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  • Pushkin and Gorky
  • Andrei Platonov
    Translated by Jason Cieply

One hundred years have passed since Pushkin’s death. The “young life” that Pushkin trustingly left at the “entrance to his grave” did not deceive him, and Pushkin “did not die entirely” in it; he entered forever, for the long expanse of history, into the sacred and simple treasure house of our land, along with the sunlight, along with the field and the forest, along with love and the Russian people.1 What before Pushkin was merely an external phenomenon, a separate reality, after him became for us the soul, feeling, affection of the heart, and thought. In Pushkin the people received their own inspiration and came to know the true value of life, something contained not only in ideal things, but also in ordinary ones, not only in the future, but in the present. This itself already represented a relief from life’s burdens for the common laborer, that is, for the only real person, to whom, in those days, nothing else on earth was promised except for the kingdom of God. Pushkin guessed and poetically expressed the people’s “secret” and preserved it with great care, perhaps unconsciously, from numerous persecutors and villains. This secret consists in the fact that, for the poor person––the enserfed slave, the urban commoner, the low-ranking government clerk, the dispossessed woman––living in this world is impossible. But they live, in sickness, in hopelessness, in dejection, the doomed do not give up; and moreover, the masses of people, worn away by the phantasmagoric, deceitful shroud of history, that mysterious, voiceless majority of humanity which enduringly and seriously carries out its existence, all these people, it turns out, discover in themselves the capacity for infinite life development. Social oppression and individual, often deadly, fate force people to look for and find an escape from their dire circumstances. Such an escape is not always within a person’s powers, of course, but when it is accomplished it is of principal and universal importance. Whoever thinks [End Page 117] otherwise, that is, that the dramatic situation of life is resolved most naturally with death, doesn’t have the correct conception of the true possibilities of the human heart, of passion and thought, of the progressive origins of all human existence.

Eugene Onegin and Tatiana Larina’s relationship ends sadly––the conditions for the happiness of a woman and a man do not exist. But Onegin sees that the heart of this girl, whom he once left in disdain and whom he now cherishes, is still open to him, and that their happiness is still possible. However Tatiana delivers her answer to Onegin:

    … You must,I beg you, leave me;I know: in your heart there areBoth pride and unbending honor.I love you (why play cunning?) But I am given to another;I will be faithful to him all my life.2

Without destroying her love for Onegin, without even struggling against it, without displaying the faintest hint of rage, Tatiana withdraws her love from the clutches of fate and calamity (already well known to her), even from the clutches of her beloved, with a few tender, calm, simple-hearted words. Tatiana’s feelings are humanized, are ennobled to the highest conceivable extreme, to a state of incorruptibility. Here she, Tatiana, resembles a certain mysterious entity from an old fairy tale who crawled along the earth her whole life and whose legs were broken so that this entity would perish, but who later finds wings in herself and takes flight above that low place, where she was fated to die.

A simple reading of Pushkin’s narrative poem is enough for us all to understand that Tatiana, if only she desired it, could have given her hand to Onegin, all of her love and for her whole life. Such external obstacles as her elderly husband, custom, society, “but I am given to another; I will be faithful to him all my life,” and other circumstances are, of course, nothing before the strength of Tania’s love: these obstacles are surmountable; we all know Tatiana’s character and, especially, her femininity, before which any masculinity...


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pp. 117-139
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