Make room for Pushkin, literary greats in schools

Jun 25, 2019 by

Be filled with My will,

Go forth over land and sea,

And set the hearts of men on fire with your Word.”

— Alexander Pushkin, “The Prophet” (1828)

BOSTON —The 220th birthday of Pushkin, father of modern Russian literature and genius of early 19th-century Romantic poetry, fiction, and drama, passed recently. Reflecting his profound spiritual depth, his universal poems capture the elusive Russian soul.

All the greatest Russian writers, among the most powerful in the Western canon — Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Nabokov, and Solzhenitsyn — acknowledge Pushkin as their Shakespeare. We should, too.

Pushkin’s masterpieces include epic fairy tales like “Ruslan and Ludmila” (1820), the poems “Ode to Liberty” (1817) and “The Bronze Horseman” (1837), the verse novel “Eugene Onegin” (1833), and the play “Boris Godunov” (1831). His literary works were adapted into operas by celebrated Russian composers Glinka, Mussorgsky, and Tchaikovsky.

To Americans, Russia’s ruthless regimes of autocratic tsars, communist gulags, and Putin’s gangsterism have always seemed cold, secretive, and menacing. Paradoxically, Russian literature, mathematics, operas, and ballets — inspired by suffering under despotism — showcase an ever-flourishing love of excellence and beauty.

For centuries, Russian schoolchildren have recited Pushkin’s elegant fairy tales and have read “Eugene Onegin.” This is how a poet became the national hero of the “Land of the Firebird.”

“Ruslan and Ludmila,” the story of a warrior knight searching for his princess bride who has been kidnapped by a wicked wizard, begins:

An oak tree greening by the ocean;

A golden chain about it wound:

Whereon a learned cat, in motion

Both day and night, will walk around;

continued: Jamie Gass: Make room for Pushkin, literary greats in schools | The Berkshire Eagle | Pittsfield Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traffic

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