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Nicholas J. L. Luker

Alexander Kuprin

Alexander Kuprin
This monograph in the Twayne series surveys the varied life and work of Kuprin, who with Chekhov and Gorky was one of the best-known Russian prose writers of the early 1900s. Beside his contemporaries he has received scant critical attention, and within the limits imposed by the series, this study with its bibliography aims to redress the balance.
Boston, G K Hall, USA 1978


  1. About the Author
  2. Preface
  3. Chronology
  4. Biography and Literary Beginnings
  5. Kiev Years
  6. Petersburg
  7. The Duel
  8. 1905 and After
  9. War and Revolution
  10. The Twilight Years
  11. Epilogue
  12. Notes and References
  13. Selected Bibliography

The Duel

I. Genesis

THE writing of The Duel took well over a decade and was a laborious process. Kuprin first conceived it in his second year in the army, when he thought of writing a story to reveal the "horror and tedium of army life."1 After embarking on the work, he was dissatisfied with his first drafts and destroyed them. Not until 1902 did he return to the project, fired by his anger at an incident in a Petersburg restaurant when a group of drunken officers insulted his wife. "Sooner or later," he told her, "I'll write about our 'valorous' army - our pitiful, downtrodden soldiers and our ignorant officers wallowing in drunkenness."2

The years since the publication of "The Enquiry" had seen a series of army tales by Kuprin. among them "A Night's Lodging" (1895). "Nochnaia smena" ("Night Relief," 1899), and "The March" (1901). all of which served as preliminary sketches for the detailed portrayal of military life in The Duel. More important was "V kazarme" ("In the Barracks"), published in 1903 and later incorporated into Chapter XI of the novel. Many of its characters appeared in The Duel: for example, its shy. young lieutenant Zybin is the prototype of Romashov.

Linked closely as it was with Kuprin's own army days, the creation of his novel was an intensely cathartic experience, as his words to his wife reveal: "The main character is myself.... I must free myself from the heavy burden of impressions accumulated by my years of military service. I will call this novel The Duel, because it will be my duel ... with the tsarist army. The army cripples the soul, destroys all a man's finest impulses, and debases human dignity .... With all the strength of my soul 1 hate ... my years of regimental service. I must write about all 1 have known and seen. (*74) And with my novel I shall challenge the tsarist army to a duel."3

But the work went slowly, chiefly because his duties for God's World left him little time for anything else. He had difficulty, too, finding a suitable surname for his hero, one that would imprint itself on the reader's mind without being too outlandish. The question was vitally important to him: "My hero is myself. Into him I put my own dreams, secret feelings, and thoughts. I must love him and believe in him as I believe in myself." Early in 1903 Kuprin accidentally hit on the memorable name Romashov, that of a Nizhny- Novgorod magistrate whom his wife mentioned in conversation. He wrote the first six chapters in Miskhor, near Yalta, but was so dismayed by the similarity between Nazansky's views in Chapter V and those of Vershinin in Chekhov's Three Sisters that he tore up the manuscript. Fortunately, his wife managed to glue the sixty pages together again. In the spring of 1904 - after his resignation from God's World- Kuprin returned to the novel, and by August was working on it intensively. Now he realized that The Due! would be the most momentous work of his career, and in a letter to Batyushkov wrote mat it was his "ninth wave," his "final examination."5

Despite his enthusiasm, Kuprin fell far behind schedule. In his efforts to finish The Duel during the winter of 1904-1905, he even took a separate room in the capital and was only allowed by his wife to visit her when he had produced fresh chapters. Nor was the situation improved when in January the police confiscated Chapter XIV during a raid on his lodgings in Sergiev Posad (now Zagorsk), ninety versts from Moscow, where he had gone to work in peace and quiet.6 (He later rewrote the chapter from memory.) Pressed by Knowledge to submit his manuscript no later than Easter of 1905, he found the closing chapter exceedingly troublesome. Written only hours before the deadline, it described the duel between Romashov and Nikolaev, but Kuprin felt dissatisfied with his conclusion and tore it up. He replaced it with the hastily written one page official report of the duel mat now ends the work.

Kuprin's debt to Gorky for his help in writing the novel was immense, as he later readily acknowledged: "Gorky was a compassionate colleague ... and knew how to give support and encouragement at the right time. I remember I abandoned The Duel many times.. ., but after reading the chapters I had written Gorky went into raptures over them and even shed a few tears. If he had not inspired me with confidence ... I might not have finished my (*75) novel." On the eve of the novel's publication Kuprin wrote to Gorky: "Now that all is finished at last, I can say that everything bold and turbulent in my tale belongs to you. If only you knew how much 1 have learnt from you and how grateful I am to you for it."8 When The Duel finally appeared on May 3, 1905, in Volume Six of the Knowledge miscellanies, it bore the dedication: "To Maxim Gorky with sincere friendship and profound respect."9

The Duel promptly became the literary sensation of the year. The twenty thousand copies of the miscellany were rapidly sold out, necessitating a second printing within a month, with the result that in 1905 alone some forty thousand five hundred copies were sold - a vast number for the early 1900s. After the arduous years of fitful writing when he had despaired of ever finishing the novel. Kuprin suddenly found himself the cynosure of every eye.

* * * *

The Duel tells of its hero's growing distaste for army life and his gradual realization that he is a uniquely individual human being. But before he is able to leave the army to act on that realization, he is killed in a duel by the husband of the woman he loves.

II The Opening Chapter

The first chapter of The Duel is a prologue designed to outline many issues central to the work as a whole. Furthermore, it offers a glimpse of the hero's position vis-a-vis army life and its traditional preoccupations, dwelling in particular on his attitude to injustice and violence. Though in early pages of the chapter Kuprin makes no attempt to single out his hero, by the close the course of events has moved Romashov into the forefront of the action, and we have little doubt about his central role in the novel.

With his very first sentence Kuprin plunges us into the thick of army life, as the evening exercises in guard duty draw to a close. The dismal generality of the scene is reinforced by a deliberate neglect of locational detail. Kuprin makes only the most perfunctory references to the setting: a row of poplars bordering the road and the parade ground itself. Amid these colorless surroundings the noncommissioned officers test their sentries' knowledge of regulations by attempting to distract them, or to trick them into sur- rendering their rifles. Kuprin provides a glimpse of two soldiers obliged to undergo these tedious exercises, both of whom are scorned by their officers. The first is Khlebnikov, destined to play (*77) an essential role in the novel as the epitome of the persecuted com- mon Russian soldier. Here his slowness at learning the sentry's routine brings angry abuse from his corporal. Shapovalenko. The second, the Tatar Mukhamedzhinov, is shown in more detail. He can barely understand Russian, and is totally perplexed by the efforts to confuse him in drill. Wild-eyed and frightened, he suddenly loses his temper and threatens to bayonet anyone who comes near.

After the men, Kuprin examines the officers in more detail. He sketches their appearance or temperament in swift, broad strokes, dwelling on characteristics that particularize them throughout the novel. Lance Corporal Shapovalenko is a small, round man who shouts at his men; the company commander. Captain Sliva is hunched, with an ambling gait; Lieutenant Vetkin is described as "a bald, moustached man of about thirty-three, a convivial, garrulous fellow, a songster and drunkard" (IV, 8); and Ensign Lbov is "a lively, well-built lad with ... a perpetual smile on his thick, naive lips." Of the three junior officers mentioned, Romashov is accorded least attention. Kuprin writes of his hero at this stage merely that "he was only in his second year in the regiment," slipping these words between the more amplified references to his fellows Vetkin and Lbov. As yet we have no notion of Romashov's appearance or character, and he says almost nothing as the officers converse. Instead it is Vetkin who expresses his annoyance that the exercises have no yet ended and adds that the whole performance is pointless anyway. The common soldier is always pushed too hard before an inspection, he says, with the result that he becomes stupefied by it all.

