Eugene Onegin

 

 

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Alexander Pushkin, one of Russia’s greatest poets, wrote much of his work when the era of Romantic literature was at its peak.

His novel in verse Eugene Onegin, published in 1833, follows the fortunes of a hero who could have modelled himself on the description of Lord Byron by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb: “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

This brooding young Romantic suffers from the common malaise of his generation, feeling restless, aloof and stifled by social constraints. Yet, as a product of the very society he despises, he is never truly free from its influence.

After an argument erupts between Onegin and his friend Lensky, tempers flare and wounded pride triumphs over common sense, resulting in the needless loss of a young life. This aspect of the story is particularly poignant, foreshadowing the circumstances of Pushkin’s own death in 1837.

When French officer Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes tried to seduce the poet’s wife Natalia, Pushkin challenged him to a duel and was fatally wounded.

While his early death cut short a brilliant career, he ranks among Russia’s foremost literary talents, alongside Tolstoy and Chekov, though his work is less accessible in translation, due to the difficulties of conveying the nuances of the narrative verse.

Fortunately, Pushkin’s story-telling is accomplished enough to overcome this minor hurdle, and the operatic score composed by Tchaikovsky in 1879 ensures that the tale of our ill-fated anti-hero is told with the most exquisite accompaniment possible.

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~ by A_A on March 1, 2017.

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