Sunday, 28 January 2018

Russian 19th-century Gothic Tales & Lermontov's Stuss

Earlier this month I shared a photograph of Straszna Wróżba. This is the Polish translation from 1988 of the Russian anthology фантастический Мир русской повести (Raduga), which has also been been made available in English as Russian 19th-century Gothic Tales (1984) and in German as Russische Geistereschichten (1990). All of these editions were printed by the Russian publisher Raduga in Moscow, USSR (in Poland in cooperation the publishing house "Czytelnik").

This volume provides another great point of reference for the beginning reader of Russian Gothic fiction. In one of my upcoming posts on CL I'd like to share the full list of strange fiction in Russian that I have managed to compile so far, but for now let me post the full table of contents of this single  important anthology in English:

•  Antony Pogorelsky. The Lafertovo Poppy-Cake Seller (trans. K. Cook-Horujy) 
•  Orest Somov. Tales of Buried Treasure (trans. K. Cook-Horujy) 
•  Orest Somov. The Werewolf (trans. T. Kuehn) 
•  Orest Somov. The Witches of Kiev (trans. K. Cook-Horujy) 
•  Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinsky. The Terrible Fortune-Telling (trans. K. Cook-Horujy) 
•  Alexander Pushkin. The Undertaker (trans. I. Litvinov, T. Litvinov) 
•  Alexander Pushkin. The Queen of Spades (trans. I. Litvinov, T. Litvinov) 
•  Evgeny Baratynsky. The Ring (trans. O. Shartse) 
•  Osip Senkovsky. Antar (trans. D. Hagen) 
•  Mikhail Zagoskin. Unexpected Guests (trans. D. Hagen) 
•  Vladimir Odoyevsky. 4338 A. D. (trans. A. Miller) 
•  Vladimir Odoyevsky. The Sylph (trans. A. Miller) 
•  Vladimir Odoyevsky. The Ghost (trans. A. Miller) 
•  Vladimir Odoyevsky. The City Without a Name (trans. A. Miller) 
•  Vladimir Odoyevsky. The Living Corpse (trans. A. Miller) 
•  Mikhail Lermontov. Stuss (trans. O. Shartse) 
•  Nikolai Gogol. A Night in May, or the Drowned Maiden (trans. C. English) 
•  Nikolai Gogol. The Nose (trans. C. English) 
•  Nikolai Gogol. The Portrait (trans. C. English) 
•  Alexei Tolstoy. Vampire (trans. O. Shartse) 
•  Notes

I remember reading some of these stories 15 years ago, but my memory of the contents is so vague it will be sheer pleasure perusing all of the contents now in Russian. 

For an easy start I chose a short, unfinished tale "Stuss" (Russian "Штосс", Polish "Sztos") written by Mikhail Lermontov just before his death. Some information on translations and English-language publications of this text can be found here. Lermontov is considered to be the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism and the founder of the Russian psychological novel. Heavily influenced by E. T. A. Hoffmann and  first published in 1841, "Stuss" is a tale of an alienated man tormented by a dead spirit and coerced into committing suicide. This is the first story I will read entirely in Russian and continue with the rest of the contents later on.

Here is a fine short analysis of the story from Lermontov: Tragedy in the Caucasus by Laurence Kelly:

Both Shtoss and a ballad in verse, 'The Tale for Children' (attributed to 1839), contained elements of the fantastic, of the Gothic, and of a St Petersburg more familiar to Gogol and Dostoyevsky than to Pushkin. In both of them Lermontov mocked his earlier Demoniac self. There was a figure of evil in Shtoss, but he was a grey-haired, tight-lipped Old man in slippers and dressing-gown who arrived mysteriously every night at the flat of Lugin, the anti-hero. The latter —consumed by spleen — was ready to gamble away his possessions and finally his soul at faro. The story, short enough, and unfinished, could hardly be lengthened, but is powerful in its evocation of a gloomy, dank Petersburg where the isolated individual was at the mercy of his diseased imagination and the supernatural, there being nothing else to occupy him.

Stuss by Lermontov read in Russian

Lermontov: Tragedy in the Caucasus by Laurence Kelly (Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2003)
-- Cover illustration of the German and English editions of the book:
-- Source of the other illustrations:

Further reading:
Review of Russian 19th-Century Gothic Tales by Kathy O'Shaughnessy

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