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The Captain's Daughter
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An NYRB Classics Original

About the Author

ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837) was born in Moscow and brought up mainly by tutors and governesses. One of his great-grandfathers, Abram Gannibal, was an African slave who became a favorite and godson of Peter the Great. Like many aristocrats, Pushkin learned Russian mainly from household serfs. As an adolescent, he attended the new elite lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo, outside St. Petersburg. In his early twenties he was exiled because of his political verse, first to the Caucasus, then to Odessa, then to his mother's estate in the north. Several of his friends took part in the failed 1825 Decembrist revolt, but Pushkin did not-possibly because his friends wished to protect him, possibly because they did not trust him to keep the plot secret. In 1826 Pushkin was allowed to return to St. Petersburg. During his last years he suffered many humiliations, including serious debts and worries about the fidelity of his young wife, Natalya Goncharova. In 1837 he was fatally wounded in a duel with Georges-Charles d'Anthes, the Dutch ambassador's adopted son, who was said to be having an affair with Natalya. Pushkin's position in Russian literature can best be compared with that of Goethe in Germany. Not only is he Russia's greatest poet; he is also the author of the first major works in a variety of genres. As well as his masterpieces-the verse novel Eugene Onegin and the narrative poem The Bronze Horseman-Pushkin wrote one of the first important Russian dramas, Boris Godunov (1825); one of the finest of all Russian short stories, "The Queen of Spades" (1833); and the first great Russian prose novel, The Captain's Daughter (1836). His prose style is clear and succinct; he wrote that "Precision and brevity are the most important qualities of prose. Prose demands thoughts and more thoughts-without thoughts, dazzling expressions serve no purpose." ROBERT CHANDLER's translations from Russian include Pushkin's Dubrovsky; Nikolay Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk; Vasily Grossman's An Armenian Sketchbook, Everything Flows, Life and Fate, and The Road; and Hamid Ismailov's Central Asian novel, The Railway. His co-translations of Andrey Platonov have won prizes both in the U.K. and in the United States. He is the editor and main translator of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov. Together with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski, he has also compiled an anthology, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, to be published in early 2015. He has translated selections of Sappho and Apollinaire. He teaches part time at Queen Mary, University of London and is a mentor for the British Centre for Literary Translation. ELIZABETH CHANDLER is a co-translator, with Robert Chandler, of several titles by Andrey Platonov and Vasily Grossman.

Reviews

Robert and Elizabeth Chandler's translation reads wonderfully ... 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 ... Pushkin has brought Pugachev on us ... the way you bring on sleep, a fever, a spell. Marina Tsvetaeva, "Pushkin and Pugachev" In any language, The Captain's Daughter would be a miniature masterpiece. T. J. Binyon, The Daily Telegraph Time has done nothing to dull the excitement of the story, which, for all its romantic coincidences, is something more than a mere tale of adventure because its characters are something more than cardboard. The New York Times 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 The Captain's Daughter is one of the stories in which Pushkin created Russian prose... It is true poet's prose, absolutely clear, objective, unpretentious and penetrating. Robert Conquest, The Spectator 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 "[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 passe 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 inadequacies of the old technique in dealing with romance; indeed, he even says in one place: 'The reader will learn from the following chapter what [an idea] was-as the old-fashioned novelists put it.'...Time has done nothing to dull the excitement of the story, which, for all its romantic coincidences, is something more than a mere tale of adventure because its characters are something more than cardboard." The New York Times

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