Aleksandr Pushkin (1799–1837) was a Russian poet who exerted a great impact on the Russian national language by defining the very possibilities of a country’s literature. He is Russia’s national poet and literary fountainhead.
Born in Moscow, Pushkin worked in nearly every literary form in his brief life: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, and the critical essay. His early works, The Prisoner of the Caucasus (1822,) The Robber Brothers (1822,) and The Fountain of Bakchisaray (1823) made Pushkin the most famous poet in Russia and the principal figure of Russian romanticism.
His masterpiece was the “novel in verse” Eugene Onegin (1833,) Russia’s first novel and the foundation document of Russian realism. It portrays the story of an intelligent young aristocrat named Onegin, and shy and passionate Tatyana. Their tragic love story unfolds in the context of contemporary life and includes a meticulous portrait of the social customs and attitudes of the time. Onegin kills his friend in a duel, and loses Tatyana. The narrative poem features a range of delicate portraits derived from Pushkin’s emotional and philosophical contemplations.
Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova, believed to be the most beautiful woman in contemporary Russia. Alas, she never returned Pushkin’s love, and spent her evenings going to balls and flirting with military men. She had many lovers, including Czar Nicholas. When Georges d’Anthes, the adopted son of the Russian ambassador from the Netherlands, had an affair with Natalya, a resulting pistol duel mortally wounded Pushkin. Pushkin died two days later at the age of 37.
Don’t be sad, don’t be angry, if life deceives you! Submit to your grief; your time for joy will come, believe me.