The Queen Of Spades, Pushkin Essay

1639 words - 7 pages

Russians hold Pushkin in such high esteem that his place in Russian literature can reasonably be compared to that of Shakespeare in the literatures of the English language. Pushkin's literary genius seems to have been almost limitless: in addition to the long narrative and short lyric poems for which he is most famous, he also wrote short stories, stage plays and literary criticism. His letters are among the best in European literature. Many literary historians believe that the legend which suggests the composer Salieri may have murdered Mozart can be traced back to Pushkin's play MOZART AND SALIERI. (It is worth noting here that the great nineteenth-century Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov, wrote a successful opera based on the play in 1898; and both the play and the opera would later inspire the British playwright Peter Shaffer in writing AMADEUS). Pushkin's short stories--such as "The Queen of Spades," upon which Tchaikovsky based his great opera "Pique Dame"--are the first great works of prose fiction in Russian to stand the test of time unshakably. His most widely read masterpiece, the verse novel EUGENE ONEGIN, is the source for another magnificent Tchaikovsky opera by the same name, as well as several ballets. Sections of this epic Romantic poem in novel form are still memorized by Russian and other Eastern European school children as reverently as if they were verses from the Bible.Pushkin was the first giant to achieve a truly international status while working in the Russian language, although, ironically, his great fame beyond the borders of Russia came later than that of others who would follow him: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev, all of whom owed a great deal to Pushkin as their literary progenitor, were known throughout Europe and America before Pushkin's works were widely read outside the Russian homeland. He is at once the most cosmopolitan and the most Russian of Russian authors. He was intensely aware of western literature, music, architecture and painting, and believed that everything Russian--including literature--should be measured by European standards. As if he had been dreamed up by Peter the Great, the indefatigable eighteenth-century Russian Czar who almost literally dragged Russia into the life of eighteenth-century Europe by building St. Petersburg, Pushkin passionately believed that Russia had to think of itself as part of Europe and not part of Asia.II In considering Pushkin's short life as a narrative, it should first be said that his was even more turbulent and romantic than that of his fictional creation, Eugene Onegin. Pushkin was born in Moscow on May 26, 1799. Although his family had lost most of their political influence by the time of Pushkin's birth, he was immensely proud of the fact that they had been part of Russian nobility for six hundred years. He was educated by a series of private tutors and governesses and had access to his father's large library of seventeenth and eighteenth-century French...

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