The final test of the play is compared with the earliest known version and the effect of numerous alterations assessed. A synthesis of Griboedov's own character and that of Aleksandr Odoevskii is seen as the source of Chatskii's disruptive naturalness; this is discussed in relation to the neo-classical tradition in Russia, of which Woe from Wit was the fatal drowning achievement.
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Dr. Mary Hobson studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, then read Russian and did post-graduate research at SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies), London. She won the Griboedov Prize for her translation of Woe from Wit, and Russia's Pushkin Gold Medal for translation. Dr. Hobson has published three novels with Heinemann Press.Review:
"... Anglophone readers can for the first time appreciate Griboedov's brilliance. And Hobson's extensive commentary helps those same readers to appreciate the cultural and historical specificity of the period in which the play was written." "Alexander Griboedov's play Woe from Wit has long been recognized by Russians as one of the most influential works of their 19th century literature. Particularly important is Griboedov's verse, which has provided the Russian language with an enormous number of phrases that can be and still are applied to everyday situations... In the English-speaking world, however, the play is almost unknown. Now in Mary Hobson's sparking verse translation, Anglophone readers can for the first time appreciate Griboedov's brilliance. And Hobson's extensive commentary helps those same readers to appreciate the cultural and historical specificity of the period in which the play was written." - Professor Andrew Baruch Wachtel, Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor, Northwestern University "Mary Hobson's translation of the classic comedy by the Russian playwright and satirist Griboedov tackles a task that to many would seem insurmountable despite previous attempts. I believe the latest version of the play to be successfully performed on the London stage was by Anthony Burgess. Mary Hobson's translation is a much more careful, accurate and sensitive version than the one by Burgess... In short, as a bold, resourceful and sensitive rendering of Gore of uma into contemporary English, Mary Hobson's translation fully deserves the wider appreciation and approval that publication would give it." - Richard Freeborn, Emeritus Professor of Russian Literature, School of Slavonic and East European Studies "Aleksandr Griboedov's verse comedy Woe from Wit is one of the most original and sparkling works of all Russian literature, comparable only to the best works of Pushkin and certainly eclipsing all other Russian plays in the nineteenth century... Fiction writing does not always present an entree to poetry, but Griboedov's brilliant play provoked and inspired novelist Mary Hobson to attempt an English version, retaining the meter and rhyme, which has not only won a prestigious prize in Britain but has already gained some celebrity in Russia itself. This faithful yet lithely flexible version will give the Anglophone reader a splendid glimpse of a coruscating play that, for all it profusion of contemporary references, has much for the modern audience: from the eternal generation divide and war of the sexes, to fear and suspicion of the unknown, of the Other; from deft social comedy to trenchant political satire. The hero may be the first in a long line of superfluous men in Russian literature, but he is also a universal type and may remind Western readers of angry young men and outsiders of every stripe. Above all, however, it is nimble elegance and witty invention that most distinguishes this play, and here the English version rises admirably to the challenge. The publication of this thoroughly researched study and acclaimed translation will be of undoubted value to scholars, but should also delight a far wider audience." - (from the Commendatory Preface) Arnold McMillin, Professor of Russian Literature, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London"
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