Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Captain's Daughter - Love in the Time of Revolt Against Serfdom and Tsarism in Russia

About the classics of world literature - either good or nothing. Especially about the Russian classics of the 19th century, founders of contemporary Russian literature. You may find me extreme but for me the Russian literature from that period is most probably the most powerful and influential. Wordy, descriptive, and highly psychological, these are the giants Tolstoi, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov, etc. One of the most prominent and my personal favorite, Alexander Pushkin, is mostly famous for his poems. However, he also wrote verse novels (Yevgeny Onegin), drama, and prose.

In The Captain's Daughter, a historical fiction, Pushkin describes the famous revolt of Pugachev against serfdom and tsarism. This is a time of evil and love, of deceit and honesty, of hatred and generosity. The circumstances of the war between the rebels and the soldiers of the king is portrayed through the eye of the young Pyotr Grinyov. At a very early age he is sent by his father to military service in Odenburg. There he falls in love with the captain's daughter, Maria. Their love, though, is subject to difficulties and turbulences. The betrayer Shavbrin is in love with Masha and wants to make her his wife. Pugachev advances towards Odenburg, gathering loyal followers along the way. The country is on the verge of war and Pyotr must not only fight against the self-proclaimed new king but he must also protect his future wife to be.

The innocency and the naivete of Pyotr is confronted with the cruelty and ugliness of the war. Thanks to his strange encounter with Pugachev before his rise to power, Pyotr escapes death. Still, he must balance between his duties for the Queen and his love for Maria, whose salvation largely depends on the benevolence of the impostor.

The Captain's Daughter is the first novel in Russian literature that makes a coherent and exhaustive analysis of the historical turbulences in Russia at the end of the 18th century. Pushkin follows the historical sequence of events with just a little bit of anachronisms. A wonderful historical piece that accurately portrays the struggle between the servants and the aristocrats, a struggle that will continue for much of the 19th century as well and will eventually lead to the idea of social equality and justice, which, as we all know, put the foundations of communism and socialism in Russia.

No comments:

Post a Comment