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Boris Godunov


Boris Godunov


One of the finest Russian classics ever written, Alexander Pushkin wrote his verse tragedy Boris Godunov in 1825.

It took decades to pass the censor, but this retelling of the power struggle leading to Russia's Time of Troubles in the early 17th century became an acknowledged masterpiece—among the very greatest masterworks of Russian literature, virtually the moment the ink on it had dried.

Written in exquisitely crafted verse, it is a source of many of the human archetypes and attitudes that define the towering fictional creations of nineteenth century Russia.

Boris Godunov contains a large cast of characters and offers the close reader many literary, philosophical, and autobiographical digressions, in a highly tongue-in-cheek vein; a subversive political parable flecked with satiric comedy.

Set in Russia in the years 1598 to 1605, Boris Godunov, a confidante of Ivan the Terrible, has become the ruling tsar, having accepted the title with a show of reluctance worthy of Shakespeare's Richard. (But all the evidence, and Boris's own tormented conscience, suggests he gained power by murdering Ivan's youngest son, Dmitry.)

Capitalizing on the public's gullibility, a young monk named Grigory decides to pose as the reborn prince, and aided by Polish and Lithuanian troops, eventually marches on Moscow to overthrow the butchering Boris.

ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837) was born into Russian nobility in Moscow. He published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and is considered by critics to be a father of Russian literature, as revered by Russians as Shakespeare is by the British.

Not only is he seen as having originated the highly nuanced level of language that characterizes Russian literature after him, Pushkin is also credited with substantially augmenting the Russian lexicon.

His rich vocabulary and highly sensitive style are the foundation for modern Russian literature. Notoriously quick-tempered about his honour, Pushkin fought many duels and was fatally wounded in such an encounter with a French officer he accused of attempting to seduce his wife. He was mortally wounded and died in January 1837.

Though his life was brief, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and even the personal letter.

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