May 26, 2011

С днем рождения Alexander Pushkin


Have you been asking yourself, “Is it better to celebrate Alexander Pushkin‘s birthday today, May 26th — or to wait until the Monday after next, June 6th ?”

We’ve encountered a variant of this question before—with Shakespeare and Cervantes— and we can help (see the earlier MobyLives story).

Russia was a tardy convert to the Gregorian calendar, first introduced in Catholic Europe in 1582. Russia finally adopted it in 1918.

The revolutionary, meteoric Pushkin, inspiration and subject of some three-hundred memorial statues (including two new ones: in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, and in Eritrea, which has claimed Pushkin’s illustrious ancestor, the former slave Ibrahim Hannibal, consort of Peter the Great)—Pushkin was born in 1799, when, as far as anybody in Moscow was concerned, it was May 26th, according to the Julian calendar.

So today is a good day to celebrate Puskin’s birthday, since it would have been the day he would have celebrated it, although he didn’t celebrate many of them. Pushkin, who seemed to have been younger longer than most, was also a man in a hurry. By the time of his death at 37—shot in a duel with his brother-in-law over the latter’s flirtation with Pushkin’s wife—Pushkin had created modern Russian literature, written the masterpieces Boris Gudunov and Eugene Onegin, founded a magazine and championed the young Nikolai Gogol, and inspired the Decembrist revolt. He had been exiled and censored by the Tsar’s police, and pardoned by the Tsar.

To help you get into the spirit of the thing, Melville House is offering all of our Russian novellas at 50% off the retail price—for one day only. That includes Pushkin’s own Tales of Belkin, Tolstoy‘s The Death of Ivan Ilych and The Devil, Dostoevsky‘s The Eternal Husband, Gogol’s How the Two Ivans Quarrelled, Turgenev‘s First Love, and My Life by Anton Chekhov. Clicking on the titles above will take you directly to the book page.

We don’t want to encourage dueling. Not when it leads to the premature deaths of great writers. But we would be remiss if we didn’t mention here that if you pre-order now you will be saving 30% off the retail price of our forthcoming series of dueling novellas, THE DUEL: five great books, five great writers, one great title—by Chekhov, Conrad, Casanova, Kuprin, and Kleist. That’s for the whole series. Individual titles can be ordered at 20% off.

Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.