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The Enchanted Wanderer And Other Stories

by Daniel Scheffler
Contributor
Monday May 6, 2013
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"The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories" is the quintessential representation of 19th century Russia, beyond the oligarchs of this current day and age, and with a grander focus on real life and ordinary wondrous people called "muzhiks." A great relief as the terrible representation of Russians are continuously stoked around the world with Louis Vuitton carrying spenders, and wasters, and a leader that lives, in short, way beyond his people.

Where Leskov and "The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories" creeps into literature is in its ability to showcase the wanderers of the time - their ideas, their hopes, dreams, extremes, craziness and joy. Characters may seem enchanted, bewitched, crazy or even magical but what differentiates them all is their ability to still be rooted in a strong sense of self, of reality. An astute sense of observation is what has given Leskov this ability, beyond any writer of that time. He saw, perhaps in Paris or in Russia, with "spiritual content" as he calls it, that interested him, and he crafted their world from just a moment in time - a flutter that turns into a universe.

Leskov doesn’t compose a simple story ever, but manages to weave together ideals and commentary effortlessly

The distinction between a Tolstoy, a Dostoyevsky and the predecessor Nikolai Leskov is his ability to form a much shorter political take, and by implication social, real stances about Russia and the world around 1857 and beyond. This chronologically arranged collection, now translated by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky bring Leskov into the light once again. It is a welcoming return of his jovial, and sometimes deeply tragic, vernacular that remains so poignant and ever satirical. However, Pevear and Volokhonsky are no strangers to Russian literature, although they admit this was not the easiest of the lot, as they have translated Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov and more.

The translators, with utmost respect, mention how Leskov’s stories are composed, or told, as "memoirs" as in "The Spirit of Madame de Genlis," "The Pearl Necklace" and "A Flaming Patriot." Leskov doesn’t compose a simple story ever, but manages to weave together ideals and commentary effortlessly. His use of then modern ideas, and some Shakespeare quotes and characteristics thrill, as it seems juxtaposed for the time and place. But when he calls a wife character the "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" there is no doubt of his ability to carve a story.

"The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories"
Nikolai Leskov
Knopf
$22,99

by Nikolai Leskov

Daniel Scheffler is a writer who spends his time in New York, Cape Town and India. Follow him on Twitter @danielscheffler

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