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Reading in Russia

 | 
Damiano Rebecchini
, 
Raffaella Vassena

Writing the Russian Reader into the Text: Gogol, Turgenev, and their Audiences

Edyta M. Bojanowska

Résumé

The article argues for a generative role of reading in the writing of some of Russia’s famous classics. Drawing upon Gogol’s and Turgenev’s interactions with readers, it analyzes specific textual operations – revisions, additions, or deletions – which authors made to existing texts, or to those in progress, in response to readers’ reactions. Transcending the roles granted to readers in the theoretical paradigms of reception history, book history, and the history of reading, Russian readers influenced the course of Russian literature not merely from birth, but from inception. Texts were burned and altered in response to, or in anticipation of, their reactions. As such, the Russian reader should be seen as part of textuality, not its aftermath.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Tolstoy 2010: 258. (“Они ждали рассказа о том, как горел он весь в огне, сам себя не помня, как бур (...)

1In a well-known episode from War and Peace (Voina i mir), the young Nikolai Rostov fails to narrate his experience of battle truthfully because he succumbs to his audience’s expectations. These expectations annul the story of what actually happened: how he fell off a horse, sprained his arm, and ignominiously fled from a Frenchman. His listeners “expected a story of how, beside himself and all aflame with excitement, he had flown like a storm at the square, cut his way in, slashed right and left, how his sabre had tasted flesh, and he had fallen exhausted, and so on. And so he told them all that.”1 Tolstoy uses Nikolai’s lack of spine to illustrate the cardinal sin of authors: writing to please readers, changing the story to fit worn-out conventions, taking one’s cue from the audience.

2For an author like Tolstoy, who felt answerable not to any inner vision of reality but to Truth, such transgression looms large. But many Russian writers were less squeamish about modifying their text on cues from their readers. Leaving beside the question of verisimilitude, so central for Tolstoy, this article will examine the practice of specific textual operations – revisions, additions, or deletions – which authors made to existing texts, or to those in progress, in response to readers’ reactions or in order to tailor these texts for specific audiences.

  • 2 Reitblat 2009: 38-53.
  • 3 Though readers’input is not his focus, William Mills Todd, III offers an illuminating account of a (...)
  • 4 Examples of censors tampering with texts aimed for publication are too familiar for any researcher (...)

3Serialization, which for most of the century determined the course of Russian literature more than book publishing, provided a mechanism for such a dialog.2 Periodical culture created a class of professional readers – the reviewers. Both the reviews and word-of-mouth opinions that followed a work’s test run in the journals often prompted authors to revise their works prior to separate publications.3 Though part of a much larger institutional framework in which Russian literature functioned, one should also mention in this context the negotiations between writers and the readers on government pay – the censors – that altered many works either temporarily or permanently.4 The practice of reading one’s work-in-progress at salon gatherings allowed writers the opportunity to modify their drafts based on listeners’ spontaneous reactions. A reception of an earlier work could also to some degree fashion a subsequent one. I therefore wish to argue for a generative role for reading in the actual writing of some of Russia’s famous classics. In discussing this dynamic, I will draw upon Nikolai Gogol’s and Ivan Turgenev’s interactions with their readers.

  • 5 Bojanowska 2007: 224-233.
  • 6 Sękowski J., Review of Revizor (1836), by N. V. Gogol, Biblioteka dlia chteniia, 1836, 16: 38 (“Kri (...)
  • 7 Bulgarin F., Review of Revizor (1836) by N. V. Gogol, Severnaia pchela, 1836, 97: 1-4.
  • 8 Gogol 2004, Dead Souls [1842]: 233. The Russian text reads: “город не был в глуши а, напротив, неда (...)

4As I have shown elsewhere, the stormy reception of The Government Inspector (Revizor, 1836) in part shaped Dead Souls (Mertvye dushi, 1842).5 Faddei Bulgarin and Józef Sękowski had accused Gogol in their reviews of passing off in Revizor as Russian the Ukrainian trash with which he was familiar. “His small town is more likely to be located in Ukraine [Little Russia] or Belorussia than in any other part of Russia” – opined Sękowski.6 Bulgarin chimed in: “The spitting image of the Sandwich Islands in the era of Captain Cook!” But later he too settled on a correspondence a bit closer to home: “[the author] dragged the landowners from Ukraine [Little Russia]. This is the real Ukrainian or Belorussian petty gentry, in all its beauty. Such noblemen, with such mores and tricks [ukhvatki], are not to be found in the Great Russian districts.”7 Such accusations are the reason why the narrator of Gogol’s Dead Souls is adamant that the novel takes place “not in some backwater, but, on the contrary, not far from both capitals.”8 Far from a random detail, this is a strategy aimed to locate the novel’s place of action in Russia’s ethnic heartland. Taught by his earlier experiences, Gogol is at pains to establish that his satirical edge is aimed at Russia, not its imperial peripheries.

