The Golovlyov Family

Saltykov-Shchedrin, M. E.

Published by Macmillan, 1931
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New York. 1931. Macmillan. 1st American Edition. Intenational House Bookplate On Front Endpaper, Embossed Name On Title Page, & Two Small Dents To Top Boards,Otherwise Very Good In Hardcover.No Dustjacket. 21. 336 pages. hardcover. keywords: January 27. inventory # 32292. FROM THE PUBLISHER - The last of the great Russian novels that has been awaiting translation into English is by a writer whose name is scarcely known to our public, Shchedrin. Curiously, while Mrs. Duddington’s accomplished version of this Russian classic is in the press, a translation of Shchedrin’s Fables is announced. The best of these fables, The Peasant and the Two Generals, The Self-Sacrificing Rabbit, Poor Wolf, The Virtues and the Vices, The Carp who was an Idealist, are delightful in the satiric mockery of both the oppressor and the oppressed. Shchedrin (b.1826) became a governing official under Alexander II, and his wide knowledge of provincial types in all classes was the basis for his scores of works satirizing Russian society of the period 1856-1882. As D. S. Mirsky says, ‘the excessive topicalness of his satires makes them date very distinctly.’ The down- fall of the old regime and its replacement by the new order of Bolshevik officialdom renders still more antiquated the satirical history of the Russian tchinovnik. Each generation deserves the satirist it gets, but under the Bolsheviks the official muzzles placed on the writers are of more formidable pattern than in Shchedrin’s time. In THE GOLOVLYOV FAMILY, however, it is not the satirist but the pure artist whom we see triumphing by the incisive handling of his material. The subject, the rise and swift extinction of a family of provincial landowners, grasping, self-regarding human animals, is an unlovely one, but we follow the exposition with absorbed interest. The family tragedy is foreshadowed in the pages that set down the alienation between husband and wife, Vladimir Mihailitch and Ama Petrovna; hatred and fear on his side and contempt on hers. Such total disharmony bodes ill for the four children, Stepan, Anna, Porphyry, and Pavel, who are regarded by their mother as a burden. Arina Petrovna as a businesslike woman devotes all her energies to increasing her estates and their practical management, though at times she pauses and asks herself, ‘Whom am I saving all this wealth for, going short of sleep and food?’ Her insensibility of heart is revealed in a series of masterly touches. Her attitude to her eldest son, Stepan ‘the dolt,’ is part of her deadly unimaginative routine. He is simply a nuisance. When at the age of forty he is down and out and has nowhere else to go to but that ‘hostile Golovlyovo,’ whence there is no escape but the churchyard, he is assigned a room in the estate office, is given rations of food and scanty comforts, and is—forgotten. The half-dozen pages (pp. 63-8) in which Stepan, without plans or hopes, in the long monotonous winter finds that drink is his only resource from the dull, hideous days without and the dead void within him, are frightening in their sombre truth, In a drunken frenzy he runs away, but when he is found and brought back to Golovlyovo his mind is a blank and he becomes henceforth completely silent, Ten years later, after Stepan’s death, comes his brother Pavel’s. There is, however, nothing monotonous in the handling of these episodes. On the contrary, the author’s resourcefulness weaves a pattern of sharp contrasts. Anna Petrovna at seventy has resigned her autocratic control, has divided the estate between her two remaining sons, and, driven away by Iudushka’s intolerable, calculating meanness, is now a modest hanger-on in Pavel’s establishment, and at this stage we find Arina Petrovna, desperately lonely in her last years, discovering that she had been working her whole life for ‘a family that does not exist,’ The brothers hate each other; they have never had reason to love their mother. It is merely for the sake of a phantom that she has wo. Bookseller Inventory # 32292

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Golovlyov Family

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication Date: 1931

Binding: hardcover

Edition: 1st Edition.

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