Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Books of the Year - Avalon Brantley
We’ve been asking Wormwood contributors and friends what books they’ve enjoyed this year, old or new. We’ll be posting replies throughout December.
Avalon Brantley, author of Descended Suns Resuscitate, writes:
This year has witnessed my continued immersion in the history and literature of Russia, from her nebulous legendary origins to the bloody maelstrom of the 20th century. A relevant enough digression from this was my reading the entirety of Adam Mickiewicz’s Dziady (Forefathers’ Eve): a Gothic-tinged Romantic epic in the form of a poetic drama, as deftly translated into English by Charles Kraszewski. Many would contend that Mickiewicz was and remains Poland’s greatest poet.
This reading connected for me a number of serendipitous threads: the known associations between the various stand-alone “Passages” of Dziady and Pushkin’s ‘monumental’ “Bronze Horseman”; certain tenuous yet insistent correspondences between those associations and Gogol’s “Overcoat” (itself in many ways an echo in prose to Pushkin’s poem, which was itself a response to Mickiewicz’s verses), particularly the persistent leitmotif of coat(s) in the same section of Dziady; the drastic dichotomy between Mickiewicz’s vision of an abused and partitioned Poland as the Christus of Europa, and the shocking appropriation of Jesus at the head of “The Twelve” Red Guards evoked by Russia’s other greatest lyric poet alongside Pushkin, he another Aleksandr—Blok.
Dziady should be of particular interest to those with a penchant for the foundations of the Romantic movement in Europe, or for Gothic literature of the early 19th century.