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Jan 29, 2021
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Seer Saltykov-Shchedrin

This man was a person of great greatness and talent. He left a large literary legacy – the novels “The History of a City”, “Lord Golovlevs” “Provincial Essays”, the comedy “Death of Pazukhin”, fairy tales, short stories, and other works. Readers bowed to him, respected not only as an artist, but also as a person. One of them even called Saltykov-Shchedrin a “holy elder”. The writer shed tears reading this letter …

The writer’s patronymic name blows old: Mikhail Evgrafovich. And the appearance had the “old regime” – in the portrait of Ivan Kramskoy, he with a thick beard, dressed in black. The eyes look attentively, prickly, fingers are stubbornly clasped. The character, apparently, was not a simple writer. And literary things, written by him, do not give rise to doubt. Saltykov-Shchedrin, a native of a noble family, born on his parent’s estate in the village of Spas-Ugol in the Kalyazinsky district of the Tver province, wore an official’s uniform for many years. He held the posts of vice-governor in Ryazan and Tver, was the chairman of the treasury chamber in Penza, Tula and Ryazan.

He served regularly, but did not look into the mouth of his superiors, did not look for affection. He was content with a little, looked with contempt at the sycophancy, lies, bribery that reigned in the bureaucratic environment. I began to describe them and got carried away. He created with pleasure, covered the texts with a thick layer of sarcasm and satire. He laughed: “Every ugliness has its own decency.” He lamented: “It’s nothing that in Europe they give one fifty rubles for our ruble, it will be worse if they start giving in the face for our ruble.”

Saltykov-Shchedrin captured the mores of a long-gone Russia: dexterous and nimble titular advisers, collegiate assessors, clerks, provincial secretaries and other gentlemen who assumed significance, often with little performance.

Reading his works is like looking into a cloudy, cracked mirror of the past. However, no, no, but something painfully familiar will flash in the words of Mikhail Evgrafovich. And you catch yourself thinking that the persistent bureaucratic type has not died out like a mammoth, but has survived to the present day. The clothes are different, the costumes and hairstyles are different, but – the same cheating in the eyes, the hand just as habitually reaches out for a bribe …

Some modern rulers resemble the inhabitant of the city of Foolov, but they flaunt themselves, puff out their cheeks, publish report after report. There is no need to be amazed, for it is customary, sir. Exactly according to Saltykov-Shchedrin: “It’s scary when a person speaks and you don’t know why he is talking, what he is saying and whether he will ever end”.

Some of the heroes of Saltykov-Shchedrin recognized themselves in his creations. Some were indignant when they were burned, stumbling upon the sharpness of his irony, others pretended not to be offended at all. But there were also those who pretended that they had nothing to do with it.

“In one of his essays, M.E. brought out a type of statesman who was not so much concerned about the case as he was concerned about making everyone think that he was doing the job, – the writer Nikolai Uspensky recalled. – The windows of the office of this figure overlooked the street, along which every now and then went all kinds of officials of various departments. In order for passers-by to think that he was busy all night long, the activist never put out the lamps in his office at night, although at that time he himself was not even mentally present at the desk.

One of the high-ranking officials in the hierarchy recognized himself in this essay. The chance soon brought them face to face with Shchedrin.

– Ah, Mikhail Evgrafovich! – the face turned to Shchedrin, – I am very glad to see you! I read it, my friend, I read your storyteller! You served me with a beautiful sauce! Well, and now what other sauce do you intend to serve me under?

– Ah, your lordship! – answered Shchedrin. – You are too good without any sauce … “

Many were afraid of the writer’s sharp pen, even those whom he did not intend to describe. Once a certain doctor came to him and from the doorway began to be indignant why he wanted to bring him out in his story. The owner was surprised and said that he did not even have such a thought, especially since he saw an alien for the first time.

The guest said that he had abandoned the woman with whom he shared a home, and she threatened him to complain to a writer with whom she seemed to know. And she added that he “will butcher the insidious traitor.”

The poor doctor was so frightened that he ran to make excuses to Shchedrin and begged him not to destroy him. Of course, Mikhail Evgrafovich calmed the stranger, and the Aesculapius left with a sigh of relief.

Saltykov-Shchedrin, although he scolded Russian manners, respected his homeland itself: “I love Russia to the pain of my heart and I can’t even imagine myself anywhere but Russia”.

He did not favor compatriot writers living abroad, including Turgenev. He appreciated Ivan Sergeevich for his literary gift, but did not miss an opportunity to sneer at him. And not just, but bitingly: “A typical literary master and a skillful literary chatterbox.”

Saltykov-Shchedrin did not go into his pocket for a word, he dumbfounded his colleagues with harsh and sometimes rude words. He acted according to his own principles: “In criticism, the utmost disclosure of the essence with a harsh word is necessary, without any softening of politeness.”

