I see myself as in a mirror
But this mirror flatters me.
(Pushkin’s comment on a portrait of him by O.Kiprensky, 1827)
Nabokov was emotional about the fact that Pushkin had died just before the development of daguerrotype. 1837 is both the year of Pushkin’s death and Daguerre’s invention. I share Nabokov’s sentiments.
Several months ago I came across a miracle on Facebook – ‘the only existing photo’ of Pushkin.
It is unmistakably the man himself. I don’t understand how that is possible, but I believe what I see. The Facebook comments are sceptical.
From 1824 to 1826 Pushkin was banned to Mikhaylovskoye, his mother’s estate, where he wrote the main chapters of Eugene Onegin. The scenery of Mikhaylovskoye is used as a backdrop for the novel.
I know the place quite well as I used to spend my summer vacations there – both of my parents worked as guides and were friends with the keeper of the Mikhaylovskoye Museum Reserve (as it is called now). Because it was ‘a reserve’ there were a lot of mushrooms and wild strawberries. I have learned to swim in the small river that Pushkin termed ‘this Hellespont’ referring to Byron’s swimming habits. Eugene Onegin I know by heart. It took me several years to learn the novel; my mother thought this exercise would develop my memory skills. I guess it helped.
So Pushkin, except being ‘the sun of Russian poetry’ and ‘our everything’, is also my imaginary friend. It is personal.
Here are paintings of Pushkin the Poet hanging around on Onegin’s bench (used by Tatiana and not Onegin in the novel):
Pushkin (and Onegin) had a crossed-armed statue of Napoleon. According to my mother (‘all his friends say’), standing cross-armed was Pushkin’s favourite pose. He was a rather short man and thought himself ugly.
Pushkin died at the age of 37. I am now 36. Thank god I live in the age of infantilism.