5Indeed, a significant textual component of Dead Souls stems from Gogol’s polemic with the critics of The Government Inspector. These include the three famous lyrical digressions, which Gogol added to his novel in the final stages of his work: about the Russian word, Russian space, and Russia as troika. Taken jointly, these digressions provide the nationalistic antidote (though not without its own ironies) to the distinctly anti-nationalistic main body of the novel that paints a satirical image of contemporary Russia. Accused of Ukrainian two-facedness and defaming the Russian nation in his comedy, Gogol added these digressions to Dead Souls in order to deflect similar criticisms and beef up his novel’s nationalistic bona fides.

6While attempting to mollify his readers, Gogol simultaneously strove to argue with what he saw as their very narrow conception of authorship and of permissible subject matter. Chapter 7 of Dead Souls thus features a long digression about the lucky lot of a writer who shows only the beautiful exceptions to real life, and the unenviable lot of a hard-hitting satirist, unafraid to expose ugliness yet able to “elevate it into a pearl of creation”:

  • 9 Gogol 2004: 148-149. The Russian text (with corresponding abbreviations) reads: “писатель, который (...)

Happy is the writer who, after ignoring characters that are boring, repulsive, astounding in their sad actuality, gravitates toward characters that manifest the high dignity of man, who […] has chosen only a few exceptions, who not once has altered the elevated pitch of his lyre […]. He has beclouded people’s eyes with intoxicating incense, he has flattered them wondrously, concealing what is sad in life, showing them man in all his splendor. All clap their hands and hasten after him, and rush to follow his triumphal chariot. A great universal poet they dub him, one who soars high above all the other geniuses of the world […] But such is not the lot […] of the writer who has made bold to summon forth […] all the dreadful, appalling morass of trifles that mires our lives, all that lies deep inside the cold, fragmented, quotidian characters with which our earthly path swarms […] [T] he false, unfeeling judgment of the time, which will brand as worthless and base the creations cherished by him, will assign him an ignoble corner in the ranks of those writers who offend humanity, will attach to him the qualities of the heroes depicted by none but himself […] For the judgment of the time does not acknowledge that much spiritual depth is needed to illuminate a picture drawn from ignoble life and elevate it into the pearl of creation […] and that lofty enraptured laughter is worthy of taking its place beside the lofty lyrical impulse.9

  • 10 Bojanowska 2009: 173-196.
  • 11 Bojanowska 2007: 197-204.

7This passage vividly accentuates the prerogative of Gogol’s own poetics over the Pushkinian one, as the crowd-pleaser in this dichotomy strongly resembles Gogol’s image of Pushkin.10 But it also directly responds to many reviews’ criticisms of The Government Inspector’s dirty, unseemly subject matter and tries to educate Russian readers that artistic treatment of lowly subjects can be lofty.11

8Gogol was obsessed with readers’ opinions. The stormy reception of his comedy shocked him. The road from the reviews of The Government Inspector to Dead Souls leads through a text titled “Leaving the Theater after the Performance of a New Comedy” (Teatral’nyi raz’ezd posle predstavleniia novoi komedii). Although Gogol began writing it immediately after his comedy’s premiere, the text appeared only in the 1842 edition of Gogol’s Collected Works. “Leaving the Theater” is a long, thirty-six page dramatized scene of audience’s conversations that followed a performance of The Government Inspector, though the title is not mentioned. It is essentially a play about readers’ responses to the play, which echoes, parses, and deflects points raised in official and unofficial polemics around Gogol’s comedy.

  • 12 Ibid.: 205-207.
  • 13 Androsov V. P., Review of Revizor (1836) by N. V. Gogol, Moskovskii nabliudatel’, 1836, 121-131.

9Gogol invokes in “Leaving the Theater” the ideas from the printed reviews of Viazemskii, Androsov, Belinskii, Bulgarin, and Sękowski.12 For example, in his review in The Moscow Observer (Moskovskii nabliudatel’), V. P. Androsov defended Gogol from those detractors who were eager to classify The Government Inspector as popular entertainment of questionable taste because it was a comedy, hence a “low” genre. Androsov countered that contemporary comedy was a high genre, one that aimed to reveal how one’s position in society enabled the flourishing of one’s vices.13 Gogol picks up this line of defense and makes it the central claim of “Leaving the Theater”:

  • 14 “Странно: мне жаль, что никто не заметил честного лица, бывшего в моей пьесе. Да было честное, благ (...)