Saltykov-Shchedrin loved Nekrasov as a poet, but did not approve of his “comme il faut”, “lordly”, passion for cards. But he frankly scoffed at Fet, enrolling him in the number of secondary Russian poets, giving him one of the prominent places in that dubious cohort. He wrote: “More than half of his poems breathe the most sincere freshness, and almost all of Russia sings his romances, thanks to helpful composers, who, however, have always chosen the least successful pieces …”

Even the creator of War and Peace was not spared by the frowning Mikhail Evgrafovich: “Tolstoy speaks of love, but he has 30 thousand rubles in income, he lives for display in a closet and sews boots for himself, and in the hall there is a footman in a white tie, they say, not me, but my wife … “

Saltykov-Shchedrin worked all his life, tirelessly: not only wrote, but also pulled on himself, like a barge haule, the journal Otechestvennye zapiski. In the 70s of the XIX century, the censorship invariably called this publication and the magazine “Delo” the most “harmful”, democratic publication. The censors did not give a descent to the Saltykov magazine, but the editor sometimes showed his teeth.

Nevertheless, he lost to the guardians of state morality: in 1884, Otechestvennye zapiski was closed. The writer was terribly depressed …

The writer’s language is not only peculiar, sarcastic and witty, but also shines with novelty. He “settled” in the Russian language new words – such as “stupidity”, “gibberish”, “stupid”. Among the neologisms of Saltykov-Shchedrin are “malice”, “softness”, “foam remover”. These and other words are not overgrown with moss and weeds of oblivion, they walk among people, get into texts, in a word, they work.

Having finished Poshekhonskaya Starina, Mikhail Evgrafovich was very weak, he was tormented by ailments, and besides, he had to bother to publish his collected works. And yet he found the strength to start a new work called Forgotten Words. “There were, you know, words,” the writer said shortly before his death, “well, conscience, fatherland, humanity … there are others there … And now take the trouble to look for them! I must remind you … “

According to the testimony of the publisher Longin Panteleev, “Forgotten Words” “were completely ready, that is, thought out, it only remained to write.” However, death stopped the work begun on the very first page. That page was the last for Saltykov-Shchedrin.

… During his lifetime he was not only praised, but also scolded. For example, the writer Dmitry Pisarev wrote with bile about Saltykov-Shchedrin: “… his works are extremely harmless, pleasant to read and even useful from a hygienic point of view, because laughter helps digestion, especially since, to the laughter of Mr. Shchedrin, it is contagious acting on the reader, those sad and serious notes that are constantly heard in the laughter of Dickens, Thackeray, Heine, Berne, Gogol and in general all … really wonderful humorists are not mixed at all … “

But the critic Aleksandr Skabichevsky turned out not only to be more vigilant than many, but also became a visionary: “… in the person of Mr. Shchedrin we have a satirist who, probably, will, in time, be impartial judges-descendants not only at the same height as Gogol, but in many ways above him … “

But it happened that at first Saltykov-Shchedrin was not favored, and then the opinion about him changed. Such a metamorphosis happened to the philosopher Vasily Rozanov. At first, in his memoir-reflective essay “Solitary”, he wrote that a satirist, “like a” mother wolf “he ate Russian blood and fell off into the grave when he was full.” In the same place he called the writer “an abusive vice-governor.”

And the philosopher did not appreciate the literary gift of Saltykov-Shchedrin too highly. He believed that his main readers were officials. Describing the painting by Ilya Repin “October 17th”, dedicated to popular jubilation on the occasion of the release of the tsarist manifesto of 1905, the philosopher noted that one of the characters in the canvas, “an official in uniform,” “loudly singing a song” about the overthrow of the government “,” read Shchedrin “.

The famous literary critic Pavel Basinsky explained why the philosopher did not favor the writer: “Of course, Rozanov also had his own“ political ”reasons not to like Shchedrin. He collaborated with the conservative newspaper Novoye Vremya, and Shchedrin, together with Nekrasov, headed the liberal journal Otechestvennye zapiski. But the main thing is not “politics”.

For Shchedrin, the fame of a writer and publicist was established, who in Russia sees one impenetrable swamp, a dense forest, from which Russians will never get out due to not only the specifics of the Russian government, but also the national character of its people. And today Shchedrin is a treasure trove of catch phrases for people who understand Russia in this way. “

However, at the end of his life Rozanov, as if waking up from a dream, wrote: “All my life I denied you in a kind of horror, but now you appeared to me in your complete truth. Shchedrin, I take you and bless you. Cursed Russia, blessed Russia. “

… The body of Saltykov-Shchedrin was buried long ago in the St. Petersburg necropolis with a huge number of people seeing off.

But his rebellious spirit continues to live, sayings are relevant, because they are not outdated, but are still appropriate for characterizing the situation in modern Russia. Take, for example, this: “No, apparently, there are corners in God’s world where all times are transitional.

Or something like this: “The Russian government must keep its people in a state of constant amazement.”

This happens almost every single day. You read the latest news, and through the fence of letters you can see the mocking appearance of Mikhail Evgrafovich, who many years ago uttered: “When and what bureaucrat was not convinced that Russia is a pie that you can freely approach and eat?”

So it was, so, alas, it is. The seer, however, was excellent Mr. Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Valery Bert



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