And then, from all a heart finds tender
I tore my own; an alien soul,Without allegiances, I vanished,Thinking that liberty and peaceCould take the place of happiness.My God, how wrong, how I’ve been punished!
- Alexander Pushkin, Chapter VIII
Contradictions. We are made of dreams and contradictions. We want something and after getting it, we don't want it anymore. But there's even a more bitter reality: we often want what we can't have. We compare our lives with the lives of the characters we love and we long for that. The literary universe created by another human being fits our desires. The real world, doesn't. And there's nothing we can do about that. The more we spend our time yearning for a fictional life, the more we lose our own. I always enjoy reading about amazing cities and great people I'll never meet; I usually find them more interesting than people I've actually met. But I set my boundaries. I don't want to miss getting to know awesome people in real life—they certainly exist, somewhere—for a life full of fiction. The world of books is a rewarding world that I'll never leave behind, but the one I see out there, is the only one I can truly experience, inhabited by people that can actually answer my questions, soothe my pain and be happy because of my own happiness.
This is a book where real life and fiction are too close to distinguish one from the other.
This novel in verse tells the story of Eugene Onegin, a man that doesn't seem to be quite excited of taking care of his dying uncle.
But, oh my God, what desolationTo tend a sick man day and nightAnd not to venture from his sight!What shameful cunning to be cheerfulWith someone who is halfway dead,To prop up pillows by his head,To bring him medicine, looking tearful,To sigh – while inwardly you think:When will the devil let him sink?(Chapter I, Stanza I)
Through Pushkin's witty and ironic writing we see that Eugene is not exactly a person full of integrity and generosity. After the death of this uncle, he inherited his land and moved to the country.
Eugene is depicted as a dandy; perfect hair and clothes, fond of dances and everything that characterized high society. A young man with charm and mind... A pedant, yet an able lad. In conclusion, an arrogant moron. Do you see the clear difference between his words and mine? That leads me to my next point.
I always say I kind of prefer writing over plot. I can deal with a simple plot if it's wonderfully written. And this is a fair example of that. The plot is quite simple (therefore, I can't write about it); it's all about Pushkin's talent: a beautiful writing that can mesmerize even the most detached human being of the planet. However, do not get the wrong idea. The plot may be simple, but he still managed to deal—in few pages—with the higher and most degrading aspects of human nature. We have an arrogant and shallow main character, a strong female character that loved to read, an interesting twist, many references to other authors and books (literary anxiety levels are increasing by the minute), a complicated ending and Pushkin's superb style and clever insights. I can't ask for anything more. I LOVED this book.
I highly recommend this edition. I've been always fascinated with the translation process. One's subjectivity can create a whole different work. Between respecting the structure and preserving the actual meaning that the author wanted to express... tough work. I read Spalding's translation and this one is by far more superior. Both kept a correct rhyming, but Mitchell's flows like water, losing all kind of stiff archaisms. And, needless to say, his notes are extremely helpful. By the way, Nabokov's translation is coming, soon! And then, I shall meet Mr. Arndt. Still, I can't imagine what reading Pushkin's poetry in Russian must be like. A delightful experience, I'm sure.
Anyway, this masterful poet's words should end this review. Beautiful words that irradiate hope. That's the thing about Pushkin: no matter how unpleasant what he's describing might be or how profound his character's pain seems to be, I can always find hope in him. Always.
Whatever, reader, your opinion,A friend or foe, I wish to partWith you today like a companion.Farewell. Whatever you may chartAmong these careless lines, reflections –Whether tumultuous recollectionsOr light relief from labour’s yoke,The lively image, witty jokeOr the mistakes I’ve made in grammar –God grant you find here just a grainTo warm the heart, to entertain,To feed a dream, and cause a clamourWith journals and their clientele,Upon which, let us part, farewell!(Chapter VIII, Stanza 49)