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Derzhavin

A Biography

Vladislav Khodasevich, Translated and with an introduction by Angela Brintlinger

Publication Year: 2007

Russian poet, soldier, and statesman Gavriil Derzhavin (1743–1816) lived during an epoch of momentous change in Russia—imperial expansion, peasant revolts, war with Turkey, and struggle with Napoleon—and he served three tsars, including Catherine the Great. Here in its first English translation is the masterful biography of Derzhavin by another acclaimed Russian man of letters, Vladislav Khodasevich.
            Derzhavin occupied a position at the center of Russian life, uniting civic service with poetic inspiration and creating an oeuvre that at its essence celebrated the triumphs of Russia and its rulers, particularly Catherine the Great. His biographer Khodasevich, by contrast, left Russia in 1922, unable to abide the increasingly repressive regime of the Soviets. For Khodasevich, whose lyric poems were as commonplace in their focus as Derzhavin’s odes were grand, this biography was in a sense a rediscovery of a lost and idyllic era, a period when it was possible to aspire to the pinnacles of artistic achievement while still occupying a central role in Russian society.
Khodasevich writes with humor, intelligence, and understanding, and his work stands as a monument to the last three centuries of Russian history, lending keen insight into Russia’s past as well as its present and future.


“Khodasevich’s light narrative touch (as translated by Brintlinger) lends a novelistic quality to the biography, making it a genuine tour de force. All students and scholars – of history, literature, poetry, biography – will find something of interest here.”—Choice

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I have now lived with Khodasevich and Derzhavin for over a decade and remain filled with admiration for both men.The opportunity to see this biography published in English provides more than just...

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Note on the Translation

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pp. xiii-xiv

Throughout this translation I have striven to render Khodasevich’s prose in a readable yet faithful English version of the Russian.This effort has occasionally involved smoothing out syntax and shortening sentences. Russian writers generally— and Khodasevich in particular—are fond of long, complex sentences, sometimes strung together with...

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Translator’s Introduction

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pp. xv-xvi

Here, in his quintessential modernist novel of 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald presented his readers with the modernist dilemma: the exhilaration of modern life— in the form of automobiles, advertising, skyscrapers, subways,...

a chronology:Life of Gavrila Derzhavin

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pp. xxvii-xxviii

Derzhavin:A Biography

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pp. 1-

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Author’s Preface

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pp. 3-4

Since the time that Yakov Grot published the results of his colossal research fifty years ago, virtually no new evidence about the life of Derzhavin has appeared. The author of the work before you has not set himself the unrealizable task of revealing new, previously unpublished...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 5-10

In the fifteenth century, during the reign of Grand Prince Vasily Vasilievich the Dark, the Tatar murza Bagrim came from the Great Horde to serve Muscovy.The grand prince christened him into the Orthodox faith and subsequently rewarded him with lands...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 11-35

"Oh Lad! You've overstayed your leave!,” laughed the regimental duty officer, Major Tekutev, looking at his passport. And in a thunderous voice he ordered Derzhavin to be led to the regiment’s courtyard. At first he was threatened with arrest for his tardiness. In the office Derzhavin did not lose his head and forced them to look over the entire file. He had the right to demand an assignment to...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 36-74

When the members of the committee of inquiry arrived in Kazan—before Bibikov—on the very eve of Christmastide, they found the city in a panic. Pugachov’s patrols had already been spotted within about sixty versts of the city. Not only the citizens but the officials themselves were fleeing—even the governor had left...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 75-103

This was very likely the merriest time of Catherine’s rule. Past wars had been triumphant, Russia’s importance was growing, and the nobility—having been showered with favors—was coming into its own after the horrors of the pugachovshchina. Even in the imperial family, it....

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Chapter 5

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pp. 104-126

His efforts on behalf of the governorship dragged on until summer and culminated in an unexpected way. Derzhavin was appointed not to Kazan but to Olonets province. Kazan would have been immeasurably more convenient for him. He knew the local needs and conditions,..

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Chapter 6

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pp. 127-154

Catherine approached things in a sober manner. In Derzhavin’s poetry she could allow for some kind of higher motives, but in his service, of course, she could not. Her “Incomparably Perspicacious One” would have been not a little surprised if she had suddenly been told...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 155-181

Everything that had inspired Derzhavin’s life for twenty long years had collapsed. Now he would have to live without his faith in Catherine and without Plenira. Marrying for the second time, he was destined to build his entire life and his lyre anew. When in despair, he sometimes imagined he ought “to leave his fatherland” completely. He realized...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 182-200

If Paul I's accession to the throne had at one time seemed like an enemy invasion of a conquered city, his death brought on rejoicing as if an adversary had been expelled. At court, in government offices, in private homes, and on the streets people congratulated and embraced each other and rushed to put on their tailcoats, vests, and round hats....

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Chapter 9

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pp. 201-258

Across from the Lutheran church in Furshtadt Alley, near Liteiny Street, stood a small, greenish two-story house with a modest exterior. A visitor who went through the gates and ascended the dark, narrow, dirty stairway from the courtyard arrived in the apartment of...

Notes

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pp. 259-269

Index

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pp. 271-281


E-ISBN-13: 9780299224233
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299224202

Publication Year: 2007