Alexander Kuprin

In his homeland, Russia, Alexander Ivanovich Kuprin is a favorite of many. I could only find one English translation of his short novel, "The Garnate Bracelet" in a volume of Russian short story anthology From Karamzin to Bunin. I am surprized at such a vacuum, because aside from being a particular favorite of mine, he is highly praised by his fellow authors . Tolstoy, in particular, read Kuprin's stories to his guests in Yasnaya Polyana and remarked once that he considered Kuprin to be one of the best writers he had ever encountered.

Kuprin was a contemporary of Chekhov and Gorky, but he left Russia during the uncertain time of the Revolution and the Civil War. He settled in Paris, which was at that time the center of Russian emigre culture. He was very homesick and returned to Russia in the early 20's, just a few years before his death. He received a red carpet treatment from the Soviet government and Russian people, and to this day he continues to enjoy popularity: his stories are being continuously reprinted, movies are also made from them. As a humorous aside: Russian readers are split into two opposing camps - those who like Chekhov and those who like Kuprin.

In his life Kuprin was almost a Jack-of-all-trades. He had traveled extensively, held many different, sometimes even bizzare, jobs, seen many people. His stories reflect his deep knowledge of life. He tries to describe in his stories and novelettes the circumstances of life that make people what they are, sometimes with tragic result. Here are three stories that I have translated for my senior thesis in high school (in 1985), that are representative of his work, although there are other that made a stronger impression on me. The first, "The Holy Lie" is typical of a greater portion of Kuprin's stories. They are about the plight of simple folk from a man who experienced abuse and deprivation. "Tale of the Trampled Flower" is an atypical Kuprin story, more a poem, or a sketch of a story. I never get tired of reading it, discovering something new every time.


Last modified: 8/31/95

Kristina Lerman, kris@tweedledee.ucsb.edu