It’s strange. I regret that no one noticed the positive character in my play. Yes, there was one honest, noble character that acted throughout the play’s duration: it was laughter. It was noble because it dared to perform despite the lowly importance given to it in society […] and despite the demeaning calling of a cold egoist given to the comedy’s author […]. Indeed, laughter is deeper and more meaningful than people suppose.14

10A comedic author can be a serious writer, Gogol avers, following Androsov. This argument from “Leaving the Theater” then resurfaces in Dead Souls in the digression about the hard lot of a satirical author. The argument’s trajectory is traceable to Androsov’s review, and leads through Gogol’s “Leaving the Theater,” all the way to Dead Souls. In sum, specific, and often quite prominent, passages in Dead Souls, found their way into the novel as a result of Gogol’s dialog with the audience of The Government Inspector.

  • 15 Bojanowska 2007: 155-156, 320-321; Bojanowska 2012a: 162-167.

11Yet despite his defiant posturing, Gogol did not have the stomach for polemic. His example shows that the audience’s reactions may have made the lifespan of certain potentially famous texts exceedingly short. Such was the fate of Gogol’s tragedy about Zaporozhe that he worked on in 1839-41. Gogol billed it as his “best work,” but then suddenly burned it after Zhukovsky fell asleep during Gogol’s reading of it. Since Gogol was hailed as a mesmerizing lector, he had reasons to worry about this soporific reception. His friends’ impatience with the continuance of Gogol’s Ukrainian interests, when a panoramic epic of Russia was in greater demand, may have played a role in this episode.15 The famous incineration of the drafts of Dead Souls, vol. 2, in my view also involved what by then had become Gogol’s tug-of-war with his readers. This act represented Gogol’s recognition that he was unable to cater to his readers’ demand for an uplifting vision of Russia in a way that would allow him to remain true to his vision of reality as well as to his literary inclinations and narrative habits.

  • 16 “Я не сжег (потому что боялся впасть в подражание Гоголю), но изорвал и бросил в watercloset все мо (...)
  • 17 “Я вследствие твоего суждения, прибавленного к суждениям других, бросил один начатый роман в огонь” (...)
  • 18 Ibid.

12A negative reaction of readers to a work-in-progress is also responsible for the fact that Ivan Turgenev’s uncharacteristic exercise in the long novel form has not survived the draft stage. Turgenev’s projected 3-part novel Two Generations (Dva pokoleniia, 1852-1855), of which he realized the first 500-page part and began the second, suffered the fate of Gogol’s ill-starred manuscripts. An unfavorable reaction of a small group of friends caused Turgenev to destroy it. The novel told the story of a despotic female landowner and, for all we know, took inspiration from Gogol’s satiric vistas of provincial Russia. Turgenev was eager at the time to make a transition from the short story genre, which brought him fame with his Notes of a Hunter (Zapiski okhotnika, 1852), to longer narrative forms. He was crushed by his friends’ rejection of Two Generations. He later reported to V. P. Botkin: “I did not burn [the manuscript] (because I was afraid of falling into an imitation of Gogol), but I ripped all my beginnings and plans and threw them into a watercloset.”16 In a letter to one of the novel’s most zealous critics, N. Kh. Ketcher, he later claimed to have burned it precisely because of these negative reactions: “as a consequence of your judgment, compounded by the judgment of others, I threw one novel I had begun into the fire.”17 That two editors of the prestigious journal The Contemporary (Sovremennik) – Nikolai Nekrasov and Nikolai Chernyshevsky – begged to publish the novel, was not enough to save it.18

  • 19 Ibid: 56.

13It is entirely possible that in the case of both Gogol and Turgenev, readers’ reactions may have mercifully spared future generations of scholars painful slogs through substandard works of otherwise great writers – we will never know. Yet from the perspective of Russian intellectual and literary history, it is significant that the opposition to these works was in large measure ideological or grounded in artistic objections that do not in themselves appear sound today. Though praised for its depictions of nature, Turgenev’s Two Generations was ultimately given thumbs down because it did not feature sympathetic characters, did not show worthy social ideals, and because it followed too close in Gogol’s footsteps.19 Indeed, the period immediately following Gogol’s death in 1852 saw a sharp debate about the value of Gogol’s contribution to Russian culture. Many saw him as the spiritual father of the natural school, whose critiques of Russia’s contemporary life were deemed overly sharp and nihilistic.

  • 20 Ostrovskii 1999: 103-105.
  • 21 “Oбщественный интерес – вот что должно быть задачей литературных произведений quoted in Nazarova 19 (...)

