That was then, this is now — Pushkin under lockdown

In autumn 1830, Pushkin was confined by a cholera outbreak to the village of Boldino, his father’s remote country estate in southeastern Russia. Desperate to return to Moscow to marry, he wrote to his fiancée: “There are five quarantine zones between here and Moscow, and I would have to spend fourteen days in each. Do the maths and imagine what a foul mood I am in.”

Pushkin went on complaining bitterly but, with nothing else to do, he produced an astonishing number of masterpieces — short stories, short plays, lyric and narrative poems, and the last two chapters of his verse novel Eugene Onegin — in a mere three months.

Here is the full FT piece by Robert Chandler.


Deplore pay to view, as subscription only content disenfranchises those unable to afford it. The U.K. Guardian newspaper (online) model seems to be effective, publish quality journalism & request donations (only a few bucks) readers. No paywalls and the free dissemination of quality writing.

"quality journalism"? The Guardian? Hell, you'll learn more of human life in the Daily Mail, God help us.

Or more commonly known as the ‘Daily Malice’ for it’s vitriolic & spiteful right wing condemnation of the poor, disabled folks or those societally excluded by austerity & welfare cuts.

Given time and diligent effort, you too may learn to think in something other than cliches.

It’s been widely documented both anecdotally and by the U.K. Office of National Statistics (O.N.S.) that the Conservative governments degradation and in some cases unsanctioned withdrawal of benefits from vulnerable people led to thousands of unnecessary deaths and untold misery. The only thing cliched is not to think that a right wing administration predicated their austerity program on the poor and dispossessed because they were easy targets. Here’s another cliche, the Tories (Conservatives) are colloquially known as the ‘Nasty Party’ in the U.K. for good reason.

Isaac Newton also found a good way to while away the time while distant from London. Bocaccio's "Decameron". Shakespeare while an epidemic shut down London's theaters.

OTOH we're less likely to hear about other artists, scientists, and creators who stagnated while quarantined.

You beat me to the Newton "plague work."

Thank God, we have Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dog!

Here is another story from the same epidemic that's still relevant today.

Pushkin's closest friend, a poet and an aristocrat, Prince Peter Vyazemsky also waited out the 1830 cholera outbreak in his rural estate, together with his family and his young son's French tutor. The whole family was keenly interested in news of the epidemic, and the Frenchman, a major hypochondriac, was worried most of all. Finally, a report came down that the disease had receded and it was safe to return now. But the tutor objected: he learned from le Journal des Debats that hundreds of people were dying every day from cholera! The Prince tried to calm him down; that newspaper came from France and was at least a month and a half out of date! But the Frenchman insisted that official reports from Moscow could not be trusted and only French newspapers were telling the truth.

190 years later, hardly anything changed.

Good one! Here's another story about Pushkin that's relevant today (Black Lives Matter): Pushkin was black! "The Russian writer Alexander Pushkin’s great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was kidnapped as a child from the shores of Lake Chad and taken to serve in the court of Sultan Ahmet III. In 1704, aged just six, he was sent to St Petersburg as a gift for Peter the Great, who brought him up as his godson and propelled him to great fame as a military engineer" - Scott, Alev., Ottoman Odyssey: Travels Through a Lost Empire

Bonus trivia: Australian researchers just discovered a cure for Covid-19: Ivermectin. Google this, you're welcome. It's probably off-patent but if it works, they can apply for a 'method patent' (new use for an old drug).

In vitro you can show that plenty of things kill the virus.
e.g. salt, soap

In vivo is a different beast entirely. How willing are you to inject yourself with salt or soap to treat COVID19?

Remdesivir is a much better bet aimed directly at stopping viral replication through a clever mechanism of competitive viral polymerase blocking.

Yes I'm aware of the difference between in vivo and in vitro, but keep in mind these Australian guys have first hand knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 (the Covid-19 virus), since I speculate they worked on this probable chimeric virus, as did the Wuhan lab, and per the NC (Chapel Hill) paper of 2015 ( ).

The saviors of the world might be the same team(s) that worked on the escaped chimeric virus that is the Covid-19 virus in the first place. They are the most familiar with it. That was proved early this year when the 2015 paper Chinese surnamed authors were the first to decode the Covid-19 virus. Also note that anti-malarial, antihelminthic drugs seem to work against Covid-19; recall the quinine derivative drug that Trump trumpeted. See a list of these drugs here:

Stay tuned...Monday should be a positive day in the stock market I'm guessing.

In three months he could have traveled through six quarantine zones and still had time to write all that stuff.

But he would had a different mood, getting increasingly optimistic as he got closer to his love. Would his writing been better or worse?

I'm of the belief that adversity and melancholy are better stimulants of creativity. Romance is a distraction from productivity.

But adversity and melancholy are also a distraction from productivity while romance is also a better stimulant of creativity.

off topic, but Robert Chandler is a better translator of very good 20th century Russian poetry than I am.

Difficult to do in the modern era both due to the torrent of easy distraction, but also because there seems to be an opportunity to effect change. Perhaps not by directly influencing policy (though perhaps so), but certainly locally - by teasing out what is likely to be true and passing this information on to your family/local network. The failure of our institutions has precluded the ability to responsibly turn away to invent calculus and write sonnets.

Pushkin is one of those writers who is often noted but never read outside of Russia because he was important to the development of Russian literature but otherwise is by modern standards uninteresting and unreadable -- tedious romantic stories that to the modern reader seem contrived.

There is a school of thought in Russia that argues that Pushkin was rightly a minor but completed outdated figure by the age of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky et al, but was revived by the Bolsheviks because they needed a cult figurehead for their literacy campaigns and Pushkin - repressed, censored, exiled, ethnic minority, lots of short poems rather than massive novels - was the perfect fit.

Since you clearly haven’t read Pushkin how would you know? Part of the problem with Pushkin is that he was primarily a poet, and thus hard to translate. Onegin is anything but a contrived romantic story, it is full of irony and seems less cliched today than Anna Karenina in many respects but the language is most of the charm. Seems to me Goethe has suffered the same fate as Pushkin in the English speaking world for similar reasons. Back when there were still significant numbers of educated British and Americans who could read in German, Goethe was still a major literacy figure in the Anglosphere. I doubt many millennials have bothered to read Faust in translation.

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