Our Notes & References
A lovely illustrated edition of Pushkin’s masterpiece, one of the most famous texts of Russian literature. Limited to 600 copies and printed under the supervision of Dobuzhinsky’s eldest son, Rostislav, and Yakov Noevich Blokh, the owner of the publishing house.
This is the first appearance of the full set of Dobuzhinsky’s illustrations, with the original text in Russian, after a publication in London in English the previous year. Alexander Benois – Dobuzhinsky’s fellow member of the artists’ association Mir Iskusstva – wrote on that occasion: “Eugene Onegin has finally received worthy illustrations. I consider this an event of paramount importance in the Russian art world. Dobuzhinsky presented the reader-viewer (for the time being English, but hopefully, over time, Russian as well) with a genuine masterpiece” (p. 178).
Dobuzhinsky began working on the drawings in 1936 and finalised them for the 100th anniversary of Pushkin’s death; the original drawings featured in the landmark Pushkin exhibition organised by Serge Lifar in Paris in 1937.
The editor Vladislav Khodasevich noted in his Afterword that he based this edition on the 1837 text of Onegin and that he corrected numerous errors and restored the lines excluded due to censorship. Petropolis’ edition also contains ‘Onegin’s Album’ and fragments of the partially destroyed 10th chapter, first published in 1910.
Khodasevich, himself a prominent poet, “Pushkin’s literary descendant on the Tiutchev line” (Nabokov), wrote multiple articles and books on Pushkin, including The Poetic Economy of Pushkin (1924), Petersburg Tales of Pushkin (1914), On the Gabrieliade (1918), Pushkin, the famous banker (1928), Dueling stories (1937), Pushkin’s Wife (1938) et al.
The publishing house Petropolis had become at the time the largest Russian foreign publishing house. Founded in Petrograd in 1918 by the translator Grigorii Lozinskii, Petropolis became famous for publishing the leading names of the Russian Silver Age, such as Akhmatova, Gumilev, Kuzmin, Mandelshtam. Blokh, then owner of Petropolis, left for Germany in 1922 and significantly developed his publishing activity in the “Russian Berlin” of the 1920s. In 1938, he moved on to Brussels, where this edition of Onegin appeared. He then left to Switzerland after the outbreak of the war.
Avenir Nizoff (émigré, pianist, who lived in Edmonton, Canada, in the second half of the 20th century, and gathered a large, wide-ranging library of Russian works, especially covering art, history and literature).
Bibliokhronika I-184; Alexander Nikolaevich Benois and Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky: correspondence (1903-1957). Vol. 2 of “Pisma kak zerkalo epohi”: Aleksandr Nikolaevic Benua i ego adresaty. Sad Iskusstv, 2003, p.178.