Not content with describing those present. Kuprin offers through their conversation glimpses of other officers who are for the moment off stage but will later join in the drama. Thus passing references reveal Lieutenant Andrusevich, who makes his company sing in chorus in the evening; Lieutenant Colonel Lekh, who is found drunk in the officers' club; and Colonel Shulgovich, who roars at his officers in front of orderlies. The arrival on horseback of the dashing aide Bek-Agamalov injects vigor into this first summary picture of the officers and triggers the emergence of Romashov as an individualized character. At the sight of Веk riding his golden horse the consummate skill, Romashov utters words of rapturous admiration. A romantic, exotic figure. Bek is a thoroughbred Circassian, "lean wiry, and very strong" (IV, 9). Together with physical power, his appearance sug-(*77)gests a malign streak in his nature that emerges later on: "With its sloping forehead, slender, hooked nose and resolute, firm lips, his face ... had not yet lost its characteristic oriental pallor.... "

When Век volunteers the information that the colonel has ordered sabre practice for all officers, the conversation turns to violence and the defense of military honor. It is now that The Duel acquires the driving force that will propel its hero to growing self- awareness, and eventually hurl him to his death. When Vetkin questions the usefulness of the sabre in modern warfare, Веk asks what he would do if he were insulted by some civilian. The question and the conversation it produces indicate the contempt shown by Russian officers for civilians at the time. Such contempt often manifested itself in acts of violence committed ostensibly to defend "the honor of their uniform." When Lbov recalls a lieutenant who shot a barman for pulling his shoulder strap, the group take up a familiar topic of conversation - "instances of sudden, bloody, on-the-spot reckonings, and of how these incidents almost always went unpunished" (IV, 12). Examples follow thick and fast: the drunken cornet who hacked his way through a crowd of Jews in a small town; the lieutenant who slashed a student to death in a Kiev dance hall for jogging his elbow; and the officer in a Moscow or Petersburg restaurant who shot a civilian "like a dog" for his remark that respectable men do not pester ladies with whom they are unacquainted. The examples prompt Romashov to make his first comment of the conversation. Blushing with embarrassment, coughing and adjusting his glasses in his nervousness, he protests hesitantly:

"Look gentlemen, this is what I say.... A barman ... if he's a civilian ... a respectable man. someone from the gentry and so on ... why should I attack him with a sabre when he's unarmed? Why can't I demand satisfaction from him? After all, we're civilized people, so to speak... " (IV, 13). Though mild, Romashov's words illustrate a fundamental difference between him and his fellows on the issue of military honor, a difference reinforced by Vetkin's retort: "Eh, you're talking rubbish, Romashov." The scene of sabre practice that follows heightens the difference by revealing Romashov's incompetence with the sword, a failing that symbolizes his organic unsuitability for a way of life committed to violence. In a single sentence aside as his hero draws his sabre and confusedly adjusts his glasses (that traditional hallmark of the intellectual), Kuprin describes Romashov as "of medium height, thin, and (*78) ... quite strong for his build" (IV, 14). though his great shyness makes him clumsy. Never good with a sword even at the Academy, after eighteen months in the army he has forgotten how to use one. As he strikes at the clay dummy his left arm gets in the way and the falling blade grazes his index finger, drawing blood. This first, minor injury prefigures both his spiritual pain and his physical death in the novel. If Romashov's clumsiness with the sabre indicates his unsuitability for the army, Bek's terrifying skill with the weapon exemplifies the violence of military life. Demonstrating how the power of the sword stroke should come not from the arm but the wrist, he emphasizes the downward sawing action that makes the blow more terrible. Holding his left arm behind his back, he strikes the dummy faster than the eye can see: "Romashov heard only the shrill whistle of the blade ... and immediately the upper half of the dummy slumped softly and heavily to the ground. The surface of the cut was just as smooth as if it had been polished" (IV, 15). For an instant the sabre slash reveals Bek's cruelly rapacious nature: "He was breathing heavily, and ... the whole of him, with his malicious, staring eyes, his hooked nose and bared teeth, resembled some proud, evil bird of prey." The appearance of Colonel Shulgovich, the regimental commander, brings Romashov closer to the center of the stage. Shulgovich is a foul-mouthed old officer who terrifies the ranks, hypnotizing the men with his severe, pale eyes. When the Tatar Sharafutdinov fails to understand a question the colonel puts to him, Shulgovich swears volubly at him and orders him to stand guard in full kit as punishment. His heart hammering at this injustice, Romashov intercedes for the soldier, explaining that he understands no Russian. In a rage. Shulgovich sentences Romashov to four days' house arrest for insubordination. Once again the hero is at odds with his milieu, this time not through martial ineptitude but through sensitivity to injustice. His temperamental dissimilarity from his fellow officers is underlined by their jibes at his lack of manliness: Веk contemptuously calls him a "schoolgirl" as he bandages his bleeding finger, and Captain Sliva tells him he should be at his mother's breast instead of in the army.

In this chapter Kuprin reveals progressively more about his hero by distinguishing him from the army system of which he is part. Its closing lines take the process further by demonstrating the hero's sensitivity once again: despite his bitterness at Sliva's cutting (*79) words, Romashov pities him, "this lonely, coarse, unloved man who had only two interests in all the world: the beautiful drill of his company and his quiet, solitary, daily drinking" (IV, 18). But Kuprin modifies his closing lines with a gently mocking thrust aimed as much at the melodramatic excesses of his own early tales as at his hero. As Romashov watches Sliva trudge away, Kuprin notes his "rather ridiculous, naive habit" - common to the very young - of "thinking of himself in the third person in the words of hackneyed novels." The present situation produces the appropriate words, as he thinks inwardly of himself: "His kind, expressive eyes were clouded by sadness." Indicative of his romantic notions, Romashov's imaginative habit affirms the abyss separating his ideals from the reality around him. By the close of The Duel that abyss yawns immeasurably wide and into it Romashov plunges to his doom.

III The Officer Caste

Though set a decade before 1905, The Due! was interpreted as an oblique commentary on events in the Far East at the time. Its appearance in May 1905 could hardly have been more opportune, bracketed as it was by the echoes of two Russian defeats at the hands of the Japanese: the fall of Port Arthur in January, and the annihilation of the Baltic Fleet at Tsushima in May. Amid national ignominy, The Duel seemed a revelation of the reasons for Russia's defeat in the Far East. The responsibility for that defeat, it implied, lay squarely on the shoulders of Russian officers in the field, and events on the Pacific had demonstrated to all the inefficiency and corruption of the Russian military machine. "The officers," wrote Lenin, "proved uneducated, backward and unprepared, lacking close ties with their soldiers and not enjoying their confidence."10 In the general assault on Russian autocracy mounted in 1905, the officer caste became the target for particular attack." While his predecessors Leo Tolstoy and Vsevolod Garshin had shown the army in combat situations, Kuprin portrays it in peacetime, so underlining the brutality of military life as a whole. His gallery of officer types, some thirty in all, reveals in the microcosm of one regiment the attitudes that make the Russian army the crassly degenerate body it is. Kuprin draws the majority of his officers with light irony, sharp mockery, or outright contempt. To those glimpsed in the opening scene are added Lieutenant Nikolaev, (*80) husband of Shurochka with whom Romashov is in love, an oxlike man stubbornly making his third attempt at the examinations for the General Staff Academy; Captain Leshchenko. a silent figure with the drooping face of a melancholy bloodhound; the regi- mental card sharper Lieutenant Archakovsky, a man of doubtful character said to have once killed a coachman with his fists; the blase Lieutenant Bobetinsky, who at twenty- four affects a languorous disillusionment and sprinkles his speech with bad French; little Captain Svetovidov, who steals his soldiers' money to buy drink; the huge, awesome Captain Osadchy; Olizar, a lean, carefully groomed aide with a foppish, wrinkled face; and the adjutant Fedorovsky, cold-eyed, haughty, and strictly correct. Of this catalogue of officers. Osadchy deserves special mention as the dread incarnation of military violence. Renowned for his powerful voice, his enormous size and terrible strength, he can subjugate the most undisciplined troops. In Osadchy's pale face, framed by hair so dark it is almost blue, Romashov senses "something tense, cruel ... characteristic not of a man but of a huge, powerful wild beast" (IV, 85). But not until the picnic scene in Chapter XIV does his bloodthirsty atavism emerge in all its horror. When the guests begin to argue about the impending war with Germany, the drunken Osadchy speaks with nostalgia of olden days when war was war, bloody, merciless, and cruel:

"War has degenerated ... the days of real, savage, merciless war have gone.... In the Middle Ages they know how to fight all right.... a city is stormed by night. The whole of it set ablaze.... The bottoms of wine barrels knocked out. Blood and wine running in the streets.... Women - naked, beautiful, weeping - dragged along by the hair. There was no pity for them. They were the sweet booty of the brave!... At night the houses burned, the wind blew, and black bodies swung on the gallows, while above them the ravens cried. And under the gallows the bonfires burned and the victors feasted. There were no prisoners. Why take them?... What a courageous, wonderful time! What people those were!... I drink to the joy of former wars, to merry, bloody cruelty!" (IV, 131). Osadchy's words evoke a sympathetic response in Веk, his spiritual brother. Seeking an outlet for the ancestral barbarism roused in him by Osadchy's tirade, he draws his sabre and slashes savagely at a sapling nearby. The brutality of Osadchy, Kuprin infers, is common in varying degrees to all his fellows.

