25 Nov 2015

THE SAME OLD STORY.


THE SAME OLD STORY by IVAN GONCHAROV (Translated by STEPHEN PEARL).

BACK COVER BLURB: Filled with dreams of pursuing a career as a poet, the young Alexander Aduyev moves from the country to St Petersburg, where he takes up lodgings next to his uncle Pytor Ivanych, a shrewd and world-weary businessman. As his ideals are challenged by disappointment in the field of love, friendship and poetical ambition, Alexander must decide whether to return to the homely values he has left behind or adapt to the ruthless rules and morals of city life so eloquently championed by his uncle.

FIRST SENTENCE {Part 1: Chapter 1}: One summer in the village of Grachi, in the household of Anna Pavlovna Aduyeva, a landowner of modest means, all its members, from the mistress herself down to Barbos, the watchdog had risen with the dawn.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 66}: "Nowadays, a decent writer lives decently, doesn't have to freeze and starve in some attic - although, of course, people no longer run after him in the street and point their fingers at him, as they would at a clown; they no longer think of a poet as some kind of divinity, but rather a human being who sees, walks, acts - sometimes foolishly - just like the rest of us: so what's so special about that?"

SOURCE: Just one of the many books in their Classics Range. I received this for review from the publishers, Alma Books.

MY THOUGHTS: Well, well, well, who would have thought it? Not a fan of the so-called English classics and yet here I am having read and really enjoyed one of the Russian classics.

Firstly the translation. Always a bit dubious when it comes to reading books translated from the original into English as all too often I've found the translation poorly done .... or is it that some words/ideas/humour simply doesn't translate well? Whichever it is, I had no such concerns with this translation by Stephen Pearl, his mastering of the various tones as the story progresses exemplary. 

Set in 19th century Russia. We first meet our protagonist, Alexander Aduyev, the somewhat cosseted only son of a somewhat overbearing mother (its a shame we don't get to see more of her as, Uncle Pytor aside, she was my favourite character providing some wonderful humorous touches) as he prepares to leave his provincial home for St Petersburg

A complete innocent, a hopeless romantic, Alexander proves the ideal foil for his uncle. A cynical, hard-headed, some would say hard-hearted, businessman, Pytor is the type of character that to all intents and purposes I should thoroughly dislike and yet (thanks to the genius of Goncharov's writing?) I found myself increasingly warming to him, his attempts at trying to convince his nephew of the futileness of his romantic aspirations proving incredibly humorous.

And yet, not all humorous. Becoming almost painful to read by the end. I don't want to spoil things for anyone but almost like a bereavement I found myself going through various stages as Alexander aged, his feelings of disappointment and disillusionment tangible.

A timeless tale of a young man intent on making his way in the world. An excellent reflection of class, differing values (parochial versus big city if you so wish) and the ideology of love, I'm sure many readers will find themselves surprised by just how relative The Same Old Story is today - I know I was.

Written in the mid eighteen hundreds. A debut novel, one of only three, the best known of which is perhaps Oblomov. To answer the big question, has this made me want to read anything more by this author? Most definitely it has.

10 comments:

Kelly said...

Looking through the list at the link, I've read very few of the classics shown (though I would include some they don't have listed), and definitely no Russian classics.

At first glance I would have said this book isn't for me at all, but your review is compelling and makes me realize I shouldn't rule out reading this someday. And I think you're right - translation is everything.

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you liked this one, Tracy. Like with the more contemporary books, I find classics to be hit and miss for me. I love some of them and don't like others (and have no interest in quite a few as well). I haven't read this one, but it does sound good. I may have to look for it.

Alexia561 said...

While I don't normally read "classics" I could almost be convinced to give this one a try thanks to your review! Well done!

Brandi Kosiner said...

Sounds like it needs a nice injection of humor

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Oh yes, I'm also cautious of translations. You don't just need to words but to convey what is behind it. So glad this one was successful. Also might be something I would try as you have my curiosity peaked!

Trac~ said...

Wow this sounds like an interesting book to say the least! Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by today. Hope you found me on Pinterest! :) If not, my username is: Trac~ :)

Brian Joseph said...

I have not read Goncharov but I would like to.

This sounds terrific. A great writer can really make a reader like an unlikable character.
I worry about translations too. This is especially true of books originally written in Russian. There seems to be something particularly difficult in bringing it over from English. Thus, I usually do alot of research if I have choice of translations.

Gina R said...

Wow...looks like it made quite the impression. Isn't it grand to find new to you authors you love? ^-^

Shooting Stars Mag said...

It can be quite tricky when dealing with translations, though I do love finding books that were not originally in English that I can truly enjoy. I'm glad this one worked so well for you! Sounds like an interesting story.

-lauren

Melliane said...

It sounds interesting and different. Plus the fact that it's set in Russia is definitely intriguing!