"Inspired by the interpretive dilemma of suicide in nineteenth-century Russia, Paperno offers a superb reading of contemporary responses, across genres and philosophical divides. A fascinating view of the symbolic recesses of a culture in transition."--Laura Engelstein, author of The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Sicle Russia
In the popular and scientific imagination, suicide has always been an enigmatic act that defies, and yet demands, explanation. Throughout the centuries, philosophers and writers, journalists and scientists have attempted to endow this act with meaning. In the nineteenth century, and especially in Russia, suicide became the focus for discussion of such issues as the immortality of the soul, free will and determinism, the physical and the spiritual, the individual and the social. Analyzing a variety of sources--medical reports, social treatises, legal codes, newspaper articles, fiction, private documents left by suicides--Irina Paperno describes the search for the meaning of suicide. Paperno focuses on Russia of the 1860s-1880s, when suicide was at the center of public attention.