Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reader's Diary #322- Alexander Pushkin: The Snow Storm

Short Story Monday

Before getting into this week's short story, I'd like to inform everyone of Kate's Short Story Reading Challenge. She has a lot of options available from simply reading 10 short stories to reading 10 collections of short stories over the span of a year. Not surprising to anyone who knows my love for the genre, I'm participating. I've said before that I'm keeping my challenges to a minimum, but seeing as I read a short story each week, it's simply a matter of signing up. I won't pick my stories ahead of time, but I will say that all of my selections will be ones found available online.

Speaking of challenges, this week's story also fulfills 1/4 of my Russian Reading Challenge. Along with my Canadian Book Challenge and Historia's Shakespeare Challenge (another one of those that I'd read anyway), that makes 4... 4 Reading Challenges aa-aa-aa (sorry, I've been watching Sesame Street with the kids lately).
Often considered one of the greatest Russian poets and founder of Russian literature, it's hard to go into a Pushkin story without high expectations. I found "The Snow Storm," or "The Blizzard" as it is sometimes translated, to be a pleasant enough read but it probably won't stick with me.
I certainly enjoyed that narration style found so often in Russian fiction: a slight detachment from the story itself, but endearing to the reader. The best illustration of this comes from the segues between character plots: "Having intrusted the young lady to the care of fate, and to the skill of Tereshka the coachman, we will return to our young lover."
I also appreciated the satirical barbs which again seem to characterize most Russian literature I've read: "Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels and consequently was in love."
The storm itself was quite interesting, as well. I think perhaps Pushkin was using it as a metaphor for love, or at least the kind of naive infatuation that's often mistaken for love.
My only problem lies with the ending which feels almost unbelievable in the vein of 70s sitcoms.
So, credit Pushkin for Gogol, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy but also for Three's Company.
(Cross-posted at the Russian Reading Challenge and The Short Story Reading Challenge)


1morechapter said...

May have to read this now!

Here's mine.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That is an entirely unbelievable ending, but I did enjoy Pushkin's way with words in that story.

Chrisbookarama said...

The challenge sounds like it was made for you. Btw, I gave you an award on my blog.

John Mutford said...

3M: Thanks for the link!

Barbara: I love that I actually get you to read these things.

Chris: I've been trying to promote the short story for some time (as you know). I wish I'd thought of the challenge myself! Then again, the Canadian one is probably enough to handle as it is.

nessie said...

I never delved into short stories with the exception of Alice Munroe and even than... only because her novel was so darn awesome.

I dont read much poetry or plays. This year I am resolved to remedy that. I have been indulging in Oscar Wilde who is so halarious I am convinced he would outshine the entire cast of SNL. The most surprising result of all this how GRATIFYING it feels when completing these works. I may add short stories. This year or next. Ya have a top ten essentials anywhere.

Oh yes! I have read Flannory OConnor. Gotta love her!

John Mutford said...

Nessie: That's a golden question to an avid reader! Back in 2006 I published this list of my top 10 short stories:
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty- by James Thurber
2. The Lottery - by Shirley Jackson
3. The Loons- by Margaret Laurence
4. The Monkey's Paw - by W.W. Jacobs
5. Lamb To The Slaughter - by Roald Dahl
6. My Financial Career- by Stephen Leacock
7. The Tell Tale Heart- by Edgar Allen Poe
8. Gift of the Magi- O. Henry
9. Quitters, Inc. - Stephen King
10. Ideas Die Hard- Isaac Asimov

That list would probably look much different today. I'd now include Kafka's "In The Penal Colony", Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby" in place of numbers 9 and 10.

Another great must-read list is actually found in Wikipedia though that list is skewed towards British and American classics. Newer Canadian stories, for example, are given any acknowledgement.

And hate to shock you, but I've never read any Flannery O'Connor. Though now I need to fix that.

Mme. H. said...

I love the stories in your list, including the Chopin you mention afterwards, but I haven't read that Kafka story! I wonder if I can find it online.

Mme. H. said...

Well, that didn't take long!

I bookmarked it to read at lunch tomorrow, but here's the link in case any of your other readers are interested. Or in case you want to reread.:)