But not all the officers incur Kuprin's censure; a handful of them (*81) are portrayed with sympathy as embodying qualities that distinguish them from their unsavory fellows. The most interesting is Second Lieutenant Mikhin, a small, timid man whom Romashov likes. An episodic figure, he is the only officer who resembles the hero in temperament. We first glimpse Mikhin in the officers' club in Chapter VIII when he expresses views on dueling akin to the hero's. He next appears as the guests leave for the picnic in Chapter XIII, when he asks Romashov to sit beside his sisters to prevent the cynical Dits from upsetting them with his suggestive talk. The picnic reveals an unexpected side to Mikhin: in his wrestling bout with Olizar he astonishes everyone by throwing his bigger opponent twice, a symbolic triumph of the humane over the brutal. Significantly, Mikhin is the only officer to express sympathy for Romashov when he is summoned before the tribunal toward the end of the novel: ".. .with tears in his eyes he shook his [Romashov's] hand hard ... blushed, hastily and awkwardly put on his coat, and left" (IV, 193). Three other peripheral characters enjoy Kuprin's sympathy though they are given less space than Mikhin: the Corps Commander who reviews the regiment at the May parade (Chapter XV); Captain Stelkovsky, who commands the Fifth Company; and Lieutenant Colonel Rafalsky, commander of the Fourth Battalion. The anonymous Corps Commander is modeled on General Dragomirov, commander of the Kiev Military District during Kuprin's army years, a soldier renowned for his opposition to rigid Prussian techniques of military training. Through him Kuprin condemns the officers for their lack of concern for the ranks, that "most sacred, grey soldiery" (IV, 149) that readily gives its life for its officers in battle. Stelkovsky's quiet skill in drilling his company makes him an exception "perhaps unique in the whole Russian army" (IV, 143). Avoiding brutality, with patience he achieves in a day results that take others a week. Consequently, his men are the elite of the regiment, superbly drilled and devoted to their commander. Rafalsky is very different. An eccentric, solitary bachelor who rarely mixes with his fellow officers, he lavishes his affection on the many creatures he keeps in his quarters. His kindness to the denizens of his menagerie is paralleled by the generosity with which he lends money to younger colleagues. Yet for all his admiration of their unusual qualities, Kuprin shows that there are darker sides to both Stelkovsky and Rafalsky: the latter beats his men just like any other officer, and Stelkovsky is a secret debauchee who seduces (*82) underage peasant girls.

Desperate tedium hangs over army life like a suffocating pall and makes Kuprin's officers what they are. All are in the service only because they are unfit for any other occupation. There are a few careerists, but the vast majority regard their duties as "a compulsory, annoying, and loathsome corvee" (IV, 56). While the younger officers do the minimum required, the company commanders are embroiled in family squabbles, live above their means, and contract debts. At the insistence of their wives, many "borrow" from company funds or withhold money enclosed with soldiers' letters. Several of them only survive by gambling, much of it dishonest. All drink heavily, either in the club, in each other's quarters, or, like Sliva, in melancholy solitude, a daily routine broken only by an occasional argument or a group sortie to the local brothel. Regimental life is a desert of perpetual intellectual aridity. Most of the officers have forgotten how to think, still less how to state their views on fundamental issues. The attitude toward intellectual activity in the army is summed up by Vetkin's response to Romashov's despair at the pointlessness of military life: ".. .if you think like that, it'd be better not to be in the army ... in our job it doesn't do to think" (IV, III). The cultural wilderness of army life is nicely pointed up by the symbolic treatment accorded Romashov's plaster bust of Pushkin. While his illiterate orderly Gainan, a pagan Cheremis, worships it as a god, the drunken officer Vetkin sees in it only some despicable civilian and uses it for target practice. In revealing Vetkin's crass ignorance, the ironic episode inverts the traditional roles of officer and orderly, and symbolizes what Kuleshov calls "the duel between barbarity and civilization"12 at the heart of The Duel. Only two days later, Romashov uses Vetkin's revolver in his duel with Nikolaev, who embodies for the hero much that he finds loathsome in the officer caste. If tedium and sterility are the pervasive essence of army life, then violence is the inevitable result of the frustration they bring. Might is right in this world of the fist, and the officers rule their men by as much brutality as is necessary to reduce the common soldier to a petrified animal. Physical force and the verbal abuse that accompanies it are a relentless refrain through The Duel and become the most repulsive distinguishing mark of the officer type. Violence reaches its apogee during preparations for the May parade, as the ranks are drilled mercilessly hour after hour in the intense heat: "On all sides, from every company and platoon came the con-(*83)tinuous sound of men being slapped in the face. Often from a distance ... Romashov would see some infuriated company commander start to hit all his soldiers across the face in turn, from the left to the right flank. First the soundless sweep of the hand and then ... the dry crack of the blow, and again, and again, and again.... The noncoms beat their men cruelly for a trivial mistake - beat them till the blood flowed, knocked out their teeth, smashed their eardrums ... knocked them to the ground.... It never occurred to anyone to complain: they were in the grip of some general, monstrous, sinister nightmare; some absurd hypnosis had taken possession of the regiment" (IV, 142). Its senseless violence was what sickened Kuprin most about army life. The spectre of sanctioned brutality stalks the pages of The Duel from beginning to end as Kuprin writes out his pain and horror. Romashov's growing loathing for the violence he sees daily around him accelerates his alienation from the officer caste.

IV Duels and Dueling

Dueling is a formal manifestation of military violence, and references to it are frequent throughout the novel. Indeed the subject of duels was a topical one in the 1890s. May 1894 saw the introduction of "Rules for the investigation of quarrels amongst officers," regulations that authorized dueling when a duel was "the only appropriate means of giving satisfaction to an officer whose honor was insulted."13 The officer caste upholds the tradition of dueling as the ultimate means of defending its status. It is no coincidence that the first mention of dueling occurs in Chapter IV, when Shurochka asks Romashov, "Did you read in the papers about the officers' duel?" (IV, 37), words that quietly point the direction the novel is to take. It is significant too that it is Shurochka - whose preoccupation with status will lead to Romashov's death at her husband's hand - who first brings up the subject. She does not object to the practice of dueling itself- "I realize duels amongst officers are a necessary and reasonable thing," she tells the hero - but to the absurdity of its conditions, which invariably lead to death. Her remarks foreshadow Romashov's own fate:

"... some unfortunate lieutenant... like you. who what's more is the injured party and not the offender, ... is terribly badly wounded in the stomach and dies ... in dreadful agony."

But she is convinced that in peacetime duels have a valuable role to play in (*84) maintaining army discipline. Her words offer a glimpse of the driving ruthlessness she will later show with fatal effect: "What are officers for? For war. And what's needed most of all in war? Courage, pride, the ability not to turn a hair in the face of death. Where are those qualities most vividly to be seen in peacetime? In duels. And that's all.... And what silly softness it is, this fear of a bullet! It's your job to risk your life" (IV, 38). Immediately after his wife's talk of dueling, Nikolaev asks her for the German for "rival," to which she replies swiftly and correctly "der Nebenbuhler". Kuprin's strategic wordplay affirms that his hero is now unwittingly engaged in a duel with the husband of the woman he loves.

The subject of dueling crops up again in Chapter VIII, during a discussion at the officers' club, where the question is examined in more detail. When Archakovsky admits the unfairness of a system in which the injured party is dismissed from the army if he refuses to fight but is perhaps killed if he does, Bobetinsky interposes pompously that "only blood can wash off the stain left by an insult" (IV, 83). Mikhin and Osadchy express diametrically opposed views of dueling. Tentatively and nervously, in words that echo Romashov's on attacks on civilians in Chapter I, Mikhin argues that each should be treated on its merits. "Sometimes," he stammers, "a duel is useful.... But sometimes ... the highest honor lies in forgiving. .." (IV, 85). Osadchy. however, has the last word. Drown- ing the others out with his powerful voice, he expresses the traditional, sanguinary army attitude: "A duel, gentlemen, must without fail have a serious outcome, otherwise it's an absurdity, ... foolish pity, compromise, leniency, a farce." A duel of the French variety, he adds, where the adversaries exchange shots without hitting each other then shake hands over breakfast, is nonsense and "brings no improvement to our society whatsoever." The meaning of the novel's title reaches far beyond the collision between Nikolaev and Romashov that concludes it. It embraces not only the hero's inner conflict with himself, good against evil, conviction against officer's duty, but also the wider confrontation between the sensitive individual and the whole of army life. In his unequal struggle against the brutality and philistinism rampant around him, that individual could expect nothing less than annihilation.

V Romashov

Like Moloch, The Duel sets its hero at center stage, focusing on (*86) his feelings and experiences. But unlike Bobrov, whom we find formed a priori when that work begins, Romashov develops significantly as the novel progresses. He is the compositional core of the work and from no chapter is he absent. During the two months of the novel's action (early April to early June) we see the rapid sentimental education of a sensitive individual who becomes increasingly aware of the hatefulness of army life. The timid lieutenant of the opening chapter is transformed into a thinking human being acutely aware of the inhumanity of army life and deeply troubled by his own role in it. Kuprin's revelation of his hero's psychology and his damning portrayal of the military are closely dependent on each other. Romashov's moral stature grows in direct proportion to his increasing distaste for the army.

