odoevskytwodaysYes, it didn’t take long for me to get back to the Russians! This slim volume from Alma/Oneworld is the last Christmas gift that hasn’t been pictured before, and I did actually choose it because in-laws needed some suggestions! Odoevsky was a name new to me and I hadn’t heard of him before browsing the Alma catalogue. Wikipedia tells me:

Prince Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoevsky (Russian: Владимир Федорович Одоевский) (13 August [O.S. 1 August] 1803 – 11 March [O.S. 27 February] 1869) was a prominent Russian philosopher, writer, music critic, philanthropist and pedagogue. He became known as the “Russian Hoffmann” on account of his keen interest in phantasmagoric tales and musical criticism.

Wow! Quite a polymath! However, it’s his stories we’re interested in here, although it will transpire that they reflect his other interests!

255px-Vladimir_Odoyevsky_1

TDITLOTTG is a collection of shorter works, translated by Neil Cornwell, who seems to be something of a champion of Odoevsky, and a varied collection it is too. The title story is a short, early science fiction work, which tells the story of a comet approaching the earth and the effect it has on the people on earth (so a little reminiscent of The Hopkins Manuscript, perhaps!) One of the stories is about Beethoven, one about Piranesi; there is a kind of Gothic ghost story, society tales and a fable, “The Little Town in the Snuffbox”. The most involving one, which I enjoyed best, was Imbroglio, about the misadventures of a Russian in Italy, which is a romantic mixture of comedy and drama. And The Black Glove, a story which comments on the then current trends in Russia of rational, orderly thinking, but also satirises fashionable society whilst telling the story of a failing marriage of two ill-prepared people, is excellent.

“The light of day has a wonderful quality; it delivers to us an involuntary cheerfulness and brings tranquillity to our common sense. That which seems enormous and horrible in the darkness of night will dribble away in the light of day, like a dream.”

It’s hard to review short stories – and even harder when they vary so much as in this collection. I feel a little as if I’ve been presented with a mixed box of chocolates and have to think of something cohesive to say about them! However, I liked Odoevsky’s writing a lot, I enjoyed the tales and I’m sure I will seek out more of his work in the future!

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