Work Title: Night of Denial: Stories and Novellas
Work Author(s): Ivan Bunin; Robert Bowie, translator
Northwestern University Press
640 pages, Softcover $24.95
Reviewer: Peter Skinner
This author 1870--1953), who won the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his fictionalized autobiography Life of Arseniev, and whose The Elaghin Affair and Other Stories was translated by Bernard Guerney, remains too little known and appreciated in America. This is surprising: in recent years Thomas Marullo, translator/editor, and Ivan R. Dee, publisher, brought readers the highly engaging Russian Requiem, 1885--1920, From the Other Shore, 1920--1933, and The Twilight of Emigre Russia: 1934--1953---all drawn from Bunin's letters, diaries, and fiction.
Bunin was a consummate man of letters. Born into a once rich but later financially-strapped family, he retained a hint of the patrician, though harsh realities forced him into modest employments until the Revolution forced him into exile. Before he was twenty, he began publishing poems and sketches of country life; he met Tolstoy and also Chekhov and Gorky these two became close friends), and later Nabokov, who admired his work. Both he and Nabokov kept ahead of the Bolsheviks; both left from Odessa for the West. Bunin, who settled in France, wrote scholarly studies of Tolstoy and Chekhov and broad-market works on Russia. Best known were Cursed Days 1908), a searing memoir of the Revolution; The Village 1910), in which the raw harshness of rural life is unsentimentally presented, and "The Gentleman from San Francisco" 1922), a penetrating short story on the transitoriness of power and personality. Bunin continued to write until he was eighty, when he completed Portraits and Memories.
Now Robert Bowie professor emeritus of Russian, Miami University, Ohio) and Northwestern University have rendered the author and literature a signal service in presenting Night of Denial: Stories and Novellas, a memorable selection of Bunin's writings. A number have been translated previously and a collection translated by Graham Hettlinger appeared in 2002. Bowie differs from his predecessors in undertaking a critical edition of forty stories, for each of which he provides interesting and illuminating notes. In addition, his ninety-page afterword is a first-rate essay on Bunin, his fluid narrative structures, his psychological acuity, his "cruel talent," his strengths, weaknesses, and influences---and his empathetic...