Eugene Onegin in the Park


Today I took Coco and I to one of my favourite parks, which is about 10-15 minutes away from my house (very pretty, with lots of trees and a huge fountain). The fountain wasn’t running yet, but the trees were showing their leaves, enough so there was plenty of shade from the bright sunshine we’ve been having for a solid week at least now. Quite a change from the relentlessly grey winter months, and all through April too. I brought Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin with me, determined to finish it, and it was a pretty daring move of me, because it’s a Folio Society book and I was extremely concerned about not getting it soiled or damaged. As I was rereading every verse several times over, it took quite a while and there were lots of dogs and kids who came and went and through most of it, Coco was very good and sat with me on the bench. It didn’t hurt that I’d brought his favourite treats with me and fed them to him occasionally with lots of cooing about what a good boy he was being. There was no damage to the book, which I held very gingerly the whole time with hands I felt sure were dirty… But I’m glad I got this edition because it is indeed a novel worth reading more than once, with truly sublime illustrations by the Balbusso twins, and the translation by James E. Falen was very good, though in truth I haven’t read any others to compare it to. It’s such a wonderful way to spend one’s day, sitting in a park on a sunny day, in a corner of shade, with the breeze softly blowing away the heat and humidity, and birdsong as background music. Idyllic really. Meanwhile these mad passionate 19th century Russians are duelling to death and when they’re not busy trying (and succeeding) to kill one another, making themselves ill over love and it’s many games. Makes me glad I’ve let all that foolishness fall away; and I do pray those won’t be famous last words.


Illustration by Anna and Elena Balbusso from Eugene Onegin, Folio Society 2012.


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