Woe from Wit

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jun 2020

Member Reviews

You probably don't always read translations of plays from Russia, and plays with rhyming dialogue at that.  But this is certainly one instance where those with half an eye to that country should do so.  A young man returns from abroad to the place where his childhood sweetheart lives, to find her more grown up and moved on.  Also, the whole family seems to find everything he says quite strident – in being so utterly, utterly quick to criticise, and finding everything about society fuddy-duddy, nepotistic and old-fashioned.  The comedy follows him as he tries to stick around with the family, and while she tries to avoid him, leaving him to work out who his rival might be en route to a great society ball the household is hosting.  The good thing is this is a breeze to read, with snappy dialogue in short lines of verse, and it remains funny, even if we might not know all the ins and outs of what the author was saying.  Never mind, the fantastic introduction is on hand to explain the full social context of the times the play was set in, and gives us both the author's life story and the history of the play since.  It's kind of a loose approximation, but where Russians might just have to need such a similarly annotated edition of "The Importance of Being Earnest" to understand us current Brits, so we might need to read this to understand the Russian that constantly quotes this, or performs this in full, to this day.  I've always respected this publisher, even if I've not always loved their work, but this volume really does prove to me the 'classic' status of, and the worth in reviving, this text.  It's not for everyone, but it should well be for many.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Since I'm unfamiliar with Russian literature, poetry, and drama, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this title. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable and amusing this play was to read! Griboedev's characters are hilarious and contrast each other nicely, and the dialogue is fast-paced and funny. The entire play reminded me a lot of Jane Austen's work, especially Lady Susan. 

I definitely benefited from the substantial introduction at the beginning of the play, which provided excellent information on the social, political, and cultural environment in Russia at the time of the play's publication. Without this, I don't think I would have enjoyed the play so much.
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I assumed this was a modern adaptation of the old classic for some reason. It isn't, just a new translation. I believe we already have one in our collection, so will not be purchasing a new one.
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There are so many writers that have used Chatsky as a reference point in their work, so it was nice to finally read the original work featuring this character.  This was an enjoyable read and I can see why it has had such an influence.
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