Kuprin's exploration of his hero begins in earnest in Chapter II. However, he makes no attempt to throw light on Romashov's character by offering a detailed biography.14 Instead, he prefers to reveal facets of his hero's character gradually, through situations and contact with other figures in the novel rather than through direct authorial intrusion. Romashov's dejection is the inevitable result of provincial army life, its inescapable monotony and squalid boredom symbolized by the clinging mud that squelches underfoot in the remote border town. This first portrait of the hero reveals an inveterate dreamer who takes refuge from reality in romantic fantasies. The chapter begins with his visit to the railway station, the sole source of variety in this wilderness. Suggesting the vistas of possibility that lie beyond Romashov's cramped existence, the railway line appears twice more in the novel as a quietly insistent motif in two crucial meetings (with Nikolaev and Khlebnikov) that confirm his deep involvement in army life. Here the shiny express on its way into Prussia is a fleeting reminder of a very different world, "an inaccessible, elegant, magnificent world where life was an everlasting holiday and celebration" (IV. 19).

Romashov's fantasies owe as much to his childhood, when "all the world was bright and pure" (IV, 56), as to his present adulthood sullied by reality. "In fact," Kuprin notes, "there was still a lot of the child in him" (IV, 21). Gazing at the sunset, Romashov indulges in a familiar daydream tinged with nostalgia for the pristine years of childhood in which it was born: "As always, ... he imagined beyond the bright glow of evening some mysterious, radiant life.... there, far, far beyond the clouds and the horizon (*86) flamed ... a miraculous, dazzlingly beautiful city, hidden from view by clouds shot with inner fire. There the roads paved with gold glittered with blinding brilliance, fantastic cupolas and towers with purple roofs rose to the sky, diamonds sparkled in the windows and brilliant, multicolored flags fluttered in the air. And ... in that fabulous, distant city lived joyous, exultant people ... filled with ineffable joy, knowing no bounds in happiness or desire and unclouded by sorrow, shame or care... " (IV, 21).

The fantasy contrasts sharply with Romashov's bitter recollection of the recent episode when Shulgovich shouted at him in front of the ranks. His shame at the insult triggers a reverie full of thoughts of revenge and romantic dreams of martial valor. First he sees himself as a brilliant officer of the General Staff behaving with haughty politeness toward Shulgovich as he bungles the manoeuvres. Next he is called to suppress a workers' riot, and after ordering his men to fire on the mob is decorated for courage. Then he is a spy in Germany, wandering the country and secretly noting details of fortifications and barracks. When captured, he faces a firing squad at dawn with the brave words in fluent German: "Aim at the heart!" (IV, 23). Finally, he imagines himself a colonel in a bloody war with Germany and Austria. On a foaming Arab steed he appears over the hill at the crucial moment to lead the troops to a victory that decides the fate of Russia. Inspired by third rate novels, such daydreams illustrate his naivete and his illusions about military life. That they persist intact after eighteen months of service even when Romashov himself is fully aware of their emptiness ("What nonsense gets into your head!" [IV, 24]) shows they are simply an escape from reality.

Yet however persistent his dreamings, they do not save him from being degraded by the Philistinism of army life. The strict program of self-education Romashov set himself at the start of his military career a year before - the systematic study of French, German, and music - has gone by the board. His cello stands forgotten in a corner, his books gather dust on the shelf, and the papers to which he so eagerly subscribed lie unopened under his desk. He is drinking heavily at the club, is involved in a sordid affair with another officer's wife, has taken to gambling, and grows increasingly tired of the service. Worst of all, he has almost ceased to think. And what thoughts he has are "tedious and confused ... as if there had spread inside his skull a dirty grey spider's web from which he could not possibly disentangle himself (IV, 25). However, unlike (*87) his colleagues, he is aware of his degeneration, and though still too weak to halt it, knows it should stop. In his dreams he visualizes the damage being done him by army life. If his waking fantasies evoke the untainted world of childhood, his sleeping dreams show that his adult self is being destroyed. The process is neatly represented by his vision of a split within him between his younger and older self: the embodiment of purity, the younger Romashov weeps as his older "double" drifts off into the sinister darkness. Romashov's memories of childhood provide the stimulus for the development of his self- awareness. That development begins in Chapter VI, where Romashov starts to grope toward the consciousness of self that will eventually alienate him from the army. Con- fined to his quarters on Shulgovich's orders, he is alone for the first time in his eighteen months of service. Suddenly he longs to leave his room for the outside air, "as if he had never known the value of freedom before and now was amazed how much happiness there could be in simply being able to walk where one pleased" (IV, 59). His unfamiliar urge is heightened by the regenerative atmosphere of spring outside his window, with its backdrop of cherry blossom and trees touched with their first greenery. His confinement reminds him of when his mother used to punish him as a child by tying him to his bed by a thread round his ankle. Then, as now, it was not the physical restraint or the fear of punishment that held him captive, but the hypnotic power the thread had over him. To the adult officer Shulgovich's order is now that thread.

His realization that another's will binds him leads Romashov into a protracted inner monologue on the subject of his own self, his "I," his Ya. As if understanding this word for the first time, he is staggered by the sudden awareness of his own individuality, the fact of his special identity. Repeating the word over and over again, he becomes aware of the gap between his own self and his environment, between his Ya and the ne Ya: "I is here inside me ... all the rest is outside and it's not 1. This room here, the street, the trees, the sky, the regimental commander. Lieutenant Andrusevich. the service, the flag, the soldiers - all that's not I.... But if I pinch myself on the hand ... that's 1.1 can see my hand and I lift it up - that's 1. What I'm thinking at the moment - that's I too. And if 1 feel like going out, - that's I" (IV, 61). From his own Ya Romashov moves on to recognize the unique individuality of every human being, yet realizes that because each man's Ya is closed to his fellow, all of us see others as alien. His thoughts then turn to the (*88) men under his command. While each has his own Ya and sees in his officer his ne Ya, Romashov cannot distinguish his men from one another and sees them only as a mass. His stirrings of social concern are interrupted by the appearance of Gainan, and his thoughts then move in another direction.

This time Romashov's consciousness of his ego leads him to a realization of the futility of army service. In the trivial reasons for his arrest he sees the absurdity of military regulations compared with the ephemerality of his life. In twenty or thirty years, he thinks, his I will be extinguished like a lamp whose wick has been turned down. And what, he asks himself, will he have done with his life, this instant of light in the darkness of eternity? His answer sets in relief the pointlessness of military routine: "I stood to attention, kept my heels together, ... and shouted...: 'Shoulder arms!1 " (IV, 62). The superiors who force him to do unnecessary things are mere ghosts who will die with his Ya. Nevertheless, they have left their mark on him. "They have insulted and humiliated Me", he cries inwardly, "Me!!! Why should my I obey ghosts?"

Thoughts of the army lead naturally to thoughts of war. With more naivete than logic, Romashov concludes that universal resistance to violence would render war impossible. Traditional concepts, he reasons, like duty, honor, and patriotism, have meaning only while he and his I exist. But if those concepts were to vanish, his I would remain inviolable. Therefore his I is more important than all such concepts. And if his I and that of everyone else in the human race were to say "I don't want to!' " war would become unthinkable. So the whole complex edifice of the army, he concludes triumphantly, rests precariously on the fact that "mankind will not. cannot, or dare not say '1 don't want to!' " What then is war, he asks himself, with its death and refined techniques of murder? Is it "a global mistake? Blindness?"(IV, 63).

Gainan's second entry triggers Romashov's earlier thoughts on the individuality of the ordinary soldier. Now his thinking reflects the gulf between him and his men, a gulf it is his duty to bridge: "There are a hundred of them in our company. And each is a man with his own thoughts and feelings, his own particular character and experience of life.... Do I know anything about them? No - nothing, apart from their faces.... What have 1 done to bring my soul closer to theirs, my 1 to their 1? - Nothing" (IV. 64). From introspective notions about his own ego, Romashov arrives at an awareness of the plight of the common soldier in his command. (*89) Henceforth the hero's intellectual development goes hand in hand with his increasing concern for his fellow man.

Though at this stage the idea of leaving the army does occur to Romashov, he knows he is ill-equipped for civilian life. Unfit for anything else, he is a captive of the army system, a sad fact affirmed by Shurochka's merry call of "Little prisoner!" (IV, 65) beneath his window toward the end of the chapter.

