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Pushkin: A Biography

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In the course of his short, dramatic life, Aleksandr Pushkin gave Russia not only its greatest poetry–including the novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin–but a new literary language. He also gave it a figure of enduring romantic allure–fiery, restless, extravagant, a prodigal gambler and inveterate seducer of women. Having forged a dazzling, controversial career that cost him the In the course of his short, dramatic life, Aleksandr Pushkin gave Russia not only its greatest poetry–including the novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin–but a new literary language. He also gave it a figure of enduring romantic allure–fiery, restless, extravagant, a prodigal gambler and inveterate seducer of women. Having forged a dazzling, controversial career that cost him the enmity of one tsar and won him the patronage of another, he died at the age of thirty-eight, following a duel with a French officer who was paying unscrupulous attention to his wife. In his magnificent, prizewinning Pushkin, T. J. Binyon lifts the veil of the iconic poet’s myth to reveal the complexity and pathos of his life while brilliantly evoking Russia in all its nineteenth-century splendor. Combining exemplary scholarship with the pace and detail of a great novel, Pushkin elevates biography to a work of art.


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In the course of his short, dramatic life, Aleksandr Pushkin gave Russia not only its greatest poetry–including the novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin–but a new literary language. He also gave it a figure of enduring romantic allure–fiery, restless, extravagant, a prodigal gambler and inveterate seducer of women. Having forged a dazzling, controversial career that cost him the In the course of his short, dramatic life, Aleksandr Pushkin gave Russia not only its greatest poetry–including the novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin–but a new literary language. He also gave it a figure of enduring romantic allure–fiery, restless, extravagant, a prodigal gambler and inveterate seducer of women. Having forged a dazzling, controversial career that cost him the enmity of one tsar and won him the patronage of another, he died at the age of thirty-eight, following a duel with a French officer who was paying unscrupulous attention to his wife. In his magnificent, prizewinning Pushkin, T. J. Binyon lifts the veil of the iconic poet’s myth to reveal the complexity and pathos of his life while brilliantly evoking Russia in all its nineteenth-century splendor. Combining exemplary scholarship with the pace and detail of a great novel, Pushkin elevates biography to a work of art.

30 review for Pushkin: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    The best biography I have ever read, totally absorbing. Pushkin was always falling in and out of love. His most famous lyric: I loved you: love still, perhaps, Is not quite extinguished in my soul; But let it no longer alarm you; I do not want to distress you in any way. I loved you silently, hopelessly, Tortured now by shyness, now by jealousy; I loved you so sincerely, so tenderly, May God grant you be so loved by another. Another of my favourites is quoted in the book: What good is my name to you? It The best biography I have ever read, totally absorbing. Pushkin was always falling in and out of love. His most famous lyric: I loved you: love still, perhaps, Is not quite extinguished in my soul; But let it no longer alarm you; I do not want to distress you in any way. I loved you silently, hopelessly, Tortured now by shyness, now by jealousy; I loved you so sincerely, so tenderly, May God grant you be so loved by another. Another of my favourites is quoted in the book: What good is my name to you? It will die, like the melancholy sound Of a wave breaking on a distant shore, Like night’s noises in the dense forest. On the album page It will leave a dead trace, like The pattern of an epitaph on a tombstone In an unknown language. What good is it? Long forgotten In new, stormy emotions, It will not evoke in your soul Peaceful, tender memories. But... on a day of grief, in the silence Pronounce it, pining; Say: someone remembers me, There is in the world a heart, in which I live... There are plenty of drawers and albums in this world stuffed with old photos and memories, but I don’t think many people are preserved in living hearts and still completely adored as they once were, and as fresh and alive with all their dreams and innocence completely intact. It’s easy to love someone in the present, in the current social circle, though it is usually doomed to disappointment as time passes and emotions change, but to remain true for decades and without hope is either lunacy or a great expression of commitment, and something to be very deeply cherished. Pushkin knew all about this sort of thing, and I would recommend this work to anyone at all interested in staying vitally alive. It is usually counted a tragedy that Pushkin died in a stupid duel before he was forty, but I think it neatly rounds off his life. Why hang around for decades like Goethe until you become a positive bar to progress and there’s a general sigh of relief when you finally pop your cork?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    How can you not love Pushkin? He's funny, impish, incredibly ugly but still a lady's man. Had kick-ass Wolverine sideburns that you can practically feel if you rub your hand over this book's cover portrait. And this isn't even considering the fact that he singlehandedly founded Russian literature and shaped its direction for the next 150+ years. Like Calvino's old writer, he seems to literally grow masterpieces, the way a vine grows melons. Binyon's biography is focused, sometimes annoyingly, How can you not love Pushkin? He's funny, impish, incredibly ugly but still a lady's man. Had kick-ass Wolverine sideburns that you can practically feel if you rub your hand over this book's cover portrait. And this isn't even considering the fact that he singlehandedly founded Russian literature and shaped its direction for the next 150+ years. Like Calvino's old writer, he seems to literally grow masterpieces, the way a vine grows melons. Binyon's biography is focused, sometimes annoyingly, but it tells a very large story without losing any of the many strands. The last 50 or so pages, once D'Anthes arrives on the scene, is particularly well done. A good companion to one of the many other poetic studies of Pushkin, say Abram Tertz's "Strolling with Pushkin," John Baley's book-length study, or Osip Mandelstam's essay on Pushkin and Scriabin.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Not a Life and Works or a critical biography, so not a good choice if you want to know details about Pushkin's work and its relation to the world in any detailed way, but an absorbing portrait of early nineteenth-century literary Russia as it circled around Pushkin. Pushkin himself was impulsive, extravagant, reckless, often self-destructive; he had a knack for saying and doing exactly the things that would make his life more difficult, and he was utterly unable to handle money (while at the Not a Life and Works or a critical biography, so not a good choice if you want to know details about Pushkin's work and its relation to the world in any detailed way, but an absorbing portrait of early nineteenth-century literary Russia as it circled around Pushkin. Pushkin himself was impulsive, extravagant, reckless, often self-destructive; he had a knack for saying and doing exactly the things that would make his life more difficult, and he was utterly unable to handle money (while at the same time expecting to live in a suitably aristocratic, luxurious way and feeling quite aggrieved at anything or anyone who interfered with that). Why anyone lent him money in his later years I can't imagine; the man was a hopeless money pit. The extended story of the conflict that led to his death in a duel is fascinating--all these sophisticated people acting in extravagant ways based on values that make no sense to anyone outside that circle of honour-obsessed insiders. That series of events would make a great movie.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    when looking at used copies of this book online, one of the descriptions of the condition was "may be shiny". what the hell?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