14Turgenev happened to admire Gogol and was in fact rereading his satirical works while writing Two Generations. It is on account of his politically sensitive obituary of Gogol, published in The Moscow News (Moskovskie vedomosti 32 [1852]), that Turgenev was exiled to his estate and placed under police supervision in the years 1852-1853.20 He used this time to work on Two Generations. Indeed, one of Turgenev’s critical readers, Sergei Timofeevich Aksakov, is the very same person who had earlier tried to correct Gogol’s “falsely” pessimistic visions of Russia. Aksakov’s golden wisdom for Turgenev was: “social relevance – that’s the true goal of literary works.”21 If such were the work’s transgressions, we may well wish it had not ended up in the watercloset.

15As the above examples from Gogol’s and Turgenev’s creative biographies show, the communities of Russian readers had a powerful and largely unappreciated influence over the course of Russian letters. We know a lot about censorship as a tool of ideological surveillance in tsarist Russia. But the functionaries of the Censorship office were not Russian literature’s only censors.

  • 22 Girard 1965.
  • 23 “Приделал я же старушку на конце – во-первых, потому, что это действительно так было – а во-вторых, (...)

16The text’s disappearance was one possible effect of the readers’ negative verdict. Additions or changes to texts that continue their life to the present day was another. I will now illustrate examples of the latter in reference to Turgenev’s 1860 tale “First Love” (Pervaia liubov’). Turgenev’s worries about readers’ reactions to this tale are an important reason why its ending features a grim scene, completely unrelated to the rest of the narrative in terms of plot, of the death of an old woman, a neighbor of the narrator, Vladimir Petrovich. From the perspective of now much older age, the narrator reports that this event had an unexpected effect on him: this woman’s death opened him up to mourning the death of his beloved Zinaida. There may well be both an artistic and a psychological rationale to triangulate the narrator’s experience of death in much the same way that his desire, in a dynamic well traced by René Girard, is triangulated in the story.22 But Turgenev himself cited anticipated charges of immorality as an important reason for including this episode: “I attached the old woman to the ending – firstly because that’s what really happened, and secondly, because without this sobering ending the outcry about immorality would have been even stronger.”23 The story’s “sobering” ending, though based on autobiographical verisimilitude, is a preemptive strike against anticipated accusations in immorality and levity.

17Turgenev continued to repackage “First Love” for the benefit of the European reader. The story actually exists in domestic and export varieties, so to speak. For the purpose of the French translation by Delaveau, which appeared in 1863, Turgenev wrote what he came to call the story’s “tail” (khvost). In this ‘export’ version the story became also known to German speaking audiences. Unlike the Russian version that we know well, the French and German texts featured a return in the ending to the frame narrative in which Vladimir Petrovich’s friends discuss the story of his first love. This is how they report their reaction:

  • 24 “-Нам стало жутко от вашего простого и безыскусственного рассказа... не потому чтобы он нас поразил (...)

“We felt dreadful after hearing your simple and artless tale – not because we were struck by any immorality in it. No, there’s something deeper and darker in it than simply immorality. You yourself are not to blame at all, but one senses here some general, national guilt, something resembling a crime.”
“What an exaggeration!” remarked Vladimir Petrovich.
“Perhaps. But I repeat the words from Hamlet: ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark!’”24

  • 25 See, for example, Kiiko 1964 and Brouwer 2010. The explanations typically mention the deleterious s (...)

18To Vladimir’s fictional audience, the story appears uniquely Russian, and features some collective, national guilt that resembles a crime. The famous quote from Hamlet augments a foreboding of political unrest: “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” The meaning of this political ‘tail’ has generated some commentary but no robust explanation.25 My own political exegesis of the story, which this export ending corroborates, focuses on the problem of empire. This is a story not just about first love, but about the anxieties of empire, and the weight of state violence that dooms a Russian idyll.

  • 26 Kiiko 1964: 64.
  • 27 Already in 1852, in his correspondence with Konstantin Sergeevich Aksakov, Turgenev contrasted his (...)

19But for the subject of relations between authors and readers, two things are important. First, the ending is a direct response to charges of “immorality” (beznravstvennost’) that shadowed Turgenev’s career and peaked in reactions to “First Love.” Both the political ‘tail’ and the appearance of the old woman in the ending represent concrete textual additions that respond to actual readers’ responses. The political ‘tail’ of the French translation of 1863 also responds to the accusation of indifference to burning social questions that Russian readers of “First Love” leveled at Turgenev.26 Second, the existence of two different endings opens up a question of whether Turgenev fashions a different story for his foreign readers, or whether the ‘export’ ending merely makes explicit what is already encoded in the ‘domestic’ text. I support the second view. The Western European reader needed to be sensitized to what the cultural native could read between the lines. Turgenev invites us in this alternative ending to ponder the elusive political backdrop of his love story and to see this love’s twisted course as evocative of the “something” that is “rotten” in the Russian state, the “deep dark immorality” on which this state rests. This would certainly have been a censorable sentiment within Russia, so it belonged between the lines.27 It could only be broached openly in versions published abroad.