The discrepancy between his lofty thoughts of his ego and his captive situation in the army widens during the scenes that follow. His reprimand from Shulgovich (Chapter VII) demonstrates how insubstantial his self is in practice, as his I must once again submit to another's will. Yet the germ of active retaliation is there. As Shulgovich rebukes him. Romashov feels his whole body tremble; the blood rushes to his face and the room grows dark before his eyes. Filled with hatred, he plunges into a silent blackness, "without thoughts, will, ... almost without consciousness" (IV, 71), in which there exists only the conviction that any second he will strike his commander across the face. Shulgovich's realization of Romashov's emotional state obliges him to defuse the situation. Conflict in matters military is echoed by social collision. The regimental ball (Chapters VIII and IX) is a ceremonial parade of the vulgarity of army existence. Amid the bogus elegance and affected sophistication of the ball, Romashov is drawn into a tedious verbal duel with his mistress Raisa Peterson, the regimental whore. He now feels ashamed of his affair with this spiteful woman, defiled by his intimacy with her, "as if he hadn't washed or changed his underwear for several months" (IV, 88).

Chapters X and XI show Romashov's increasingly vocal opposition to brutality inflicted on the ranks. His strengthening convictions are expressed in sure, steady words, so unlike his earlier faltering phrases. When Shapovalenko threatens to strike Khlebnikov. Romashov shouts angrily at the corporal: "Don't you dare hit that man! ... Don't you ever dare do it!" (IV, 103). He restates his opinions even more forcefully in the officers' conversation which follows: "It's disgraceful to hit a soldier ... who ... hasn't even the right to lift his hand to ward off the blow" (IV, 105). To Sliva he adds that if he sees him beating soldiers he will report him to the commander. The class in military theory in Chapter XI is a further example of the senseless routine of army life. As its cross-section of soldiers, from the former student Fokin to the bewildered Khleb-(*90)nikov, repeat the formulae required of them, Romashov despairs at such tedium, and concludes: "it's swinishness to spend one's time like this" (IV. 111). Now the intricate apparatus of army routine to which he has given so many years seems "tedious, unnatural, and contrived, something aimless and idle, born of a general, worldwide self-deception, something resembling an absurd delirium" (IV, 112). Again, but now more urgently, he thinks of leaving the army.

The skillfully maintained tension between Romashov's romantic notions of himself as a glorious officer and the grim reality of army life reaches its climax in Chapter XV, when it finally snaps. As the parade begins, all thoughts of his ego vanish and his feeling is one of pride at his participation in this stirring spectacle: "suddenly he felt young, strong, agile, and proud in the knowledge that he too belonged to this ordered, motionless, mighty mass of men so mysteriously bound together by one invisible will..." (IV, 146). But during the marchpast disaster strikes. Intoxicated by dreams of martial distinction, he loses his alignment and throws the men marching behind him into confusion. The chaos of the moment is exemplified in the pathetic figure of Khlebnikov, struggling along twenty paces behind and covered with dust. As the brilliant May morning suddenly grows dark before Romashov's eyes, his sense of pride is reversed: "he felt small, weak, and unsightly, with sluggish movements and unwieldy, clumsy, stumbling legs" (IV, 155). Feeling disgraced forever, he resolves to shoot himself.

His shame at his public disgrace turns Romashov's growing spiritual alienation from his fellow officers into actual physical isolation. As they return in a group to town, he sets off alone by a roundabout way, feeling "like some pitiful renegade ... not even a grown-up man but a loathsome, defective, ugly little boy" (IV, 158). But his shame sharpens his self-awareness by showing him the similarity between his own experience and that of the common soldier. Khiebnikov. In their own ways, both are victims of an inhuman system. Now Kuprin fuses hitherto separate elements of his plot: the officer's growing self- awareness and the private's unrelieved suffering. Romashov senses how this day has curiously intertwined his own destiny with that of the "wretched, cowed, tormented little soldier" (IV, 159). It is as if they are two cripples, he thinks, "suffering from ... the same disease and arousing in people ... the same disgust." For all the shame his realization of their similarity brings, he detects in it "something extraordinary, pro-(*91)found, and truly human." Romashov's identification of himself with the common soldier Khiebnikov is eloquent proof of his alienation from the officer caste.

To cement their spiritual kinship. Kuprin brings Romashov and Khiebnikov physically together in Chapter XVI. The chapter is a triptych embodying the three parallel themes on which the structure of the novel rests. First comes Romashov's meeting with Nikolaev, representing his personal conflict with the officer caste, now intensified by his illicit love for Shurochka. The center of the chapter pivots on Romashov's awareness of self: filled with self-pity, he imagines in melodramatic terms his own suicide and funeral, finding perverse pleasure in the thought of how deeply he would be mourned by his fellows when they saw they had never understood him. The close of the chapter, its third stage, shifts the focus from the hero's self to Khiebnikov. As he looks at the soldier's horribly beaten face, Romashov's own suffering seems trifling beside the other's agony. Yet they have shared the day's disgrace and are equally unhappy. It is now that the motif of human concern reaches its moving crescendo. Filled with compassion, Romashov embraces the sobbing soldier and comforts him. Through the painful chaos of his own emotions - "infinite grief, horror, incomprehension, and profound, guilty pity" - he whispers: "My brother!" (IV, 170). The identification of officer with soldier, man with man, is complete, as both stand bewildered before the senseless savagery of their life. Yet the rapprochement between them is wholly of Romashov's making, and while he calls Khiebnikov his brother, the soldier continues to address his officer as "sir" (barin), Khiebnikov plays a secondary role in the scene, for he says very little and emerges chiefly through the prism of the hero's emotions. Moreover, there is a hint of condescension in Romashov's sympathy, and his words of comfort are "the simple, touching, soothing words an adult uses to a hurt child." Nor is the consolation he offers Khiebnikov - "One must bear it" - anything more than a verbal anodyne. Though dimly grateful, Khiebnikov is almost as bewildered by his officer's compassion as he is by the whole of army life.

However little it does for Khlebnikov, Romashov's conversation with the soldier acts as a catalyst on the confusion of his feelings and brings him maturity overnight. In Volkov's words, the meeting is "a kind of catharsis, a renewal and elucidation of the soul" l5 for the hero, after which everything falls into place. Romashov with-(*93)draws from the society of his fellow officers, and now regards people and events around him with sad calm. He has thus been purged of the army in body and soul by his conversation with Khlebnikov, a process suggested by his thoughts of lustrum, the ancient Roman purificatory sacrifice. The purgation is followed by his growing association with Khlebnikov, from whom he learns the sorry details of his life both in the regiment and back home. But again it is on Romashov rather than Khlebnikov that we see the effects of their association. The hero's shame at his responsibility as an officer for the soldier's suffering colors his compassion with guilt.

His contact with Khlebnikov proves to Romashov the indubitable individuality yet common suffering of every soldier in his command. With horror he sees that each day- brings him face to face with hundreds of "grey" Khlebnikovs, every one of whom has his own joys and sorrows but is depersonalized by "the general servitude of army life, the indifference of his superiors, arbitrariness and coercion" (IV, 172). Worst of all is the realization that not a single officer even suspects that these men are living people, not "mechanical quantities called company, battalion, or regiment."

Like the enforced solitude of his house arrest a month before, Romashov's present voluntary isolation gives him the chance to think. This time he is amazed by the diversity of his inner life, having earlier not even suspected "what joy, what power, what profound interest lay hidden in such a simple, ordinary thing as human thought" (IV, 173). His earlier ideas of leaving the army have crystalized into the decision to resign once he has served the three years required to pay for his education in the Academy. Baffled by the variety of civilian occupations open to him, he concludes that "the vast majority of educated professions are based solely on distrust of human integrity and thus serve human vices and imperfections." Otherwise, he thinks, why should officials like accountants, policemen, and overseers be necessary? As for priests, doctors, and judges, whose professions oblige them to know the sufferings of others, Romashov concludes that such people grow morally callous more rapidly than others. Who then, he wonders, will feed and teach the downtrodden Khlebnikov and say to him: "Give me your hand, brother?" (IV, 174).

Slowly and unsurely, Romashov gropes toward a new view of life. Formerly the world was divided for him into two unequal parts. The smaller consisted of officers who alone possessed the prerogatives of honor, rank, and power. The larger part consisted (*94) of civilians, who could be insulted and beaten for amusement. Distanced now from the army by both his disgrace and his convictions, Romashov sees the falsity of such a view, and realizes that "the whole of military service ... is founded on a brutal, infamous mis- understanding by the whole of mankind." His rhetorical question sums up the novel's evaluation of army life: "How can a class of people exist ... which in peacetime, without serving the slightest useful purpose, eats other people's bread and meat, wears other people's clothes, lives in other people's houses, and then in wartime goes off senselessly to kill and maim people just like themselves?" (IV, 174).

His reflections lead Romashov to conclude that there are only "three proud callings for man: science, art, and free physical toil." Kuprin suggests that the second will become his hero's metier, Romashov's new-found awareness reawakens his interest in his literary work, hitherto only the dabblings of an amateur. Now he dreams of writing a novel to expose all the loathsomeness of army life. But though his thoughts are vivid, they seem pale on paper, and when he compares his efforts to the Russian classics he feels aversion for his own work.

