Cover image for Lieutenant Kije ; Young Vitushishnikov : two novellas
Lieutenant Kije ; Young Vitushishnikov : two novellas
Tynianov, Iuri Nikolaevich, 1894-1943.
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass. : Eridanos Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
xxv, 137 pages : portrait ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Translations of: Podporuchik Kizhe and Maloletny Vitushishnikov.
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Author Notes

Tynyanov, one of the founders of structuralist criticism, made lasting contributions to Pushkin studies, to the theory of verse semantics, and to other fields. His novels tend to embody his theoretical interests. His most important works deal with the oppressive period of Nicholas I's reign. Death and Diplomacy in Persia (The Death of Wazir-Mukhtar) (1927--28) is a biographical novel about the celebrated nineteenth-century satirist Aleksandr Griboyedov. Other novels include Kyukhlya (1925), about the Decembrist poet Kyukhel'-beker, and the unfinished Pushkin (1935--37). Among Tynyanov's shorter works, the novella Second Lieutenant Kije (1927), set in the time of the temperamental Emperor Paul I, has achieved the greatest renown and was made into a film in 1934. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Two glittering novellas from a Russian master (1894-1943) satirize the abuses of 18th- and 19th-century czarist regimes, none too obliquely implicating Stalin himself, in full power when both were written (``I'll show them,'' says a ruler here, ``that Autocracy is still alive in Russia''). ``Lieutenant Kije,'' the inspiration for the suite by Prokofiev, is a triumph of grotesquerie: at the court of mad Emperor Paul I, terror reigns, with courtiers in such fear of the czar that none dares to emend an officially approved memorandum that erroneously declares one officer dead and, through another slip, creates a nonexistent lieutenant. With magisterial modulation, Tynyanov recounts the psychic disintegration of the first and the splendid rise of the second: the latter is exiled to Siberia and recalled, gains a flesh-and-blood wife and son, but ultimately suffers a fatal illness just as he is to be named a general. Similar absurdities mark ``Young Vitushishnikov,'' which juggles a larger cast, at the court of Paul's son Emperor Nicholas I, but drolly delineates each member: ``He had a lively understanding of people,'' Tynyanov says of one, ``and the notion of `human frailty' did not exist for him. Everything was only `a matter of habit.' '' In these works laughter and despair are inseparable. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Tynyanov, known today primarily as a brilliant literary critic of the Formalist School, was also a writer of considerable repute, whose works include three historical novels and three historical tales. Two of these tales are translated here, but one wonders why the third, "Voskovaya persona" ("The Wax Figure"), was omitted. Lieutenant Kije, the most famous of the three tales and the basis for a well-known film as well as Prokofiev's suite, is based on the creation of a lieutenant through the slip of the pen by an army clerk, a slip having hilarious results. The lieutenant, produced by the error, is translated as Second Lieutenant Nants by Ginsburg, as Second Lieutenant Likewise (by B.G. Guerney in his translation, found in Fifty Years of Russian Prose, ed. by K. Pomorska, 1971) and as Second Lieutenant Likewise by Jane Gary Harris (in Great Soviet Short Stories, 1969). Lieutenant Kije and Young Vitushishnikov are satiric views of the courts of Paul I and Nicholas I respectively and are well worth reading in this excellent translation. Useful introduction and some uneven explanatory footnotes--e.g., explaining railway tender but not drabant (a member of the palace guard). Recommended for libraries serving graduate students, upper-division undergraduates, and general readers. -E. Yarwood, Eastern Washington University