Dedicated to classics and hits.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Enchanted Wanderer by Nickolai Leskov

Book Review
The Enchanted Wanderer
by Nickolai Leskov
p. 1873
Russian Classics Series Progress Publishers p. 1958

  Here's a good example of an author I would have never read were it not for the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die (2006 ed.) list.   The Enchanted Wanderer was a tough get: no Kindle edition, no Oxford World's Classics edition, doesn't exist as a stand-alone volume, etc.

  There are several Russian entries on the list that are Novellas and not full fledged Novels.  Many of these Russian hits were initially published not as serials but rather in a single printed journal/magazine.   These publications were small editions and rarely repressed.  The initial press of The Enchanted Wanderer was unusual in that the first run of the Journal it was printed in sold out, requiring a second pressing.

  Leskov is closer to the works of Gogol vs. the Tolstoy/Dostoevsky end of the spectrum of Russian novelists of the mid 19th century.  Like Gogol, Leskov's The Enchanted Wanderer harkens back to an earlier mode of storytelling rather then mirroring the developments taking place in England during the early to mid part of the 19th century.

   Leskov's Enchanted Wanderer character, the narrator of the story, tells his listeners about his crazy-ass life: his start as an indentured serf, hitting the road with gypsies, working as a horse conisseur working for the Russian army, being kidnapped into slavery by Tartars, escaping from that slavery, working for a nobleman again as a horse picker... and... that is basically it.  You get a pretty rich picture of the Russian scene outside the major capital.  In particular his depiction of the vast Russian steppe is unique in Russian literature to this point, as far as I have read/know.

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