  • 28 Kiiko 1964: facsimile of the French translation facing p. 67
  • 29 These volumes were: Scènes de la vie russe, par M. I. Tourgenéff. Nouvelles russes. avec l’autorisa (...)
  • 30 Much later, in 1882, Turgenev denied that he wrote the ‘tail’ to “First Love,” but evidence to the (...)

20And yet the paratextual presentation of “First Love” in the French edition did result in a different story. The story appeared in a volume entitled Nouvelle Scènes de la Vie Russe. Eléna. Un premier amour (Paris, E. Dentu, 1863). This signals a subtle change. The ‘domestic’ “First Love,” if it fashions itself as a metonymy of a larger national landscape, it does so only timidly. But for the purpose of French readers, this aspect is brought to the fore. The “national guilt,” which in Turgenev’s manuscript appears as politically less strident “ narodnaia vina,” is rendered in the French in emphatically national terms, as “un crime national.”28 This is no longer a scene from a life, but from a Russian life. Turgenev allows his work to participate in French essentializing of Russia. Up to this point, he had consistently done so in other volumes of his fiction translated into French, presenting himself as a purveyor of Russian couleur locale and of authentic contemporary Russia.29 In its ‘export’ version, “First Love” becomes an icon of Russianness for the consumption of Western European audiences, one that, through its political ending, signals Turgenev’s sense of a national malaise.30

  • 31 Rose 2001: 107-109.

21As Jonathan Rose usefully reminds us in his work on the British working class reader, given the variety of forms in which texts were available in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – periodical versions, chapbook abridgements, anthologies, or unauthorized knock-offs – a recovery of what a text meant to readers and why it came to mean it is exceedingly hard to reconstruct by sitting down with today’s ‘definitive’ scholarly editions. Rose offers an example of one mid-century chapbook edition of Robinson Crusoe that is eight pages long and mentions Friday only in the last paragraph.31 A similar problem obtains in the case of translations, which, as Turgenev’s example shows, may have had different textual and paratextual incarnations for different communities of readers. Differences in the texts of “First Love” available to western European and Russian readers would make the story mean slightly different things to these two publics.

  • 32 Tolstoy, “Posleslovie k rasskazu Chekhova ‘Dushechka’” 1928-1964, 41: 374-377; the text of “The Dar (...)

22While concrete flesh-and-blood readers changed the shape of Russian literary works, some works may have been refashioned by their authors or editors to suit their conceptions of different target audiences. Translations could be geared toward foreign audiences, but the domestic audience was also further differentiated, for publishing purposes, by class or educational level. Tolstoy’s repackaging of Chekhov’s short story “The Darling” (Dushechka) for his common reader Sunday Reading (Nedel’noe chteniie) is a case in point. Much as he inveighs against tampering with the story to suit an audience in the Nikolai Rostov episode with which I began, late Tolstoy had no problem ‘tolstoyfying’ Chekhov’s text for the lower-class reader. He makes the Darling character into a saintly symbol of selfless love, rather out of keeping with Chekhkov’s more complex design. In order to reengineer Chekhov’s central character, Tolstoy deleted portions of Chekhov’s text and resorted to a paratextual manipulation by appending his own explanatory afterword to the story. In this afterword, Tolstoy recognized Chekhov’s attempts to ridicule the Darling, but claimed that this character escaped the author’s intention: Chekhov ended up “blessing what he meant to curse.”32 As a reader-turned-editor, Tolstoy boldly inscribes his own intentions on Chekhov’s text.

23The material I presented prompts certain reflections of a theoretical nature. My claim that readers should be seen as co-generators of texts may well seem obvious. We all know that writers routinely ask friends for opinions about their work-in-progress and are typically sensitive about published reviews (Gogol and Turgenev certainly were). We all know about the practice of self-censorship. And it is also true that, whatever the advice, the author nearly always exercises the ultimate say.

  • 33 Iser 1978.
  • 34 Finkelstein and McCleery 2006: 21.

