My Talisman, Selected Verse and a Biography of Alexander Pushkin (English and Russian Edition)
For Russian poets, a deep devotion to Pushkin is something almost akin to religion. Pushkin is the Prophet of Russian literature; countless phrases of his have entered the Russian language as Shakespeare s phrases permeate English. Yet, while Russians revere Pushkin as English-speakers do Shakespeare, the West knows Pushkin far less well than it knows his literary heirs. The incomparable mastery of Pushkin s verse has eluded translation, because few English-speaking poets have mastered Russian well enough to convey him with proper feeling. Yet Pushkin (who was also indisputably the most colorful and romantic figure in Russian literary history) was also by far the most Western and European of all great Russian writers. His works resonate with universal significance, for they eschew nationalism, religious preaching, and doctrine, and instead stress universal values such as love, joy, freedom, honor, and the preciousness of life, values that are as timelessly relevant and potent in 21st century America as they were in 19th century Russia. My Talisman, Selected Verse and a Biography of Alexander Pushkin brings the joy of Russia s national bard to English-speakers. Available in English and also in a dual-language edition, handy for academic use or bilingual households, it contains over 120 of the most beloved poems of Alexander Pushkin, illustrated by approximately 180 of the poet’s own beautiful, extremely vivid drawings.
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EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
We expect of any translator of our national poet not just the obvious professional minimum of scrupulous exactitude and complete scientific approach, but no less than an embodied miracle. For we expect the kind of Pushkin we know ourselves, where the brilliance of the poetry shines out for all, and not just for a small group of academics. We expect that anyone whose soul is filled with yearning could feel in Pushkin what Nabokov called “that particular Pushkinian state in which you feel yourself somewhere, somehow, anyhow, locked in union with a higher, deeper, power, someplace where art, curiosity, tenderness, grace, and joy are the norm.” This norm has finally been found in the inspired work of the American poet and translator Julian Henry Lowenfeld. His translations keep the original’s music, rhythms, rhymes, without ever losing their freedom. The amazing depth, clarity, sparkling intelligence, wit and warmth of Pushkin’s verse are faithfully preserved in Lowenfeld’s brilliant translations. And it is not just that the rhythms, rhymes, and shades of meaning completely match the original, and not even that the exact number of syllables and their stresses strong and weak are kept with an effortless fidelity totally uncharacteristic of all other English translations. No, the poet’s entire essence, the very spirit and music of Pushkin’s voice is somehow here preserved with uncanny aptitude and love.
“We will be calling to each other with Pushkin’s name,” prophesied the poet Khodasevich. And now we will be able to holler all over the world. For Lowenfeld has translated Pushkin not just into the English language, but into the English language of Keats and Byron. For this reason the significance of this translation is impossible to overestimate.
Exceptionally praiseworthy and compelling as well are Lowenfeld’s introduction and the biography of the poet, which give a key to understanding his life, works, and uniqueness, and reveal how Pushkin’s personality and creative growth transformed his poetic achievement into an inimitable feat of daring, in which the fate of the poet and the works themselves were woven together seamlessly. The profound research, and acute attention to the odd and mystical coincidences that marked the turning points in the poet’s life, the shrewd guesses and imaginative hypotheses, the fundamental understanding, and above all, the enormous love with which the work is written, its intelligence, good cheer, warmth, and wit make this biography of the poet truly something that you almost do not read, but literally swallow down eagerly in one breath.
Above all this book astounds in its breadth, its understanding, its playfulness, its sheer joy in Pushkin’s language, shades of meaning, subtleties, ambiguities, and the grand genealogy of Pushkin’s immense vocabulary, which the translator, who himself knows eight languages, having studied at Harvard and then Leningrad State University, is uniquely placed to catch. If modern physics is devoted to making what surpasses our comprehension comprehensible in thought, great poetry takes the unfathomable brew of seeming unrelated events and emotions and conveys them into feeling through words. The “depth, seriousness, and inevitability” of true poetry, in Joseph Brodsky’s words, never been so needed. Which makes all the more indispensable, in our demanding modern life, this beautiful book.”
V.S. Bagno, Director, The Pushkin House (Institute of Russian Literature)
Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg