Our Notes & References
Realistic novellas in the library of Aleksandr III at Tsarskoe Selo: the very rare first edition of this collection of short stories by one of the masters of Russian prose of the late 19th century. We could not trace any copy on Worldcat, Copac, and at auctions worldwide; we could trace only three holdings in Russia and Ukraine (RGB, RNB, and Mykolaiv Scientific Library).
Vasilii Nemirovich-Danchenko (1844-1936), the elder brother of the theatrical figure Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, was a prolific prose writer, war correspondent and poet, whose talent was noted by Ivan Turgenev, Lev Tolstoi, Anton Chekhov and Maksim Gorkii among others. The magazine Vestnik Literatury [Literature Bulletin] described him in 1921 as “one of our best stylists” and a “master of poetry in prose” whose “books are invariably among the most in demand in libraries” (our translation here and below). The émigré newspaper Russkoe ekho [Russian Echo] later added that “There is no literate person in Russia who does not know V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. Several generations of readers grew up on his books”. In 1922 he emigrated to Germany and then moved to Czechoslovakia; in 1924 his books were withdrawn from public libraries in his homeland.
In addition to his active collaborations in the magazines Russkaia mysl [Russian Thought], Nabliudatel [The Observer], Sever [North] and Niva [Grainfield], Nemirovich-Danchenko published more than sixty volumes of his work during his career. He also wrote a vast number of “reports” of his journeys to the Caucasus and the Urals, countries of Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa, and used this ethnographic material in some of his fiction.
Skazki deistvitelnosti, together with another collection of works Nezametnye geroi [Discrete Heroes] (SPb., 1889), represents a new period in the author’s work, in which he turns to the naturalistic style focusing on the theme of “poor folk”. The story “Egorka” is devoted to Moscow “proletariat” (the word from the story itself) and is a Russian reflection over Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The story “Sorok piat dnei” [“Forty-five Days”] describes the anguish and reflections of a seriously ill St Petersburg journalist (in some ways, it precedes Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilich in its philosophy) and tackles the question of women’s emancipation. “Zaklevannyi vorobei” [“A Pecked Sparrow”] describes a revelation of a murderer in prison; “Zastrelilsia” [“He Shot Himself”] explores the child’s struggles with his parents’ expectations from him; “V teatr popala” [“She Got into the Theatre”] discusses the fate of an actor in Russia; “Bessonnaia noch” [“Sleepless Night”] is a piece of psychological prose about the family relations of a Russian official; and finally, “Prikliuchenie ‘Koroviego Sedla'” [“The Adventure of ‘The Cow’s Saddle'”] is a sketch of the events of the Russo-Turkish War.
The collection was well received by the critics, one of the reviewers noting: “Nemirovich-Danchenko’s works […] are always full of such fascinating entertainment, so riveting that the most indifferent reader will not remain impartial to what the author is saying. Whether the author is describing the boundless snowy deserts and the eternally cold sea of the North, or the dull details of mining production […] you will follow with equal interest every stroke of his pen” (Niva, 1891, no. 17, p. 395).
Aleksandr III (ex-libris on upper pastedown); Tsarskoselskaia Dvortsovaia Biblioteka (Tsarskoselskaia Palace Library”, half-title with the stamp used exclusively after 1877); “A No. 13371” in black ink (Soviet inventory number for the Alekandrinskii Palace Library); “1396 Bibl. A.D.M.” in Cyrillic (paper label on upper pastedown); London bookshop (pencil inscription on the rear fore-edge, 1990s); Mikhail Krasnov, Switzerland (private collection, acquired from Bernard Quaritch).
Vestnik Literatury, Nos. 6—7, 1921. p. 14.