24And yet, reception theory and book history all work with the notion of the reader as a receptor of basically completed texts. For reception theory, readers’ creativity comes in only at the point of reconstituting the work of art in one’s reading. Meaning is not an object to be decoded, but an effect of a tension between the explicit and implicit that is to be experienced. This tension, in Wolfgang Iser’s view, introduces into texts places of indeterminacy, or structural ‘blanks’ which the reader must fill.33 It is a text-based approach, whereby interpretive choices are always already encoded in the text itself. Book history and history of reading aim to reconstruct a social context of reading: “who read what, in what conditions, at what time, and to what effect.”34 Such studies move away from reception theory’s abstract ‘reader’ toward empirically located reading communities, differentiated by factors such as class, education, gender, religion, nationality, or geographic location. Their experiences are reconstructed through research of such sources as library data, readers’ private journals or correspondence, sales records, social practices associated with reading, or transnational trajectories of dissemination.

  • 35 Fish 2006: 450, 452. As Fish puts it, “Rather than intention and its formal realization producing i (...)
  • 36 Chartier 1994: 21.

25In contrast to reception history’s abstract reader, who reacts to structural prompts of the text itself, and book history’s socially located reader (or, arguably, socially constrained one), the reader posited by Stanley Fish is granted considerable agency. Arguing against reception theory’s treatment of reading as “the disposable machinery of extraction,” Fish argues that there is no sense in texts; sense is created only through the reading of texts. In Fish’s conception, reading is a dynamic process of sense making that proceeds through perceptual closures and their continuous revision with each subsequent portion of the text. For Fish, both author’s intentions and formal features that supposedly encode them do not exist prior to interpretative acts, so in this sense, readers ‘write’ texts.35 Roger Chartier departs from these models in yet another direction by extending the role of the reader prior to the production of the printed text. He argues that “strategies for writing and publishing were governed by the supposed skills and expectations of target publics.”36 This means, for example, that the nineteenth-century social practice of reading aloud was factored into how certain nineteenth-century books were written.

26What I am suggesting in this article is at once more basic and more radical. As my examples show, readers ‘write’ texts not only by endowing them with semantic and formal dimensions that could not otherwise be said to exist (as Fish has it). And reading may well factor into writing as more than just a set of assumptions and expectations that writers adopt when writing their books (Chartier’s focus). While the social context of reading is undoubtedly important, the social context of writing merits attention as well, by which I mean the interactions between authors and their contemporary readers who aided, validated, directed, and disciplined the authors’ ongoing creative work before it reached the printed page.

27My encounters with Russian readers on the occasion of my research in nineteenth-century Russian literature show that they were feisty and engaged, sometimes pushy, hands-on even when their hands were not welcome. Russian readers influenced the course of Russian literature not merely from birth, but from inception. If I may be permitted a clinical metaphor, theirs were in utero interventions. These readers have claimed an amazing degree of ownership in various authors’ works-in-progress and exhibited a sense of joint responsibility for the unfolding course of Russian letters, its direction and values. The reaction against the Gogolian trend in Russian literature, to which Gogol himself and later Turgenev were subjected, was marshaled by an influential elite of readers with close ties to the authors. These were often personal interactions, not with some disembodied, abstract ‘reader,’ but with concrete people. Texts were burned and altered in response to, or in anticipation of, these readers’ reactions – their reviews or letters or reactions to drafts or to salon readings.

28Russian readers thus come into the picture before the publication of the books they read. Their role begins prior to the completion of a work of art. As such, we should see the reader as part of textuality, not its aftermath. The Russian readers wrote themselves into texts. As scholars, we should write them back in too.

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Rose J., 2001, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, New Haven, Yale University Press.

Todd W. M., III, 1986, “The Brothers Karamazov and the Poetics of Serial Publication,” Dostoevsky Studies, 7: 87–97.

—, 1995, “The Responsibilities of (Co-) Authorship: Notes on Revising the Serialized Version of Anna Karenina,” in Allen E. C., Morson G. S., eds., Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature, Evanston, Northwestern Univ. Press: 159–69.

Tolstoy L., 2010, War and Peace, tr. L. and A. Maude, ed. A. Mandelker, Oxford University Press.

—, 1989, I Cannot Be Silent: Writings on Politics, Art and Religion by Leo Tolstoy, Bedminster and Bristol, The Bristol Press.

—, 1928–1964, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 90 tomakh, Moskva – Leningrad, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo.

Turgenev I. S., 1960–1968, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem v dvadtsati vos’mi tomakh, Moskva, Izdatel’stvo Ak. Nauk SSSR.

Notes

1 Tolstoy 2010: 258. (“Они ждали рассказа о том, как горел он весь в огне, сам себя не помня, как бурею налетал на каре; как врубался в него, рубил направо и налево; как сабля отведала мяса и как он падал в изнеможении, и тому подобное. И он рассказал им все это” [Bk. 1, Pt. 3, ch. 7; Tolstoi 1928-1964, 9: 296]).

