It is a well-known fact that Pushkin is recognized as a figure of international importance only by those whose knowledge of Russian, and, moreover, of Russia, is good enough to appreciate his poetry. The rest of the world intellectual community takes us at our word, showing respect for Pushkin only for the sake of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov. Individual successful translations (successful in certain aspects only) do not alter the overall situation: in translation it is impossible to convey both the spirit and the letter of the original, and without this combination the greatest of the Russian poets of genius sounds like a fine piece of music performed by a mediocre musician. At best, the impression he makes is that of a fairly talented and interesting writer, and at worst, of a trivial and empty scribbler.
Before translations were ever made, even during Pushkin's lifetime, there were opinions about his lack of depth (suffice it to recall Baratynsky's amazement at finding "force and intellectual depth" in Pushkin's later verse), these opinions persisted (remember Chernyshevsky's well-known utterance that "Pushkin is a poet of form", supported by other critics, and Pisarev's "our little Pushkin"), and survived to our own day and age ("empty" Pushkin in the opinion of Abram Terz, to name just him). The struggle for, against and around Pushkin, that has been going on for a century and a half, and is still going on today, represents the history of attempts by each of the sides to translate him into a language they themselves can identify with.
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