Sunday, February 7, 2016

Russian Nymphets and Bunin's DARK AVENUES: The Most Read Short Stories in Russia

Dark Avenues is a volume of short yet dark and erotic love stories by a Nobel Prize-winning author Ivan Bunin. In The Works by I.A. Bunin, Oleg Mikhailov wrote that Dark Avenues is "the only book in the history of Russian literature devoted entirely to the concept of love" and this classic of Russian literature is considered to be Bunin's magnum opus.

Considering the ephebophilia and nympholepsy in Dark Avenues it is interesting that Boyd wrote in Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years that since Nabokov’s “early youth” he “cherished” and “valued” Bunin. And Field shared in Nabokov, His Life in Art an excerpt from an article that Nabokov wrote in The Rudder (1929) about Bunin’s poetry “The poems of Bunin are the best that has been created by the Russian Muse for several decades…Every line of Bunin’s is worthy of being preserved.”

According Alma Classics, Dark Avenues, if not the most read, is one of the most read volumes of short stories in Russia.

In “Styopa”, Krasilshchikov, a young merchant and graduate from a university in Moscow, due to a “downpour” and “shaking thunderclaps”, led his horse into an inn “kept by the old widower Pronin.” The cook quit after a “row” with the widower before Pronin and the labourer “went off to the town on business”; therefore, Styopa, Pronin’s sixteen-year-old daughter, was left alone in the inn.

Styopa is described as having a “half-childish voice”, “black eyes and [a] swarthy little face.” In addition, Bunin wrote “The match was burning out, but he could still see her shyly little face, the coral necklace round her neck, her small breasts under the yellow cotton dress….She was hardly his height and almost a child.”

Krasilshchikov gave Styopa “a prolonged kiss on the lips, and his hands slid lower.” Styopa responded by pleading, “…papa will come back….Oh, you mustn’t!” Over half an hour later she went to sleep after they made love and awoke in the morning “with her unbuttoned dress and disheveled hair”.

After Krasilshchikov informed Styopa, “It’s time for me to go.” She pleaded, “[…] in the name of the heavenly father, marry me! I will be your lowest slave! I will sleep on your threshold – take me!” However, by “that evening he left in a troika for the railway station. Two days later he was already in Kislovodsk.”

Here is the opening of “Tanya”:

She was working as a housemaid in the house of his relation Madame Kazakov, who owned a small estate. She was just seventeen years old; her tiny figure was especially noticeable when she walked barefoot, her skirt swaying gently from side to side and her little breasts moving under her blouse […] her simple little face could be called pleasing, and her grey peasant eyes had no beauty other than that of youth.” And Tanya, an orphan, was described as a “half-childish girl” with an “intoxicating scent of something rural and virginal”.

Petrusha, on his way back to Moscow, had stopped to visit Kazakova in the country. In the middle of the night “He lit a match and caught sight of her asleep. She was lying on her back on a wooden bed, in a blouse and cotton skirt - her little breasts showed roundness through her blouse, her legs were bare to the knees[...] The match went out. He stood there – and gently approached the bed...” “He moved her legs apart in their tender warmth[...]” “[...] and he began to kiss her neck, her breast, inhaling that intoxicating scent of something rural and virginal. And she, through her tears, suddenly gave a spontaneous feminine response – strongly, and it seemed gratefully, embracing him and pressing his head to her breast.” After subsequent sexual conquests with the nymphet, to Tanya's utter dismay, Petrusha left the country never to visit again.

And in “The Crow”, a father, an important government official, banished his son to Petersburg and threatened to disinherit him if he didn't comply. That was done after the father caught the son cavorting with the help, Elena Nikolaevna. Nikolaevna was described as “young light-limbed” with a “fine delicate face blushing in crimson patches – the face of a frail blonde girl in a thin white blouse, with dark armpits and still only faintly outlined breasts.” Subsequently, the son caught the father with Nikolaevna, his “enchanting young wife”, entering the Marinsky theater in Petersburg. “On her neck a little ruby cross with a dark fire; her slim arms had already grown rounder and were bare to above the elbow [...]”

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