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The Simpleton (novel)

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Wikipedia article




'The Simpleton' (, 'Tyufyak' - also: 'The Muff') is the debut novel by Alexei Pisemsky, written in the late 1840 and first published in 1850 by 'Moskvityanin' magazine's October and November issues. The novel has brought its author critical acclaim and mass popularity.... . . 1, . . . . .-., 1956. . .. . . 536-539

Background



In his autobiography Pisemsky wrote: "In 1846 I wrote a large novel called 'Boyarschina', but, sent to 'Otechestvennye zapiski', its been slammed down by censorship in 1847. Meanwhile in the country, I've written another novel, 'Tyufyak', but, defeated already in my aspirations, never sent it anywhere and decided to resume my state service.' Later it became obvious that Pisemsky has got the date wrong: 'Boyarshina' was written in 1848 and, as biographer M.P.Eremin noted, "theres every reason to believe that 'Tyufyak' was written in 1848 too."

By the spring of 1850 the novel has been finished. In the Stellovsky's (Saint Petersburg, 1861) edition it came out as dated "April 29, 1850". On April 21, the author informed Alexander Ostrovsky: "I send you, my dear Alexander Nikolayevich, my book for you to decide what to do with it. I gave it the title 'Family Dramas' ( ), but should this one appear to be incompatible either with censors' demands or the magazine's general mood, please change it to whatever you like: 'Bashmetyev', 'The Muff' (Tyufyuak), whatever. I send you only part 1, but rest assured that the second one is ready, just not polished yet"... , .-., 1936, . 27-28. Pisemsky was working upon the 2nd part all through the summer of 1850. On June 27 he wrote to Ostrovsky: "I won't be able to send it before your departure from Moscow but please assure the editor that it is ready and please would he accept the novel, take it through censorship and print." The novel's general idea was formulated by Pisemsky in his April 21 letter to Ostrovsky:

'The Simpleton' passed the censorship without any trouble. On September 4 Mikhail Pogodin received the rest of the manuscript and the magazine started publishing the novel in October.. .., . XI, . 89.

Reception



The first reviews of 'The Simpleton' were all positive, although, coming from different literary camps, each carried its own ideological agenda. According to the 'Otechestvennye zapiski' reviewer, it was the best work of fiction in Russia on 1850. "The author demonstrates not just talent but good-educated talent, his gift of depicting real life backed up by serious attitude," the anonymous reviewer wrote. , 1850, . 73, No 12, . 122.

Alexander Druzhinin in his otherwise warm review criticized the Mansurov character for being too close to Gogol's Nozdryov ('Otechestvennye zapiski's reviewer supported him on this). Druzhinin argued that Pisemsky rather "spoiled the character of Beshmetyev by imparting him trivial, hackneyed qualities. In his article Druzhinin expanded upon his own theory that the long-lasting attractiveness of a character was the product of "not his reactions to the outer worlds pressures but of his own psychological development". Another weakness of 'The Simpleton', as Druzhinin saw it, was that it was not entertaining enough. Disputing Belinsky's ideas, the critic suggested his own formula: "simplicity of details, intricacy of fantasy" which give a piece the everlasting entertaining quality which Pisemskys novel, apparently, lacked."", 1850, No 12, . 207

Critic Stepan Dudyshkin in his review called "Russian Literature in 1850" found Pisemsky's debut novel's characters too grotesque, Bashmetyev's major weakness being his "inability to act". , . 74, , . V, . 25. Alexander Ostrovsky published in 'Moskvityanin' his large analysis of the novel, praising its originality. Several years later Apollon Grigoriev reviewing several Pisemskys books argued that The Simpleton (unlike later stories) had nothing to do with Gogo]'s school of realism."". 1853, No 1, , . 27-32 This only accelerated Pisemsky's break with 'Moskvityanin'.

After the Volume 1 of Stellovsky's edition of Pisemskys selected work release in 1861 Dmitry Pisarev provided a thorough social analysis of the novel in the article entitled "Silent Waters". The radical critic's main idea was that the novel showed one thing: to lead the lives which most of the Russians were leading at the time, was possible only for those "totally ignorant of better options who were incapable to recognize even their own sufferings".... , . I, M., 1955, . 189.

References




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