    This was a good book, but not for the casual reader with just a passing interest. It was well researched with lots information about people just barely connected to Pushkin.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    An excellent biography of the Shakespeare of Russian literature. There is more detail here than you need if you have only a passing interest, but if you really enjoy Russian literature a comprehensive understanding of who Pushkin really was will enhance your enjoyment immeasurably.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Very detailed biography of Russia's greatest poet. A good read for anyone interested in the colorful life of A.S. Pushkin.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adina Pelle

    Dostoevsky or Pushkin ? Who's Russia's literary messiah ?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Джордан

    I will attempt to offer an amateurish book review for the first time since secondary school. I rather enjoyed reading it from start to finish. I read it whilst visiting Chisinau, Kiev and Odessa. I'm happy to concede that the late T. J. Binyon's biography is almost a scholarly masterpiece that is worthy of critical acclaim. It's well written, well-researched and makes use of a wonderful range of resources. However, I would have liked for him to have focused more on the psychological aspects of I will attempt to offer an amateurish book review for the first time since secondary school. I rather enjoyed reading it from start to finish. I read it whilst visiting Chisinau, Kiev and Odessa. I'm happy to concede that the late T. J. Binyon's biography is almost a scholarly masterpiece that is worthy of critical acclaim. It's well written, well-researched and makes use of a wonderful range of resources. However, I would have liked for him to have focused more on the psychological aspects of Pushkin's character, which the author does to some extent as opposed to the tediousness of the state of his finances. I'm not a mathematician or a businessman and there were times that it felt as though I was reading a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Still, a wonderful achievement. T.J. Binyon will be sadly missed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Κάλι Γαβριά

    Μια ιδιαίτερη βιογραφία με πολύ ενδιαφέρον!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Detailed account of Pushkin's life and work by a distinguished Oxford academic. A fascinating insight into Russia's celebrated poet and novelist, whose own life was as dramatic and eventful as that of the hero Eugene Onegin, a brooding young Romantic suffering from the common malaise of his generation, feeling restless, aloof and stifled by social constraints. Yet, as a product of the very society he despises, he is never truly free from its influence. After an argument between Onegin and his Detailed account of Pushkin's life and work by a distinguished Oxford academic. A fascinating insight into Russia's celebrated poet and novelist, whose own life was as dramatic and eventful as that of the hero Eugene Onegin, a brooding young Romantic suffering from the common malaise of his generation, feeling restless, aloof and stifled by social constraints. Yet, as a product of the very society he despises, he is never truly free from its influence. After an argument between Onegin and his friend Lensky, tempers flare and wounded pride triumphs over common sense, resulting in the needless loss of a young life. This aspect of the story is particularly poignant, foreshadowing the circumstances of Pushkin’s own death in 1837. When French officer Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes tried to seduce the poet’s wife Natalia, Pushkin challenged him to a duel and was fatally wounded, his early death cutting short the brilliant career of one of Russia’s foremost literary talents.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    The depth of research in this biography was impressive. Binyon does a good job navigating all the correspondence among Pushkin and those who knew him. He also got an impressive handle on the desperate financial situation the poet faced. I was struck not only the tragedy of a life cut short, but by the way that even while Pushkin was living he could not find the right circumstances to be as productive a writer as he could have been.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Got as far as the Decemberist revolt. It may be that right now I'm simply not in the mood for the investigative hair splitting of literary biography - this week I started Savigneau's life of Yourcenar and chucked it after two chapters - but I also suspect that Binyon lacks a style. For another time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    George

    Well researched and interestingly written. Lots of details of Pushkin's life, sometimes a little too much. The author chose to focus on the poet's life only, so there is little evaluation of this literary giant as a creative artist.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    terrific

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bird

    Pushkin: Not a Good Biography.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shiv

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marnie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kolya

  21. 4 out of 5

    محمود العزبي

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kavita Hadkar

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denzel Scott

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linds

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tulasha Kuikel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julia Gubarchuk

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katenya Hope

  29. 5 out of 5

    Allen Severino

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doug

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