Russia Literature in the 19th Century Part 1

By | February 7, 2022

It is no coincidence that the figure of Nikolaj Karamzin (1766-1826) rises on the threshold of the new century, a link between the aspirations of the century. XVIII and all those new ferments of ideas and feelings that characterized the first years of the century. XIX; and it is not by chance that the poet, the historian, the language reformer, the traveler merged in his personality. His Letters from a Russian traveler made clear the changes that had already taken place in Europe, his History of the Russian stateit threw a bridge between the past and the future of Russia, which he, fascinated by tradition, saw seated in the concert of the great European powers of his time; in a very bitter controversy that he had to support for the reform of the language, he definitively affirmed that principle, already glimpsed by Lomonosov, of the immediate correspondence between written and spoken language.

But, in order for all that had hitherto been the confused aspiration of chosen spirits and the elementary impulse of the people to become a living reality in creation, the power of genius was needed, and the two main contemporaries of Karamzin, the fabulist Krylov and the poet Zukovsky, bringing a large contribution of human experience and linguistic experience the former, and various poetic experiences the latter, they did not have such power. The poetic experiences that Žukovskij summarized, also had individual representatives, whether they continued to refer to the century. XVIII, as in the comedy and tragedy in verse, in the joking poem, in the fable, etc., whether they adhered to the new romantic currents, or whether, on the basis of the new taste, they tried to renew the ancient, as in neo-classicism. V.Oedipus in Athens and together with Dmitry Donskoj ; K. Batjuškov (1787-1855) with his admirable re-enactments of Greece, Rome and Italy, not linked to the translations dear to other minors, such as Gnedič (1784-1833) to whom Russia owed that of the Iliad, but relived by the poet through his heroes, as in the dying Tasso, they are among all the most characteristic representatives of the faith held in classicism in a new way of understanding it and using it. After all, all or almost all of the new generation paid homage to classicism in his early youth and Žukovskij himself, alongside Schiller, Byron, Goethe, translated the Odyssey and part of the Iliad.

Romantic even when he turned to the classical world, Vasily Žukovskij (1783-1852) saw romanticism reach its maximum splendor and decline: alongside its lyrical individualism, the rebellious individualism of a Bestužev-Marlinsky (1797-1837), advocate of the cult of the higher natures; the nationalistic romanticism of a Zagoskin (1789-1852), like him inspired by Walter Scott and Radcliffe, the Schellinghian philosophical romanticism of a prince Odoevsky (1803-1869); the patriotic one of a Ryleev (1797-1826) pushed to the point of self-sacrifice, but above all the Byronic romanticism of a Pushkin (1799-1837) and a Lermontov (1814-1841); passing in the first to give way to his characteristic poetic realism, from which the realism of the whole century was born. XIX;

According to Aceinland, the seeds of Russian realism were certainly already in the most ancient narrative literature and had germinated also in the century. XVIII and in fiction and theatrical literature, especially in comedy. Krylov had also tried to bring his skills as an observer to the theater, but he too, if he can be considered a precursor of realism, is certainly more so in fairy tales than in comedies. The representatives of realism in its earliest form, prior to Pushkin ‘s Belkin Tales and Gogol’s Dead Souls, were rather in the theater Aleksandr Griboedov (1795-1829), in the novel Vasilij Narežnyj (1780-1825), the first with the comedy What disgrace the wit, the second with some stories that foreshadowed Gogol’s work from various points of view. Griboyedov’s comedy is a precious historical document as well as an artistic one, for the precision with which the life of the Moscow society between 1810 and 1820 is represented through the struggle between the two generations now in conflict; struggle that would later become one of the most characteristic contents of Russian literature.

The political events and the needs of the social organization of the country will in fact be represented throughout the course of the century. XIX in literature, which will not only take on the task of criticizing the existing state of affairs, but will help to indicate and study the paths that life should follow. The work begun by Novikov and Radiščev was therefore continued with alacrity, if not always openly, given the restrictions of censorship, always effectively, given the echo that the events of Europe had in Russia and also given the more or less character directly political that romanticism had, dominant in the first thirty years of the century.

The development of the national conscience will ultimately cause the two opposing camps of Slavophiles and Westerners to develop from the differences in minds in the face of Europe, generally responding to the two concepts of the need to appropriate Western civilization, or the need to abide by to its indigenous characteristics. The first current was originally represented by Pietro Čaadaev (1794-1856) in whom the admiration for Europe was however not as strong as in the writers of the following decades; the second from all the ranks of writers who, having as a precursor the historian Boltin, who already in the century. XVIII had fought against Western views on Russia, defending its national pride with the very weapons of Europe,

Russia Literature in the 19th Century 1