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  • Best Russian Short Stories

    by Various Authors

    Styled by LimpidSoft

    http://www.limpidsoft.com

  • Contents

    INTRODUCTION 1

    THE QUEEN OF SPADES 8I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23VI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

    THE CLOAK 29

    THE DISTRICT DOCTOR 51

    THE CHRISTMAS TREE AND THE WEDDING 58

    GOD SEES THE TRUTH, BUT WAITS 64

    HOW A MUZHIK FED TWO OFFICIALS 71

    BANQUET GIVEN BY THE MAYOR 75

    THE SHADES, A PHANTASY 79I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

    THE SIGNAL 100

    THE DARLING 108

    THE BET 118

    2

  • I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120

    VANKA 124

    HIDE AND SEEK 128I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134VI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134VII . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136VIII . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136

    DETHRONED 138

    THE SERVANT 154I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

    ONE AUTUMN NIGHT 160

    HER LOVER 168

    LAZARUS 173I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182VI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184

    THE REVOLUTIONIST 188I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194

    THE OUTRAGEA TRUE STORY 196

    3

  • The present document was derived from text provided by Project Gutenberg(document 236) which was made available free of charge. This document is alsofree of charge.

    4

  • INTRODUCTION

    CONCEIVE the joy of a lover of nature who, leaving the art galleries, wandersout among the trees and wild flowers and birds that the pictures of thegalleries have sentimentalised. It is some such joy that the man who truly lovesthe noblest in letters feels when tasting for the first time the simple delights ofRussian literature. French and English and German authors, too, occasionally,offer works of lofty, simple naturalness; but the very keynote to the whole ofRussian literature is simplicity, naturalness, veraciousness.

    Another essentially Russian trait is the quite unaffected conception that thelowly are on a plane of equality with the so-called upper classes. When theEnglishman Dickens wrote with his profound pity and understanding of thepoor, there was yet a bit; of remoteness, perhaps, even, a bit of caricature, in histreatment of them. He showed their sufferings to the rest of the world with aBehold how the other half lives! The Russian writes of the poor, as it were,from within, as one of them, with no eye to theatrical effect upon the well-to-do.There is no insistence upon peculiar virtues or vices. The poor are portrayed justas they are, as human beings like the rest of us. A democratic spirit is reflected,breathing a broad humanity, a true universality, an unstudied generosity thatproceed not from the intellectual conviction that to understand all is to forgiveall, but from an instinctive feeling that no man has the right to set himself up asa judge over another, that one can only observe and record.

    In 1834 two short stories appeared, The Queen of Spades, by Pushkin, and TheCloak, by Gogol. The first was a finishing-off of the old, outgoing style of roman-ticism, the other was the beginning of the new, the characteristically Russianstyle. We read Pushkins Queen of Spades, the first story in the volume, and thelikelihood is we shall enjoy it greatly. But why is it Russian? we ask. The an-swer is, It is not Russian. It might have been printed in an American magazineover the name of John Brown. But, now, take the very next story in the volume,The Cloak. Ah, you exclaim, a genuine Russian story, Surely. You cannot palmit off on me over the name of Jones or Smith. Why? Because The Cloak for thefirst time strikes that truly Russian note of deep sympathy with the disinherited.It is not yet wholly free from artificiality, and so is not yet typical of the purelyrealistic fiction that reached its perfected development in Turgenev and Tolstoy.

    1

  • INTRODUCTION

    Though Pushkin heads the list of those writers who made the literature oftheir country world-famous, he was still a romanticist, in the universal literaryfashion of his day. However, he already gave strong indication of the peculiarlyRussian genius for naturalness or realism, and was a true Russian in his sim-plicity of style. In no sense an innovator, but taking the cue for his poetry fromByron and for his prose from the romanticism current at that period, he was notin advance of his age. He had a revolutionary streak in his nature, as his Odeto Liberty and other bits of verse and his intimacy with the Decembrist rebelsshow. But his youthful fire soon died down, and he found it possible to accom-modate himself to the life of a Russian high functionary and courtier under thesevere despot Nicholas I, though, to be sure, he always hated that life. For allhis flirting with revolutionarism, he never displayed great originality or depthof thought. He was simply an extraordinarily gifted author, a perfect versifier,a wondrous lyrist, and a delicious raconteur, endowed with a grace, ease andpower of expression that delighted even the exacting artistic sense of Turgenev.To him aptly applies the dictum of Socrates: Not by wisdom do the poets writepoetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration. I do not mean to convey that as athinker Pushkin is to be despised. Nevertheless, it is true that he would occupya lower position in literature did his reputation depend upon his contributionsto thought and not upon his value as an artist.

    We are all descended from Gogols Cloak, said a Russian writer. And Dos-toyevskys novel, Poor People, which appeared ten years later, is, in a way, merelyan extension of Gogols shorter tale. In Dostoyevsky, indeed, the passion forthe common people and the all-embracing, all-penetrating pity for suffering hu-manity reach their climax. He was a profound psychologist and delved deeplyinto the human soul, especially in its abnormal and diseased aspects. Betweenscenes of heart-rending, abject poverty, injustice, and wrong, and the tormentsof mental pathology, he managed almost to exhaust the whole range of humanwoe. And he analysed this misery with an intensity of feeling and a painstakingregard for the most harrowing details that are quite upsetting to normally con-stituted nerves. Yet all the horrors must be forgiven him because of the motiveinspiring theman overpowering love and the desire to induce an equal love inothers. It is not horror for horrors sake, not a literary tour de force, as in Poe, buthorror for a high purpose, for purification through suffering, which was one ofthe articles of Dostoyevskys faith.

    Following as a corollary from the love and pity for mankind that make a lead-ing element in Russian literature, is a passionate search for the means of im-proving the lot of humanity, a fervent attachment to social ideas and ideals. ARussian author is more ardently devoted to a cause than an American short-story writer to a plot. This, in turn, is but a reflection of the spirit of the Russianpeople, especially of the intellectuals. The Russians take literature perhaps moreseriously than any other nation. To them books are not a mere diversion. Theydemand that fiction and poetry be a true mirror of life and be of service to life.A Russian author, to achieve the highest recognition, must be a thinker also.

    2

  • INTRODUCTION

    He need not necessarily be a finished artist. Everything is subordinated to twomain requirementshumanitarian ideals and fidelity to life. This is the secret ofthe marvellous simplicity of Russian-literary art. Before the supreme function ofliterature, the Russian writer stands awed and humbled. He knows he cannotcover up poverty of thought, poverty of spirit and lack of sincerity by rhetoricaltricks or verbal cleverness. And if he possesses the two essential requirements,the simplest language will suffice.