2 Reitblat 2009: 38-53.

3 Though readers’input is not his focus, William Mills Todd, III offers an illuminating account of a transition between the serialized and book versions of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (Todd 1995). See also his discussion of a “poetics of serial publication” (Todd 1986).

4 Examples of censors tampering with texts aimed for publication are too familiar for any researcher of Russian literature to require an account. Soviet editors eliminated most such emendations. However, some remain inscribed on the now famous classics. Apparently, tsaristera censors were sensitive about Polish government officials peopling Russian fiction. The clerk hero of Gogol’s “The Overcoat,” the hapless Akakii Akakievich, was initially conceived as a Pole by the name of Tyszkiewicz but then Russified as Bashmachkin (Gogol 1937-1952, 3: 451; Bojanowska 2007: 175). The censor required Chekhov to change the name of the government official in The Duel (Duel’, 1891), Ładziewski, to a less overtly Polish “Laevskii” (Bojanowska 2012b: 44). Captain Kopeikin’s decision, in Gogol’s Dead Souls, to emigrate to the United States, also remains among the censor’s cuts (Bojanowska 2007: 223).

5 Bojanowska 2007: 224-233.

6 Sękowski J., Review of Revizor (1836), by N. V. Gogol, Biblioteka dlia chteniia, 1836, 16: 38 (“Kritika”).

7 Bulgarin F., Review of Revizor (1836) by N. V. Gogol, Severnaia pchela, 1836, 97: 1-4.

8 Gogol 2004, Dead Souls [1842]: 233. The Russian text reads: “город не был в глуши а, напротив, недалеко от обеих столиц” (Gogol 1937-1952, 6: 206).

9 Gogol 2004: 148-149. The Russian text (with corresponding abbreviations) reads: “писатель, который мимо характеров скучных, противных, поражающих печальною своей действительностью, приближается к характерам, являющим высокое достоинство человека, который […] избрал одни немногие исключения, который не изменял ни разу возвышенного строя своей лиры […] Он окурил упоительным куревом людские очи; он чудно польстил им, сокрыв печальное в жизни, показав им прекрасного человека. Всё, рукоплеща, несется за ним и мчится вслед за торжественной его колесницей. Великим всемирным поэтом именуют его, парящим высоко над всеми другими гениями мира […] Но не таков удел […] писателя, дерзнувшего вызвать наружу всё, что ежеминутно пред очами и чего не зрят равнодушные очи, всю страшную, потрясающую тину мелочей, опутавших нашу жизнь, всю глубину холодных, раздробленных, повседневных характеров, которыми кишит наша земная […] дорога […] Ему не […] избежать наконец […] лицемерно-бесчувственного современного суда, который назовет ничтожными и низкими им лелеянные созданья, отведет ему презренный угол в ряду писателей, оскорбляющих человечество, придаст ему качества им же изображенных героев […] Ибо не признаёт современный суд, […] что много нужно глубины душевной, дабы озарить картину, взятую из презренной жизни, и возвести ее в перл созданья; ибо не признаёт современный суд, что высокий восторженный смех достоин стать рядом с высоким лирическим движеньем” (Gogol 1937-1952, 6: 133-134).

10 Bojanowska 2009: 173-196.

11 Bojanowska 2007: 197-204.

12 Ibid.: 205-207.

13 Androsov V. P., Review of Revizor (1836) by N. V. Gogol, Moskovskii nabliudatel’, 1836, 121-131.

14 “Странно: мне жаль, что никто не заметил честного лица, бывшего в моей пьесе. Да было честное, благородное лицо, действовавшее в ней во все продолжение ее. Это честное, благородное лицо был – смех. Он был благороден, потому, что решился выступить, несмотря на низкое значение, которое дается ему в свете […] несмотря на то, что доставил обидное прозвание комику, прозвание холодного эгоиста […] Нет, смех значительней и глубже, чем думают” (Gogol 1937-1952, 5: 169, emphasis Gogol’s, translation mine – E. M. B.).

15 Bojanowska 2007: 155-156, 320-321; Bojanowska 2012a: 162-167.

16 “Я не сжег (потому что боялся впасть в подражание Гоголю), но изорвал и бросил в watercloset все мои начинания и планы и т. д....”; Turgenev’s letter of 17 February (1 March) 1857 to V. P. Botkin, quoted in Nazarova 1964: 57.

17 “Я вследствие твоего суждения, прибавленного к суждениям других, бросил один начатый роман в огонь”; Turgenev’s letter of 26 September (8 October) 1861 to N. Kh. Ketcher, quoted in Nazarova 1964: 57.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid: 56.

