Don Quixote in Russia in the Early Twentieth Century: The Problem of Perception and Interpretation

This study logically continues my previous examination of the perception of Don Quixote in Russia throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and how this perception changed over time. In this new article, I will again use a number of materials inaccessible to English-speaking scholars to demonstrate how the perception of Don Quixote by Russian intelligentsia shifted from humorous to complete admiration and even idealization of the hero. Don Quixote was more and more frequently compared with Prometheus, the most powerful and most romanticized personage of Greek methodology. Indeed, “начав юмористический роман, осмеивающий увлечение современников рыцарскими похождениями, Сервантес и не думал, что потешный рыцарь печального образа постепенно вырастет в гигантскую фигуру страдальца-идеалиста” (“by starting a humorous novel satirizing contemporary fascination with knightly adventures, Cervantes could not even guess that the amusing Knight of the Sad Countenance would gradually grow into a great figure of the suffering idealist”; my trans; Solomin 91).

This study will not attempt to exhaust all questions related to this matter. Instead it tries to open some new routes that will perhaps lead us toward new generalizations and productive conclusions. At the very least, this study aims to arouse a scholarly interest in some key topics related to Cervantes’ reception in Russia in the early twentieth century, his re-discovery and gradual transformation or, more to the point, re-accentuation of the image of Don Quixote during the Silver Age of Russian literary Renaissance.