Sleptsov, Vasily, Katz, Michael, Brumfield, William
This is the first English translation of an important Russian social novel (published in 1865) that enjoyed great popularity in its day, the period of Tsar Alexander's great reforms. Sleptsov deals with complex political issues such as the abolition of serfdom, political repression, women's rights, and the conflict between liberalism and radicalism among intellectuals. Highly readable, it provides important historical insights on the political and social climate of a volatile and transformative period in Russia history.
Vasily Sleptsov (1836-1878) wrote fiction for several magazines including Annals of the Fatherland, Russian Speech, and The Contemporary, where he published his novella Hard Times in 1865. He went on to found the magazine The Women’s Herald, establish the Znamenskaya commune for women, and become an activist for women’s equality.
Michael R. Katz is CV Starr Professor Emeritus at Middlebury College. He is the author of two monographs and is a renowned translator of Russian literature, who has published English versions of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, and Chekhov.
William C. Brumfield is professor of Slavic languages at Tulane University and has published extensively on mid-19th century Russian literature, with a special emphasis on Vasily Sleptsov.
"Michael Katz has provided us with an elegant, highly readable translation of a work that is an illuminating historical artifact of the Emancipation . . . This translation, rich in material for the social and cultural historian, should be of interest to historians of nineteenth-century Russia, and would work well in undergraduate classes at all levels."—The Russian Review
“If you are convinced that ‘leftist’ nineteenth-century Russian literature is long-winded and boring, prepare yourself for a big surprise. Hard Times makes for an excellent read and offers a well-informed and realistic picture of life in the Russian countryside after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Thanks to Michael Katz’s compelling translation, this gem of Russian realism is now finally available to the English-speaking reader.—Otto Boele, Leiden University
“Michael Katz’s translation makes available an important component of Russian literary and cultural history of the mid-19th century. Sleptsov’s novel, and the questions it poses, very much follows in the tradition of Sand’s Jacques, Herzen’s Who Is To Blame? and Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done?”—Andrew M. Drozd, University of Alabama
Vasily Sleptsov was a Russian social activist and writer during the politically charged 1860s, known as the “era of great reforms,” and marked by Alexander II’s emancipation of the serfs and the relaxation of censorship. Popular in his day, Sleptsov’s contemporaries Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov praised his writing: Chekhov once remarked, “Sleptsov taught me, better than most, to understand the Russian intelligent, and my own self as well.”
The novella Hard Times is considered Sleptsov’s most important work. It focused popular attention on the radical and liberal movements through its fictional setting, where the characters contend with constantly evolving political and social dilemmas. Hard Times was immediately recognized as a vibrant and compelling depiction of pre-revolutionary Russian intellectual society, full of lively debates about the possibilities of liberal reform or radical revolution that questioned the viability of a political system facing massive social problems.
This is the first English language version of Hard Times, expertly and fluidly translated by Michael Katz. Highly readable, it provides important historical insights on the political and social climate of a volatile and transformative period in Russia history.