Dover Book

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    Here is a delightful, often comical and thoroughly entertaining collection of very short stories. Each one is filled with surprises and unexpected twists and turns. There are six tales in all, the title story, plus five more that were previously published as The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, a pseudonym for Pushkin.
    Alexander Pushkin lived from 1799-1837, and was primarily known for his poetry, which frequently got him into trouble, even jailed because of its political commentary. The note in the Dover edition states that he was "the founding father of modern Russian literature." He was the first nationally known Russian poet to write in the Russian language rather than French or German, the note also says.
    He was the great-grandson of a former African slave who rose to the level of aristocrat in Russia. Pushkin had a thing for duels, having fought around twenty-nine in his lifetime. The last one killed him at age 37, a tragic loss for the literary arts in Russia and the world.
    In the title story, we hear a tale of an old, old lady, a Countess who was quite the sensation in her younger years, running around, flirting and losing money gambling. One day, however, returning home to have her husband refuse to pay off her huge loss, she becomes desperate, and seeks money from Count St. Germain. He could easily have given her the funds, but instead tells her a secret. Armed with her new-found knowledge, she gambles again, wins the money back, then stops gambling forever.
    It happens that there is a young German Engineer who desperately wants to know the secret. Why? Greed, perhaps. He never gambles, and is well-off enough without needing to win money in a card game.
    Hermann begins to hang out near the old lady's house, when he notices a young and charming girl, Lizaveta who is the companion to the Countess. They begin a correspondence, and finally, when Lizaveta is sure enough of his intentions, she tells him a way to sneak in when everyone is at a ball. She gives him directions to her room, so he will be waiting when she returns.
    But he isn't. Instead he goes to the old lady's room, and demands to know the secret of the cards. But will she tell?
    The Amateur Peasant Girl is about two rural neighbors of means who hate each other and a spoiled daughter who likes to play dress-up! This one is quite comical.
    The Shot, like Pushkin himself, is about a man obsessed with dueling.
    The Snowstorm takes some amazing and unexpected twists and turns so that things turn out exactly as they were meant to be!
    The Postmaster is a rather sad story about a lovely girl who runs away with a man, leaving her poor father alone.
    The Coffin-Maker has a bit of a ghost story woven into it when a drunken Adrian, angry at the living after attending a party, says he wants to call back all his dead customers to feast with him.
    All in all, this is a fun and clever collection of tales, highly recommended reading.


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