THE ENCHANTED WANDERER by Nikolai  Leskov

THE ENCHANTED WANDERER

And Other Stories

KIRKUS REVIEW

A welcome new translation of Leskov’s grand metaphysical romp, a hallmark of 19th-century Russian literature.

Leskov (1831–1895) is less well-known in this country than his near-contemporaries Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and even if Anton Chekhov claimed him as a literary ancestor—and that’s saying something—Leskov’s masterpiece doesn’t often figure on reading lists. Pevear and Volokhonsky, late of War and PeaceAnna Karenina and Dr. Zhivago, may remedy that with this accessible translation, which does a good job of preserving some of Leskov’s well-known wordplay while not being pedantic. Pevear and Volokhonsky are known for preferring to use only English words in circulation at the time of a given book’s original publication, so the tone has the slightest patina to it, as with sentences such as “I chose as a pretext that I supposedly had to go buy medicine from the herbalists for the horses, and so I went, but I went not simply, but with a cunning design.” That said, the stories gathered here, all lightly linked in the way that those of the Canterbury Tales are, remain marvels of narration, sacred and profane—for, as the translators note, the Russian word strannik  “can mean anything from a real pilgrim to a simple vagabond.” The opener is a stern study in the dangers of adultery; then come other pieces set in “Wooden Russia,” the old heartland south of Moscow, with all its elaborate prejudices against Gypsies, Jews, Ukrainians and the other outsiders who so often figure in Leskov’s pages. One takeaway: Leskov admonishes us not to fear ghosts, for they “behaved themselves much more light-mindedly and, frankly speaking, stupidly, than they had shown themselves in earthly life.”

A literate delight, and a book to look forward to reading more than once.

Pub Date: March 26th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-26882-2
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2013




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