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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Luzhkov Discovers Imported Pushkin

I normally read, or at least browse through, five books a week. But I am put to shame by colleagues of mine, Andrei Nemzer and Dmitry Bykov, who read at least 10 books a week.

In January, Bykov discovered a new Russian edition of translations of Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi who was born two centuries ago and is sometimes called "the Italian Pushkin."

"Guess who wrote the foreword to the book?" asked Bykov. I was stumped. No wonder - it was Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

"Every patriotic statesman in this country has to write a foreword to a poet of Pushkin's rank," laughed Bykov.

The foreword to the latest reprint of the "Complete Works of Alexander Pushkin" was written by the then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. And President Boris Yeltsin supplied the afterward to the same edition.

But we have only one Pushkin, so Luzhkov had to find some other poet. It could not be anybody of lesser stature, so the mayor who might become our next president had to choose the Italian variant.

But logic is secondary to real statesmen. Let's move to poetry!

Don't miss this opportunity to get a subscription to the 10-volume set of Nikolai Gumilyov. Voskreseniye publishing house, which reprinted 20 volumes of Pushkin last year, just published the second volume of Gumilyov, and the edition is promised to be more complete than anything ever published before, both here and abroad. The two first volumes cost less than $2.50 apiece in ruble equivalent.

It may not be too late to register at the subscription department (podpisnoye izdaniye) of larger bookstores for the half dozen already printed volumes of the complete works of another genius of the Silver Age, Alexander Blok, by the Pushkinsky Dom in St. Petersburg.

You can now get two volumes of Marina Tsvetayeva from Respekt publishers for 50 rubles ($2.20), a 400-page tome of Ivan Bunin from Eksmo for 20 rubles, or a 256-page hardcover by Maria Petrovykh from Zerkalo for a mere 10 rubles.

U-Faktoriya publishers has prepared a volume of Bulat Okudzhava for 50 rubles and two volumes of Vladimir Vysotsky for 90 rubles.

Or you can kill all the birds with only two stones by picking up the "Antologiya russkoi poezii" ("Anthology of Russian Poetry") in two hardcover volumes from Terra publishers for the ruble equivalent of $2.00 or less.

And if you are interested in leading Russian poets of today, Pushkinsky fond publishers has a series of at least 20 quality paperbacks, priced at the ruble equivalent of 50 cents each.


Now Luzhkov could very easily have written a foreword to a volume of Fyodor Tyutchev or Vladimir Mayakovsky. And if he had wanted a "complete works" by some genius of Russian poetry, he had the choice of Alexander Blok, Nikolai Gumilyov or even Iosif Brodsky.

Love poetry, but worried about overweight going home?