Romashov's self-realization brings with it a decisiveness he has never known before. This and the sudden anger engendered by his pent-up frustration lead to his tight with Nikolaev and the fatal duel. His audacity first manifests itself in a comparatively trivial way, when he flings a bunch of daffodils through Shurochka's bedroom window. But he displays almost reckless courage in the brothel scene of Chapter XVIII. When Веk raises his sword to slash at a whore, Romashov - swept by "a flaming torrent of insane ecstasy and horror" (IV. 185) - seizes Bek's wrist and stops the blow. The outcome of this first duel is entirely positive. Far from hacking Romashov to pieces for his intervention, Веk later squeezes his hand in gratitude.

From Chapter XVIII onward, the personal and environmental factors that have increasingly alienated Romashov from army life coalesce into a fateful force that propels him to his doom. The suicide from Osadchy's company which he is obliged to observe at the autopsy is the harbinger of his own fate, set now as he is on a suicidal collision course with the army. The maelstrom of frenzied drunkenness unleashed by the suicide and inspired by the predatory Osadchy provides the momentum that sweeps the hero to destruction. Drawn into the general orgy by the drunken Vetkin. Roma-(*94)shov finds himself in an intoxicated dream where everything happens "somehow of its own accord" (TV, 179). As his consciousness continually recedes, then fitfully reasserts itself, events follow one another in a sequence devoid of logic, like a nightmare ribbon of film. The episode with Веk is part of this strange delirium, fading into nothing as mysteriously as it flares into being.

Back in the officers' club, the invisible agency controlling the events of this fateful night becomes madness and death itself. Wandering into the guest bedrooms nicknamed "the morgue" because officers have shot themselves there, Romashov stumbles on the alcoholic Klodt and the gambler Zolotukhin drinking themselves insensible in the dark while their drunken colleagues in the next room intone a hymn that resembles a distant dirge. Driven by some incomprehensible force, Romashov returns to his fellow officers, though he knows he should leave. When Osadchy joins the drunken chorus in a maudlin requiem. Romashov. amid sudden silence, shouts angrily at him to stop. The hallucinatory quality of the moment is emphasized by the grotesque shadows cast by the swinging lamp as it turns those present into sinister giants or dwarfs dancing in tangled chaos over walls and ceiling. As all becomes clamorous confusion before Romashov's eyes, the figures tossing around him embody the general delirium, "as if some evil, chaotic, foolish, savagely derisive demon" (IV, 191) has possessed them all. As in a nightmare, things happen with lightning speed and incoherence. Nikolaev's offensive words to Romashov lead to a fight, and the die is cast. Within forty-eight hours Romashov is dead.

Romashov's duel with Nikolaev represents the culmination of his estrangement from his fellow officers. In holding views contrary to theirs, he puts himself beyond the pale of the officer caste. But, as Shulgovich warned him early in the novel, that caste will brook no deviation from its norms: "Watch you don't take us too far. You're only one. while the company of officers is a whole family. That means the one can always ... be grabbed by the tail and thrown out..." (IV, 71). Paradoxically, it is the army that makes of Romashov the thinking individual he becomes. But as he prepares to enter a new life, he is obliged to settle accounts with the old. Whatever his hopes for the future, the army demands retribution in the present, and the gathering gloom of the closing chapters is a reminder that Romashov is doomed. Nemesis stalks The Duel from its earliest pages, drawing closer to Romashov with ever more rapid strides. Nikolaev is its embodiment, and his bullet its sentence.(*95)

VI Nazansky

Nazansky is the most intriguing yet most unsatisfying character in The Duel. Though an officer in Romashov's regiment and a close friend of the hero's, he plays no part in events of the novel, and indeed appears in only two chapters (V and XXI), after being first mentioned in Chapter IV during Romashov's visit to the Nikolaevs'. Here Shurochka refers to him several times and reveals that he is a hopeless drunkard who is destroying himself. Her interest in him has more to it than meets the eye, however: afterward Roma- shov visits Nazansky and discovers that Shurochka and he were formerly in love. Though we see Romashov and Nazansky together only twice, they belong indivisibly at the philosophical center of The Duel. Indeed, it is Nazansky, not Romashov, who enunciates Kuprin's philosophical views in their developed form. In his memoirs Kuprin's friend Batyushkov offers an explanation for the curious closeness of the two characters. The pair represents, he says, the contrasting sides of Kuprin himself. Romashov is the younger of the two, gentle and weak-willed. Nazansky is Kuprin's older self, molded yet battered by life. Influenced by Nietzsche, he has become an individualist who challenges all around him.16 Batyushkov adds that Kuprin claimed the two men embodied the contrasting character types he inherited from his parents: Romashov stemmed from his mother and Nazansky from the father he barely knew.17

The relationship between Romashov and Nazansky recalls that between Bobrov and Goldberg in Moloch, with the important difference that while the earlier pair arrive at their conclusions through discussion, here Nazansky does most of the talking and Romashov listens to him largely in silence. On his second appearance, only three chapters from the end of the novel, Nazansky summarizes for Kuprin the detestable features of army life. But he also expresses definite opinions on the very issues with which Romashov only begins to grapple during the novel, and to that extent he is the author's mouthpiece. More educated and talented than the hero, he has also been in the army much longer. He is thus much more damaged by it, serving as "material evidence of the disastrous effect of the officer's life on an intelligent ... man."18 He acts as confidant for Romashov, who visits him when troubled. But intellectually he is mentor and exemplar too. despite his alcoholism. (*96) Nazansky's importance as a philosophical well-spring in the novel is underlined by the expressive description of him when Romashov first meets him. By an attention to facial detail unparalleled in the work, Kuprin evokes the grace and wisdom of this maverick officer who seems an apostle of light amid the darkness of regimental life. Obliquely too, his statuesque appearance points up Romashov's own facial ordinariness, of which he is so painfully conscious: "Nazansky's ... golden hair fell in large, full curls around his high, open forehead, ... and the whole of his massive, elegant head with the bare neck and open shirt of a noble portrait resembled the head of one of those Greek heroes or sages, whose magnificent busts Romashov had seen on engravings somewhere. His clear, faintly moist, blue eyes had a lively, intelligent, gentle look in them" (IV, 48). Apart from Shurochka, Nazansky is the only physically attractive figure in the novel; through him Kuprin suggests a correlation between prepossessing appearance and intellectual activity.19

Philosophically, Nazansky's first conversation with Romashov is much less important than the second, but it prepares the ground for it by outlining his character, touching on his attitude to army life, and revealing the thought and emotion of which he is capable. Nazansky confesses that he hates the army but continues to serve in it because it provides security. Only in drink can he escape the tedium of this "existence as monotonous ... and grey as a soldier's greatcoat" (IV, 46). Only when drunk does he live the miraculous life of his spirit. So full is this life that all he has seen, heard, or read awakes within him and takes on brilliant meaning. Pullulating with myriad encounters and experiences, his memory makes him as rich as Rothschild. In his heightened awareness, he weeps for the joy and sorrow of others. When he first experienced it, this illumination of the spirit seemed like inspiration itself, but now he realizes it is nothing more than the effect of alcohol on his nervous system. But what does it matter, he asks, if drink ruins his health, so long as it brings him such happiness?

Thoughts of women and dreams of love lie at the center of Nazansky's spiritual activity. Often he thinks of the ideal women he can never meet in squalid, provincial army life, those "tender, pure, elegant women ... with snow-white souls who know all and fear nothing" (IV, 48). For him the love of a woman means both boundless delight and acutely sweet suffering. He sees the greatest happiness and torment in unrequited love. His dream when young (*98) was to fall in love with an unattainable woman and devote his life to her. What exquisite pleasure, he tells Romashov, to go to any lengths to see his love; what bliss to touch her dress just once in his life. His impassioned words remind Romashov of his impossible love for Shurochka, but also bring Nazansky to confess that he once met such a wonderful woman. Though she ceased to love him because he drank. he loves her still, and lives under the spell of their past intimacy. A letter he shows to Romashov reveals that the woman is Shurochka. Thus both men are involved with her in different ways. But there is no jealousy between them, no duel of rivals. Nazansky is the passive member of the triangle, who now only draws with nostalgia on the emotional reservoir of the past.

