Wild cats and packs of wild dogs roam the ancient city, and pigeons fly overhead. There are subterranean tunnels and huge temples, food in enchanted boxes and jars, strong bottled drinks, bronze doors without handles, high-rise dwellings with inexplicable machinery, lovely paintings, and books. The young would-be priest gazes over the ruins—with their broken bridges and tumbling towers—and envisions the city at the moment that it died: huge, restless, destroyed by fire from the skies from weapons of unimagined horror, followed by a poisonous mist that left the ground burning for aeons. When he sees a “dead god” sitting by a window looking out on the ruined city, he realizes that the “god” is only a man and that despite its wonders, this city, New York, was once a city of men like himself. He longs for the knowledge they possessed and is sure of his ability to use that knowledge more wisely than they. As a new priest he will help his people make a new beginning, recapturing lost knowledge from the broken city in order to build again.
Since his death in 1837, Alexander Pushkin—often called the “father of Russian literature”—has become a timeless embodiment of Russian national identity, adopted for diverse ideological purposes and reinvented anew as a cultural icon in each historical era (tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet). His elevation to mythic status, however, has led to the celebration of some of his writings and the shunning of others. Throughout the history of Pushkin studies, certain topics, texts, and interpretations have remained officially off-limits in Russia—taboos as prevalent in today’s Russia as ever before.
The essays in this bold and authoritative volume use new approaches, overlooked archival materials, and fresh interpretations to investigate aspects of Pushkin’s biography and artistic legacy that have previously been suppressed or neglected. Taken together, the contributors strive to create a more fully realized Pushkin and demonstrate how potent a challenge the unofficial, taboo, alternative Pushkin has proven to be across the centuries for the Russian literary and political establishments.
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