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Ruslan and Lyudmila (Oneworld Classics) Paperback – May 1, 2010

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"An impressively chosen list." -- Simon Schama --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Since its U.S. launch in 2003, Hesperus Press has enjoyed a growing reputation for its inspired selection of short classic works. Written by illustrious authors, and often unjustly neglected or simply little known in the English-speaking world, these works have been made accessible via a completely fresh editorial approach and new translations. Now, in addition to the Hesperus Classics, Hesperus Press is introducing a new series: Modern Voices. Drawing from the very best of 20th-century literature, Modern Voices will retain the exceptional quality of the Hesperus Classics, with a new series look that reflects the more modern nature of the list. Among the first authors will be Carlo Levi, Katherine Mansfield, and Graham Greene, and Hesperus has already secured prominent contemporary writers like Anita Desai, William Boyd, and Colum McCann to introduce the books—again retaining one of the key successes of the Hesperus Classics. Finally,! 2005 heralds the launch of the Hesperus Contemporary series, opening with The Nightingale Papers, the fiction debut of prize-winning biographer David Nokes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oneworld Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Classics; Second English Edition edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847491308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847491305
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,026,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Although “Russian literature is depressing” is a stereotype, it is a stereotype that I have largely found true, seeing as my main experiences with Russian literature have been from Dostoyevsky (Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov), Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, Complete Plays), and Chekov (The Cherry Orchard, a handful of short stories). But there is nothing depressing about Ruslan and Lyudmila (except, debatably, the epilogue), and much about it that will evince a chuckle or even a guffaw. Written while Pushkin was a hedonistic young man in the process of being barred from the capital by an irate Tsar Alexander I, the tale reflects his cheeky, twinkle-eyed approach to life at this time.

Ruslan and Lyudmila is a mock-epic narrative poem set in the days of Vladímir the Great’s Kievan state. Ruslán has just been married to the lovely Lyudmíla, and is about to enjoy the first night of his marriage, when his bride is spirited away just seconds before their consummation by Chernomór, a lecherous wizard-dwarf with an immense magical beard that he has sported from birth. Angry at the loss of his daughter, Vladímir sends Ruslán out to recapture her, accompanied by three antagonistic knights, each with their own fatal flaw: Rogdáy (wrath), Farláf (sloth/cowardice), and Ratmír (lust). Before Ruslán arrives, Lyudmíla has managed to seize the wizard’s enchanted cap, making her invisible, but he must still battle Chernomór, find Lyudmíla, and survive the return journey. A hermit-sorceror of Finnish descent, a disgruntled witch named Naïna, and an enormous severed head complicate the picture, as does a last-minute invasion by the pagan Pechenegs.
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The version I have is also translated by Roger Clarke but is an imprint of Herperus Press. That edition has the Russian original verse on the left side of each page with the English on the right. Clarke, wisely, did not try to rhyme the verse, merely to keep the lines the same. It is sad, but true, that Russian does not translate to English very well, as English is much more limiting. Pushkin based this verse on tales told by him in his youth by the women who helped raise him. One has to remember that French was spoken by the upper classes. Pushkin was one of the very first Russian writers who sought to make his native language acceptable to all. Much as Dante did for everyday Italian with his Divina Comedia series.

The tale is simple. On the night of their wedding Lyudila is kidnapped from her husband, Ruslan, by Chernomor, an evil wizard. The king, Lyudila's father, promises her hand to anyone who can find her. Naturally Ruslan volunteers and so do three others: Rogday, a fearless knight; Farlaf, a braggart who much prefers eating to battles; and Ratmir a Khan with an intense personality. Then the story traces Lyudmila in her captivity and how she tricks Chernomor, then flips to the other 4 men showing their travails. For example, Ruslan meets a large head which challenges him to a fight. There are many adventures for all. Toward the end Ruslan is killed and we expect he is gone for the duration. But a friendly monk revives him just in time to end a battle and revive poor Lyudmila. He is once again united to her and they both go off to live happily ever after.

For those of you that enjoy this poem, there is a Russian made movie, 2.5 hours long, with English subtitles available on-line at [...]. It stars the beautiful Natalya Petrova as Lyudmila. For a movie made in 1972, the special effects are well done. I would very much enjoy seeing a new version made with modern graphics.
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Rare to find bilingual books. Very pleased.
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