Births and deaths in Russian literature

February 10 was the date of possibly the worst of the tragic and premature deaths that have haunted Russian literary greats over the past two centuries. This was the day in 1837 that Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin died from the wounds he had received in a duel fought two days earlier with his brother-in-law and suspected lover of his wife Georges d’Anthès.

February 9, 1881 was the day Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky died at the age of 59, leaving a massive plan for a series of novels unfinished. In his biographical study of the writer Joseph Frank recounts the scene as he lay on his deathbed, with doctors telling him he would soon be up and about:

“You know, Anna, I have not been sleeping for three hours now, and have been thinking all that time; and only now have I clearly realized that I shall die today,” he told his wife, before asking her to hand him the  New Testament he had been given by the wives of the Decembrists in Siberia.

Nine years later on February 10, 1990 poet and novelist Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born in Moscow.

In an essay primarily about Pasternak’s poetry, Czesław Milosz wrote about the significance of Doctor Zhivago for Pasternak’s work overall:

“ To do his Hamlet deed Pasternak had to write a big novel. By that deed he created a new myth of the writer, and we may conjecture that it will endure in Russian literature like other already mythical events: Pushkin’s duel, Gogol’s struggles with the Devil, Tolstoy’s escape from Yasnaya Poliana.”

Photos – 1) Pushkin’s duel, 2) Dostoevsky’s study, 3) Pasternak at the first Congress of the Soviet Union of Writers in 1934.

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Categories: Literary History


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