Nazansky's second appearance, in Chapter XXI, provides the key to Kuprin's philosophy in The Duel. Here his monologue demonstrates his ideological kinship with Romashov, developing the individualist anarchist views Romashov first formulated while under arrest in Chapter VI. If there Romashov groped toward a realization that his own self is the only true reality, from Nazansky he now receives eloquent, if rather confused, confirmation. But while Romashov's thoughts in the early chapter centered on military issues sparked off by his arrest, Nazansky now takes those thoughts to construct a reasonably coherent system applicable to the whole of life. Thus, on the eve of Romashov's duel, Kuprin has Nazansky develop his hero's views as the maturing Romashov would eventually have done had he not been killed. Indirectly, Nazansky's philosophizing, frequently punctuated as it is by Romashov's rapturous words of agreement, underlines the tragedy of the hero's death on the brink of anew life. From the outset Nazansky urges Romashov to decline the duel, arguing that it would be braver not to fight. Like everything in life, Romashov's pain and hatred will pass, but if he kills his opponent, the dead man's shadow will pursue him forever. By killing his enemy, he will destroy his own joie de vivre. Reminding Romashov of the total, incomprehensible nothing that awaits man after death, he speaks of the captivating beauty of life, with its music, its scent of flowers, and the sweet love of a woman. But its supreme delight is the "golden sun of life" (IV, 202) - human thought. This is what death destroys, man's "greatest enjoyment and pride ... that never, never, never will return" (IV, 203).

When Romashov asks what he should do, Nazansky condemns army life in words that not only echo the hero's own earlier senti-(*98)ments but also distill the essence of the attack on the army mounted by the whole tale: "Just look at our officers.... They're all trash, riff-raff, scum.... Anyone who's talented or able takes to drink. Seventy-five percent ... are infected with syphilis.... To them the service is the object of sheer disgust, a burden, a detestable yoke.... What's vilest of all is the military ambition, the petty, cruel ambition. Men like Osadchy and company who knock out their soldiers' eyes and teeth ... in the service they all become base, cowardly, vicious, stupid, miserable little animals. You ask why? Precisely because none of them believes in the service or sees any sensible point in it" (IV, 203-205).

Nazansky blames this situation partly on the changes wrought in the army by time; in this respect, paradoxically, his views resemble Osadchy's opinions on the degeneration of war. When mankind was in its infancy, war was a joyful intoxication, a valorous, bloody delight. Leaders were chosen for their strength and bravery, and till they were killed their power was regarded as divine. But now mankind has grown older, soldiers are pressed into the army, while the awesome chiefs of old have become functionaries living timorously on wretched pay. Now military valor is tarnished and army discipline gives rise to hatred between officers and men. Nazansky can think of only one other group like the army: the priesthood. It too has degenerated since its beginnings and now the parallels between officer and priest are startling: "There ... the cassock and censer, here the uniform and rattling weapons; there humility, hypocritical sighs, and sickly sweet words, here assumed courage, proud honor, . .. and shoulders pulled up high" (IV, 206). Moreover, both groups are parasites on the body social, "like fat lice that grow fatter still on another's body the more it rots." But retribution is close at hand, Nazansky believes, for women will become ashamed of Russian officers and soldiers will cease to obey them. This reckoning will come not only for their brutality over many years, but also for their crass insensitivity, for being "blind and deaf to everything" around them (IV, 207). Then Nazansky's monologue takes up the individualist anarchist theme earlier adumbrated by the hero. The former seminarist Nazansky rejects the traditional Christian doctrines of humility, obedience, and love of one's fellow men. "Who will prove to me clearly and cogently," he asks, "in what way I am linked with my fellow man - devil take him! - with a mean slave, someone who is diseased, an idiot?" (IV, 208). He loathes the diseased and dis-(*99)likes his fellow men, so detests most the legend of St. Julian the Hospitaler, in which Julian warms a leper with his naked body in a gesture of supreme selflessness. Self-sacrifice now for mankind of the future means nothing to Nazansky: "What interest will make me smash my own head for the sake of people's happiness in the thirty-second century?"

Love for mankind, he continues, has yielded to a new faith that will survive to the end of time: "This is love for oneself, one's own beautiful body, one's all-powerful mind, the infinite wealth of one's feelings." Nazansky now offers Romashov the kernel of anarchist individualist philosophy: "... just think, Romashov: who is dearer or closer to you than yourself? No one. You are the king of the world, its pride and adornment. You are the God of all that lives. All that you see, hear, and feel belongs only to you. Do what you wish. Take everything you please. Fear no one in the whole universe, because there is no one mightier than you and no one equal to you." When all men possess faith in their own selves, other faiths will become redundant and life will be transformed. Once each individual realizes he is a God, Nazansky believes, human beings will cease to oppress each other, and vice, malice, and envy will disappear from the earth. Purged of the banal, life will become beautiful, "sweet toil, free learning, wondrous music, an easy, gay. perpetual holiday" (IV, 208-209).

While he admits that some might criticize his dreams as "a manifestation of extreme individualism" (IV, 209), Nazansky sees their practical potential: they can bring people together and unite them when the need arises. Since there are some challenges the individual cannot meet alone, he advocates a free association of Godlike individuals to defeat the common enemy. Just such a challenge is posed by what he calls "the two- headed monster" (evidently the imperial eagle): "in it I see everything that binds my spirit, constrains my will, and diminishes my respect for my own person". But the monster can only be defeated through common effort. What is important, he argues, is the force that sets each man beside his fellow: "not sentimental pity for my fellow man but divine love for myself unites my efforts with those of others equal to me in spirit! " Struggle of this kind is worthwhile, he believes, because it can improve still further a life already immensely pleasurable. Life is a "gay, entertaining, wonderful thing" (IV, 210), he argues at the close of his monologue, and Romashov should not fear it, because hitherto he has seen only one small, dark, unattractive comer of it. (*100) Nazansky urges him to break with the army before it extinguishes the precious light burning within him. That light, his spirit, is the only reality of human existence: "there is only one immutable, beautiful, irreplaceable thing - a free soul, and with it creative thought and a cheerful thirst for life" (IV, 210-11). "Dive boldly into life," he concludes insistently, "and it will not deceive you" (IV, 211).

Nazansky's words crystallize Romashov's earlier thoughts of leaving the army into a resolve to do so ("You're right," he says, "I'll retire to the reserves" [IV, 210]). Whilst he recognizes that much of what Nazansky says is fantasy, he sympathizes with his ideals. Nazansky's monologue takes to their logical conclusion Romashov's earlier thoughts about his self, his fellow men, and life. Not for nothing does he almost say "Farewell, teacher" to Nazansky as he leaves.

In his article on The Duel, Gareth Williams points out the striking similarity between Nazansky's views and the main tenets of the individualist anarchist philosopher Max Stirner (pseudonym of Johann Kaspar Schmidt).20 Williams notes that, though protracted and confused, Nazansky's statements when rearranged express a philosophy much like Stirner's. Indeed, a comparison of Nazansky's words with Stirner's book of 1844, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and his Own), reveals close textual parallels. Nazansky's comments that he has no love for his fellow men and no interest in their welfare except where it coincides with his own parallel Stirner's words: "The egoist's love rises in selfishness, flows in the need of selfishness, and empties into selfishness again."21 Nazansky's conviction that his own self is the only criterion for action echoes Stirner's "I am everything to myself and I do everything on my account. Self-assertion is the driving force behind Nazansky's egoism, as it is for Stirner: "I am my own only when I am master of myself, instead of being mastered ... by anything else (God, man, authority, law. State, Church etc.)."23 At the same time, Romashov's earlier thoughts on the failure of his Ya when he was reprimanded by Shulgovich recall Stirner's view: "I deny my ownness when - in the presence of another - I give way, desist, submit."24 Nazansky and Stirner also coincide on their attitude to property. "Take everything you please," Nazansky urges Romashov, while Stirner says: "I am entitled to everything that I have in my power.... If it is right for me, it is right." 5 And later he goes on: "To what property am 1 entitled? To every property to (*101) which I - empower myself."26 Both Nazansky and Stirner repudiate the State. While Nazansky advocates a free association of men who are his equals in spirit to defeat the monster of autocracy, Stirner declares he will annihilate the State and "form in its place the Union of Egoists. "27 Lastly, both agree that life is enjoyable for the self whose boundless freedom makes him a God-man: Nazansky advises Romashov to dive into life because it is wonderful; Stirner believes "living is ... in enjoyment." 28

Thus both Nazansky and Stirner reject all external authority and assert, after Fichte, that "the ego is all."29 Nazansky is Stirner's egoist, to whom "all things are nothing"30 and who "lives himself out, careless of how well or ill humanity may fare thereby."31 Nazansky's (and Romashov's) anarchist views lead Williams to suggest that Kuprin is not concerned with political matters in The Duel: "The revolution prophesied by Nazansky is not a political revolution, but a social revolution inspired by the principles of individualist anarchism." Though it is hard to separate social and political elements in Nazansky's program, the uncanny similarity between his propositions and Stirner's suggests the critic's remark is true. And yet a paradox underlies Nazansky's monologue. Whilst professing dislike for his fellow men and indifference to their welfare, he advises the hero to leave the army for his own good before it destroys him. Thus on the eve of his death, Romashov learns from his teacher Nazansky the truth that would have transformed his life: "I am ... the sole ego: I am unique."33

