Northern Illinois University Press

Three Russian Tales of the Eighteenth Century

The Comely Cook, Vanka Kain, and “Poor Liza”

Mikhail  Chulkov, Matvei Komarov Nikolai Karamzin

Translated and with an Introduction by David Gasperetti

“Gasperetti’s translations are both sparkling and masterful, and they convey the look and the feel of the original texts, both in their linguistic particularity and in their physical structure and appearance.” —Marcia A. Morris, Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages, Georgetown University.

For those who cannot read the language of the original texts, the lively and varied world of eighteenth-century Russian literature has been largely inaccessible. In this valuable collection, expert translator David Gasperetti presents three seminal tales that express the major literary, social, and philosophical concerns of late- eighteenth-century Russia.

The country’s first bestseller, Matvei Komarov’s Vanka Kain tells the story of a renowned thief and police spy and is also an excellent historical source on the era’s criminal underworld. Mikhail Chulkov’s The Comely Cook is a cross between Moll Flanders, with its comic emphasis on a woman of ill-repute who struggles to secure her place in society, and Tristram Shandy, with its parody of the conventions of novel writing. Chulkov’s work provides readers with an exciting adventure story that established the tradition of inscribing literary criticism into the Russian novel from its inception. Finally, Nikolai Karamzin’s “Poor Liza,” the story of a young woman who kills herself over a failed love affair, set the standard for writing sentimentalist fiction in Russia.

Chulkov, Komarov , and Karamzin wrote in distinctive styles, and Gasperetti’s excellent translations convey the flavor peculiar to each. Taken as a whole, these three works outline the beginnings of modern prose fiction in Russia and illuminate the literary culture that would give rise to the Golden Age of Russian letters. Ideal for survey courses on Russian literature and courses devoted to modern European fiction, this book will also appeal to specialists in eighteenth-century Russian and western European culture, and to educated readers outside the academy.

220 pages, 5.5x8.5
ISBN: 978-0-87580-674-7
$24.95x Paper

David Gasperetti is associate professor of Russian at the University of Notre Dame and the author of The Rise of the Russian Novel: Carnival, Stylization, and Mockery of the West.

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ISBN: 9780875806747