Družinin’s Feuilletons: A Place in the Sun for Dark Times

Lawrence Mansour, United States Military Academy, West Point

Aleksandr Družinin used various pseudonyms and belletristic personae over the thirteen most productive years of his career in Russian journalism (1850–1863). His “Ivan Chernoknižnikov” stories, first produced with Nekrasov and other Sovremennik writers, and later by Družinin alone, evolved as a literary cover in the years following the 1848 revolutions in Europe when censorship severely restricted the kind of implicit liberal social criticism native to his world-view. With this “mask” he also negotiated the generational change that separated the sensibilities of his contemporaries from those of the “baby-boom” generation who came of age in the twenty years following the Napoleonic Wars. Most importantly, the Ivan Chernoknižnikov stories allowed him to prosecute a campaign for full-blooded mimetic prose, while indulging his active dislike of rancor and confrontation. While Družinin revered poetry, Russian and foreign alike, and actively promoted its study, writing criticism which defended poetry in an era increasingly antagonistic to it, he directed his satirical writings at those features of poetic practice that he felt suppressed its ability to function as a multifaceted mirror of life. Prose writing came in for the same criticism in Chernoknižnikov’s parodies. This complex critique of poetics runs as a unifying theme in the Chernoknižnikov stories.