Set against a backdrop of the emancipation of the serfs, touching on the (assumed) backwardness of rural Russia and the role...


Russian author Khvoshchinskaya exposes class differences and hypocrisies in this rediscovered novel translated into English for the first time.

A self-effacing widow of the rural gentry named Nastasya Ivanovna and her 17-year-old daughter, Olenka, receive an unexpected visit from a well-traveled, self-regarding aristocrat neighbor. Long absent from his estate, Ovcharov has negligently allowed it to fall into disrepair. Determined to spend the season in the country for his health and the purported education of his peasants, he throws the women's household into chaos by asking to rent their bathhouse. Meanwhile, a spiteful cousin with religious pretensions has arrived for an indefinite visit, taken over Olenka's room, and begun turning Nastasya Ivanovna's serfs against her. Ovcharov pens articles about the changing state of Russia and the important role enlightened nobles like himself must play. "Benefit to society—that is our watchword; and we must insist on this benefit, sternly insist." The machinations of a local aristocratic busybody—who wants Olenka to marry her protégé so that she can continue an adulterous affair with him—further complicate the situation. Khvoshchinskaya mocks the pomposity of interfering snobs who expect unquestioning obedience from their social "inferiors" with a light, ironic touch reminiscent of Trollope ("may heaven forgive him the frivolity of his thoughts....And in forgiving Ovcharov may heaven above forgive us all!"). But in her sympathetic depiction of the central mother-daughter relationship Khvoshchinskaya stakes her own territory and widens the boundaries of the 19th-century Russian novel. We learn early on, in an aside, that Olenka was born after "the untimely deaths of eight infants." Worried about her only daughter's potential marriage and "what kind of a fellow" the groom will turn out to be, her fretful mother thinks, "They all seem fine before the wedding."

Set against a backdrop of the emancipation of the serfs, touching on the (assumed) backwardness of rural Russia and the role of its elite in political reform, the book at its heart is the story of two country women asserting their independence.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-231-18302-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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