The Pushkin Page - Comments

Some Personal Comments

I discovered Alexander Pushkin's works when National Geographic ran a piece on him several years back. I must admit that I do not have as much background in Russian history and literature as I would like. However, here are my thoughts on him, and on the assembly of this page.

It seems to me that the greatest appeal of Pushkin's writing is its personality. Passionate, cynical, and self-deprecating, Pushkin must have been quite a character. His poems in particular give a vivid portrait of a young man struggling with the big questions in life. It is entrancing to see these thoughts so eloquently expressed, and to see that human nature really never changes. The thoughts that Pushkin had a century and a half ago are thoughts that people are still having today.

Really, what enjoyment you derive from these English translations are as much a testament to the talent of the translators as to Alexander Pushkin himself. There really aren't that many volumes of translated Pushkin available, and a good dig in your local bookstore or library will tend to turn up the same few volumes over and over again.

My selection here is most greatly influenced by the kindly purchasing department of the library of UCLA. I have found that English translations of Pushkin come in three flavors: those of the 1930s and the 1960s, which tend to maintain the meter and rhyme of the originals, and those in the 1980s's The Bronze Horseman, which tend toward free verse and clarity over faithfulness to meter.

My personal favorites are the 1960s translations in Pushkin Threefold. Those in The Bronze Horseman are often too simplified and modernized to be of much interest. On the other hand, I find the 1930s translations of Babette Deutsch and her cohorts stilted and archaic. But each faction has its moments of inspiration, and those constitute the selection I am presenting here. In a nutshell, you see here what I like, the results of my own chauvinisms.