Hansen Wendlandt's Reviews > Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
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Sep 07, 2015

really liked it
Read in April, 2010 , read count: 2

The title character to Eugene Onegin is interesting precisely because he is so petty and blase, so viscerally reactive without concern for the excitement, drama and meaning that motivates so many of our lives. With a young, devilish and rash persona, he would have been enjoyable to read, but Eugene's level of precociousness makes him a tabloid sensation, precisely the guilty pleasure that we (and apparently 19th Century Russia) love: rich kids behaving badly, because of boredom. Sure, we love to think we would act differently, but who is to say... over-saturated by pleasure and surrounded still by wealth and freedom... I could make one poor choice, which may lead to another, and a quick slippery slope takes away the rest of my life. Pushkin assures that this is neither an excuse nor that you will have some sympathy, but perhaps a reader's disgust is more at one's own failures, than Eugene's wickedness.
As a novel, the narrative tends to move well, with occasionally witty and cynical interludes from the narrator. As verse, the rhythm, creative to the whole scope of literature, is fascinating and enjoyable. As a story, it has characters developing cleverly, relationships up and down, a wide array of emotions, tension and love. As a commentary, see a few jewels in this "heart's reflections, writ in tears." (2)
On Eugene's blase personality: "Yes, soon he lost all warmth of feeling: The social buzz becomes a bore, And all those beauties, once appealing, Were objects of his thought no more... And so, for all his fiery mettle, He did at last give up his love Of pistol, sword and ready glove." (I.36) "The heaven's gift to us is this: That habit takes the place of bliss." (II.31) "Well, here's my view of close relations: They're people whom we're bound to prize, To honor, love and idolize, And, following the old tradition, To visit come the Christmas feast, Or send a wish by mail at least; All other days they've our permission To quite forget us, if they please--So grant them, God, long life and ease!" (IV.20)
On Eugene's relationships: "Are you my angel of salvation, Or Hell's own demon of temptation." (III.31) "But from our friends, dear God, defend us!" (IV.18) “For Satan treats all love as play.” (IV.21) “To love all ages yield surrender; But to the young its raptures bring A blessing bountiful and tender—As storms refresh the fields of spring.” (VIII.29)
On looking back in regret: "And is there no return of youth? Shall I be thirty soon, in truth? And so, life's afternoon has started." (VI.45) "Oh, blest who in his youth was tender; And blest who ripened in his prime; Who learned to bear, without surrender, The chill of life with passing time; Who never knew exotic visions, Nor scorned the social mob's decisions; Who was at twenty fop or swell, And then at thirty, married well, At fifty shed all obligation For private and for other debts; Who gained in turn, without regrets, Great wealth and rank and reputation; Of whom lifelong the verdict ran; 'Old X is quite a splendid man.'" (VIII.10) “He trembles, hunts for words in vain: He’s happy now, he’s almost sane…” (VI.14)
(read, April '10; re-read August '15)
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