20 Ostrovskii 1999: 103-105.

21 “Oбщественный интерес – вот что должно быть задачей литературных произведений quoted in Nazarova 1964: 56.

22 Girard 1965.

23 “Приделал я же старушку на конце – во-первых, потому, что это действительно так было – а во-вторых, потому, что без этого отрезвляющего конца крики на безнравственностъ были бы еще силнее.” Turgenev’s letter to A. A. Fet of 1 (13) June 1860 in Turgenev 1962, Pis’ma, 4: 86.

24 “-Нам стало жутко от вашего простого и безыскусственного рассказа... не потому чтобы он нас поразил своею безнравственностью – тут что-то глубже и темнее простой безнравственности. Собственно вы ни в чем не виноваты, но чувствуется какая-то общая, народная вина, что-то похоже на преступление.
-Какое преувеличение! Заметил В < ладимир > П < етрович >.
-Может быть. Но я повторяю Гамлета: “есть что-то испорченное в Датском королестве” (Turgenev 1960-1968, Sochineniia, 9: 374-375, translation mine. E. M. B.).

25 See, for example, Kiiko 1964 and Brouwer 2010. The explanations typically mention the deleterious social consequences brought on by the superfluous men’s inactivity or the dissatisfaction with the continuing legacy of serfdom.

26 Kiiko 1964: 64.

27 Already in 1852, in his correspondence with Konstantin Sergeevich Aksakov, Turgenev contrasted his pessimistic view of Russia’s political realities with those of his pollyannaish Slavophile correspondent: “Here is the precise point where we diverge in our views on Russian life and Russian art: I perceive the tragic fate of a tribe, a vast social drama – where you find tranquility and an approach of the epic” (“Здесь именно та точка, на которой мы расходимся с вами в вашем воззрении на русскую жизнь и на русское искусство: я вижу трагическую судьбу племени, великую общественную драму там, где вы находите успокоение и приближение эпоса,” Turgenev, 1960-1968, Pis’ma, 2: 72).

28 Kiiko 1964: facsimile of the French translation facing p. 67

29 These volumes were: Scènes de la vie russe, par M. I. Tourgenéff. Nouvelles russes. avec l’autorisation de l’auter par M. X. Marmier, Paris, Hachette, 1858; and Scènes de la vie russe, par M. I. Tourgenéff, Deuxième série, traduite avec la collaboration de l’auter par Louis Viardot, Paris, Hachette, 1858 (Turgenev 1960-1968, Pis’ma 5: 707).

30 Much later, in 1882, Turgenev denied that he wrote the ‘tail’ to “First Love,” but evidence to the contrary is indisputable. See Turgenev’s letter to L. Pietsch in Turgenev 1960-1968, vol. 13, Pis’ma 1: 196, 511; see also Sochineniia 9: 462-463.

31 Rose 2001: 107-109.

32 Tolstoy, “Posleslovie k rasskazu Chekhova ‘Dushechka’” 1928-1964, 41: 374-377; the text of “The Darling,” as printed in Nedel’noe chteniie, can be found on pp. 363-373. For a textological comparison of Chekhov’s and Tolstoy’s versions of “The Darling,” see Evdokimova 1993. The English text of Tolstoy’s “Afterword” can be found in Tolstoy 1989: 189-192.

33 Iser 1978.

34 Finkelstein and McCleery 2006: 21.

35 Fish 2006: 450, 452. As Fish puts it, “Rather than intention and its formal realization producing interpretation (the ‘normal’ picture), interpretation creates intention and its formal realization by creating the conditions in which it becomes possible to pick them out. In other words, in the analysis of these lines from Lycidias I did what critics always do: I ‘saw’ what my interpretive principles permitted or directed me to see, and then I turned around and attributed what I had ‘seen’ to a text and an intention” (Fish 2006: 453).

36 Chartier 1994: 21.

Auteur

She specializes in nineteenth-century Russian prose and intellectual history. She works at the intersection of history and literature, especially as regards national and imperial discourses in Russian culture. She published Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism (Harvard Univ. Press, 2007) and is currently working on a book tentatively titled Empire and the Russian Classics, about Russian literature of the 1850s-1900s. Her articles concern the evolution of Dostoevsky’s and Chekhov’s ideas about empire, Gogol’s relation to Pushkin, Russian-Ukrainian cultural relations, Babel and the poetics of the short story, and Polish poetry. She is Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her three favourite readings are: Leo Tolstoy, Hadji Murad; Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad (which is the English publication title for the book that came out in Polish as Robots’ Tales); Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn.

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