Russia Literature in the 19th Century Part 2

By | February 8, 2022

After all, the study of the West had brought almost all literature into the field against reaction, and this was not a bad thing even from a national point of view, because men of genius or of high intellect were soon able to free themselves from imitation or adherence. to models, and to put Russia at the level of the most advanced European nations. From this point of view, the importance of A. Pushkin appears fully.

Belinsky had already seen well when comparing the poet to a great river in which the waters of numerous tributaries merge into a powerful course, because Pushkin was not really deaf to any of the voices resounding in the world at his time. What is certain is that what can be considered Pushkin’s masterpieces, Boris Godunov and Eugenio Onegin, are above and beyond any school of classical or romantic setting, merging a historically Russian but psychologically human content into one perfect form of balance and harmony.

If during the century XIX there will be moments of struggle for the overcoming of Pushkin and with him of the poets who moved in his orbit, such as E. Baratynskij (1800-1844), N. Jazykov (1803-1846), A. Del′vig (1798 -1831), Ryleev, and indeed some forms of his poetry, such as the narrative lyric poem, will be outdated, after having echoed once again in Lermontov, this was due not to Pushkin’s inactivity in the new times, but to the fact, not new in the literary history of the rest of the world, but certainly unique in the Russian one, of his prematurity. Several decades had to pass before, not this or that form of his poetry, but the spirit of it was victorious, as a revelation of the genius of the race. If theart for art or pure poetry, to which, moreover, poets of profound philosophical sensitivity such as Baratynskij and Venevitinov (1805-1827) had given impetus; even the poets who, like Kol′cov, Nekrasov, Nikitin, Pleščeev, in whose poetry the civil and social tone prevails, were never free, let’s not say from his influence, but from that inner reality that he had first revealed and consecrated.

It is almost commonplace in the history of Russian literature to say that Pushkin’s legacy was collected by Lermontov. In reality, Pushkin’s legacy went far beyond poetry, in which Lermontov, with his restless temperament, had actually brought new elements and accents; and looking for the succession in this or that writer would perhaps mean restricting its importance. All the more so since the struggle of literary tendencies turned almost entirely outside of poetry, and the Pushkinian legacy was thus spoken of with regard to prose, in the name of N. Gogol ′ (1809-1852), both as the author of the comedy L ‘ inspector general and as the author of Dead Souls. The controversy, still alive today, on the Pushkinian or Gogolian dominion in literary history was however essentially resolved by Gogol himself when, largely unconsciously he faced the problem of the continuation of what had formed the nucleus of Pushkin’s creation, the revelation of Russia to itself. The ideological, or mystical-transcendental, superstructures of Gogol’s work had to fall with the disappearance of the writer himself, while the impulse he had given to realistic narrative prose had to be very rich in fruit. Of course, as long as L. Tolstoy, with his recognition of the perfection of Pushkin’s prose, marked a return to Pushkin also in the art of fiction, Gogolian realism was the axis around which this moved.

According to Elaineqho, literary criticism also helped push this path, in which, with the appearance of V. Belinskii (1811-1848), it can be said that the process of affirmation of realism takes place even more decisively than in creation itself. Literary criticism had already developed rapidly with the penetration of German romanticism and philosophy. Then when Belinsky, through the different phases of his thought, came to the recognition of the realistic direction of the so-called “naturalistic school” represented by Gogol ′, Russian criticism had marked his path: the evil was that while for Belinsky the passing in the second line of the philosophical and aesthetic problems compared to the social ones, it did not mean the elimination from the criticism of the artistic evaluation of the works, in the criticism that followed him in the realizing the evaluation of social problems often meant indifference and aversion to aesthetic criticism. This undoubtedly continued to exist, but had very little effect on the formation of the Russian literary consciousness, by now anchored to the principle of sociality and the usefulness of art, with the moderate tendencies of a Valerian Majkov (1823-47), advocate of a ‘ art, an instrument of social progress in the Western sense, and of an Apollon Grigor′ev whose organic criticism “was essentially based on the affirmation that art must not be limited to a simple reproduction of reality, but be an interpreter and judge of it; and the extreme tendency of the utilitarianism of a Dmitry Pisarev (1840-1868),

Only one of these critics, Černyševskij, is part of literary history not only as a critic but also as an author with the novel What to do? important document for the history of the time that was his, and for the history of one of Turgenev’s fundamental novels, Fathers and Sons, aiming to contrast the “nihilist” Bazarov of the Turgenevian reality with what in the radical camp was considered the real new revolutionary Russian man. In this novel by Černyševskij some of what the Russians called “cursed issues” were dealt with, that is, the problems of individual life in its relations with social life. Literature thus gradually replaced as a form of intellectual activity what philosophical circles had been in the preceding decades, very effective hearths of new ideas. One of these circles had been the soul of Aleksandr Herzen (1812-1870), whose journalistic activity, carried out in exile, must have had such decisive importance for the orientation of the Russian generations of the third quarter of the century.and some stories had carried his activity, even before his stay abroad, from the almost closed private meetings into the broader and more effective field of literature.

Russia Literature in the 19th Century 2