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 Antony Pogorelsky


Born:   1787
Deceased:   9 (21) July 1836

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Antony Pogorelsky is a penname of Aleksey Alekseevich Perovsky (1787, Moscow — 9 (21) July 1836, Warsaw), one of the most notable prose writers of the 19th century in Russia.

 

A natural son of A.K. Razumovsky, he was a brother of the counts L.A. and V.A. Perovskys, known as statesmen, and an uncle of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, also a well-known man of letters.

Aleksey Perovsky spent his childhood in Razumovsky’s estate in Ukraine. He got profound home education and then graduated the Moscow University. He translated the famous Poor Lisa by Karamzin (1807) into German. Thanks to the Razumovskys he managed to meet Karamzin himself and his Moscow milieu (Pyotr Vyazemsky and Vasily Zhukovsky, who were on friendly terms with Perovsky’s brother Vasili) and got a reputation of a jester and mystifier in that circle.

His father, himself an influential Freemason, did not let his bastard son join the Masonic lodge, in spite of the wish of young Aleksey. In 1809—1810 he served in an auditing commission in some province, and in 1812 (Bonaparte’s invasion) volunteered to the acting army, this time against his father’s will. He took part in lots of battles (also fighting in guerilla detachments), among them the Battle of Leipzig. Till 1816 he served as Prince N.G. Repnin’s adjutant in Saxony, occupied by the allied countries in those days. When living in Germany Perovsky took a great interest in German romanticism, and Hoffman, in particular, and it had a great impact on his own creativity.

After retirement he settled in Petersburg and took care of upbringing and education of his nephew Aleksey, born in 1817 (soon after the boy’s birth his mother, Perovsky's sister, left her husband). At that time Alexander Pushkin himself was among Perovsky’s acquaintances: the latter welcomed the publication of Ruslan and Ludmila by opposing the critical attacks on the poem with his witty review. Perovsky turned to be one of the most active defenders of the young poet.

In July 1822, after the death of his father, Aleksey Perovsky settled in Pogoreltsy Estate in Ukraine, together with his sister and nephew. This is where he wrote his remarkable stories Dvoinik (The Double, or My Evenings in Little Russia) published under the penname Antony Pogorelsky (from the estate name) in 1828. By that time the author had already returned to serve in St. Petersburg (where he had been mainly into educational issues) and taken his nephew on a journey to Germany (1827), where he had visited Goethe.

Dvoinik (The Double) is a series of four stories, united by a frame plot; closely related to the German fantastic tradition (Serapion Brothers by Hoffman), it also anticipated the famous Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol and Russian Nights by Vladimir Odoevsky. The series has a lot to do with the Gothic novel tradition as well. The fantastic story Lafertovskaya Makovnitsa (published separately in 1825) evoked enthusiastic praise of Alexander Pushkin, who later cited it in his Coffin Maker. Yet, critics, but for several exceptions, did not accept The Double that was well in advance of its time, and took it just for ludicrous fantasy.

In 1829 Pogorelsky published the book that brought him real fame: it was the fairy tale Black Hen, or Living Underground written for his nephew Alesha, the first book about childhood in Russian literature. It is known that Zhukovsky and Leo Tolstoy expressed their high opinion of the book.

In 1830—1833 Aleksey Perovsky published his novel Monastyrka about life of a girl who graduated Smolny Institute, back in her native land in Little Russia. This “moral-descriptive novel” combining both sentimental and romantic elements was very well accepted by public and critics.

After his ultimate retirement in 1830 Perovsky dedicated himself fully to the upbringing of his nephew, traveling with him on a great scale in Italy, and then in Russia, and met Pushkin again.

The writer died of tuberculosis on the way to Nice, the place of his medical treatment.


Tags: Russian literature Russian writers Antony Pogorelsky   




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