VII Shurochka

If anyone puts Nazansky's philosophy of aggressive individualism into practice, it is Shurochka Nikolaeva, whose egoism actually destroys her fellow man. As the woman Romashov loves, she is the linchpin in the confrontation between her husband and the hero, and her ambition sends Romashov to his death. From the outset Kuprin stresses that Shurochka is very different from other regimental

wives. Intelligent and sensitive, perceptive and tactful, she remains aloof from her philistine fellows, their petty scandals and squalid affairs. Our first impression of her is charming. Through Romashov's inner monologue as he watches her knit, her beauty is pictured with a precision rivaled only in the portrait of Nazansky: her pale, passionate face with its burning red lips; her deep blue eyes ringed with yellowish shadow; her small, (* 102) light body, so lissom and strong; and the birthmark on her left ear that resembles the trace left by an earring. But her beauty is only skin deep. During his first conversation with Romashov. Nazansky defines the essential trait of her complex soul - consuming ambition: "Perhaps she's never loved anyone apart from herself. There's a vast lust for power in her, a kind of evil, proud force. And at the same time she's so good, so feminine, so infinitely nice. It's just as if there were two people in her: one with a cold, egoistic mind, and the other with a tender, passionate heart" (IV. 53). Shurochka's intelligence and ruthlessness make her a highly dangerous animal in the status world of the army. Despising the philistinism of provincial army life, she is determined her doltish husband shall enter the Staff Academy so she can escape to the capital. "I need company," she explains to Romashov, "lights, music, admiration, subtle flattery, and intelligent people to talk to" (IV, 35). Why, then, should both Romashov and Nazansky love this ambitious woman? Perhaps because she possesses the strength of will that they both lack. With determination and drive, she is making a positive effort to ride out of the quicksand of regimental life on her compliant husband's back, and secretly both men, especially Nazansky, admire her for it. Their weakness, indeed, leads Shurochka to reject both of them.

The balance in Shurochka between feminine goodness and evil pride shifts toward the latter as the novel develops, and pitiless egoism emerges as the dominant, though skillfully masked, trait of her character. Kuprin shows the process subtly through Romashov's eyes. Her attitude toward dueling provides the first clue to her ambition and the callousness that accompanies it. Next comes her mocking laugh at Romashov during the picnic, when he speaks shyly of her childlessness, a laugh in which there is "something instinctively unpleasant that sent a chill breath through Romashov's soul" (IV, 139). In the penultimate chapter, when she comes secretly to Romashov at night to persuade him to fight the duel, the baseness of her egoism is revealed in full measure. If earlier she seemed to him a rare creature from another world, this final meeting shows she is as much a part of regimental life as the cheap Raisa. Romashov offers to refuse to fight Nikolaev but Shurochka asks him to go through with the duel, for otherwise her husband's reputation will suffer and he will never enter the Academy. The slightest hint of a scandal around Nikolaev's name will shatter her dream of status. Suddenly Romashov sees all the foulness of her (*103) soul and feels as if "something secret, vile, and slimy had crawled invisibly between them" (IV, 216). The implied image of a snake is reinforced by Shurochka's embracing, coillike arms from which he cannot escape. Her request demonstrates a fundamental difference between them to which Romashov has hitherto been blind. Shurochka herself unconsciously sums it up when she whispers: "You are so pure and good, and I am calculating and vile" (IV, 215). Though she assures Romashov neither he nor Nikolaev will be wounded because she has so arranged things. Kuprin does not reveal whether any understanding actually exists between Shurochka and her husband. Several details toward the close of the chapter, however, suggest there is no such understanding, and that Shurochka is deceiving Romashov. After asking him to kiss her "for the last time," she says tearfully "We'll not see each other again" (IV. 216), then suddenly gives herself to him in a first and last fateful consummation of their love. When she leaves, she bids him not goodbye but "Farewell" (Proshchai), and as they kiss Kuprin again emphasizes the chillness of her soul with the words "now her lips were cold and immobile" (IV. 217).

Though he sees the selfish motives behind Shurochka's request, Romashov apparently fights the duel because he believes Nikolaev has come to some agreement with his wife. Since the hero is now aware of Shurochka's baseness, no other reason would seem suffi- cient to make him face Nikolaev's fire now he has decided to retire from the army. Like his concern for Khlebnikov, his behavior in Shurochka's best interests demonstrates that Romashov cannot follow Nazansky's philosophy to the letter. Yet the final chapter seems to prove that Nazansky is right. By acceding to Shurochka's request, Romashov denies the primacy of his own self, and sacrifices it on the altar of her ego.

VIII Language and Style

The importance Kuprin attached to the language and style of his Duel is indicated by the many revisions he made in it even after it was submitted for publication. Over one hundred and fifty emendations were carried out and many sentences shortened or cut alto- gether. Nor did Kuprin stop at the first, Knowledge, version of the novel: for the 1912 edition of his works he made over a hundred more changes. After that, however, he left the work as it was.

Kuprin's language in the novel is unprecedentedly rich and flex-(*104)ible. Each character is individualized by his speech or the language of his thoughts, and the work's abundance of dialogue enables us to hear each person's voice. But however much those voices vary, the hall-marks of Kuprin's prose remain invariably simplicity, clarity, and versatility. The latter quality is amply demonstrated by the speech of many officers: the abrupt tone of Shulgovich, who roars at his subordinates; Sliva's stuttering, abusive phrases; the muttering of Lekh with its constant repetition of the word geto (evidently for eto, "this"); the absurdly affected French of Bobetinsky, supposedly a disillusioned member of the jeunesse doree: and Vetkin's garrulous sentences liberally sprinkled with army jargon and derogatory references to civilians. The soldiers are individualized too. The lesson in theory (Chapter XI) shows Kuprin's skill in identifying characters by their speech peculiarities. He points particularly to the soldiers' tendency to alter words they find hard to pronounce.

Of the gallery of regimental wives in the novel, Shurochka and Raisa are most distinguished by their speech. The powerful precision of Shurochka's language underlines her strength of will and lends her image a firm, masculine quality colored by her emotional outbursts to Romashov. Kuprin's portrayal of the episodic Raisa depends almost wholly on her speech as an indication of character. The grammatical inaccuracy and melodramatic excess of her letters to Romashov reflect the disorder of her morals and the falsity of her soul. The most striking feature of her speech is her affected way of swallowing vowels and her repulsive, adenoidal pronunciation. Thus "boia bat' grechadka" is her rendering of "moia mat' grechanka" ("my mother is Greek") (IV, 88). Her corrupt speech produced a powerful impression on Tolstoy. "It even gives you heartburn," he said.

Kuleshov points to Kuprin's technique of dividing his sentences into three parts to produce a flowingly rhythmic effect. 5 Most often the division turns on verbs: "The bell rang, the engine whistled, and the gleaming train pulled out of the station" (IV, 19); "He gnashed his teeth, shook his fists, and stamped his feet" (IV, 184). Elsewhere adjectives are thus grouped: "He sensed something novel, festive, and radiant about her" (IV, 124); "he caught its warm, heady, voluptuous smell" (IV, 214). More rarely, adverbs occur in threes: "The soldiers shouted simultaneously, zealously, and loudly" (IV, 146). The triple division of a sentence may be more complex, involving whole phrases: "Romashov (*105) slipped through the creaking gate, went up to the wall, and threw the flowers through the window" (IV, 176). Of course Kuprin's sentence structure is not limited to the pattern outlined here. To vary the pace and rhythm of his prose he frequently uses clipped sentences (especially in dialogue) as well as more involved ones that owe nothing to the above technique. Variety is of the essence in his language, as it shifts from the contemplative and sadly lyrical through the tense and emotionally charged to the impassioned and hotly declamatory.

Kuprin sometimes chooses vocabulary for its onomatopoeic value. When Shurochka and Romashov meet in the forest during the picnic, the hero listens to the sounds made by Sluirochka as she approaches. The light crackling of branches is followed by the tread of swift steps and the suggestive rustling of petticoats. The description of the band playing at the parade offers sounds of a different kind: "Like mischievous, laughing children, the playful flutes and clarinets ran off in a crowd, the high, brass trumpets cried out in triumphant exultation and broke into song, the muffled beat of the drum hurried their flashing flight, and unable to keep pace with them, the weighty trombones muttered caressingly in their thick, calm, velvety voices" (IV, 146).

Kuprin's style in The Duel is varied but unobtrusive. Its dominant element is his continual irony at the melodramatic tendencies of his own early prose. Such tendencies are summed up in Raisa's letter to Romashov in Chapter V, with its talk of his "perfidious deception" and its inaccurate quotation about vengeful Caucasian daggers from Pushkin's poem The Fountain of Bakhchisaray. Raisa's style not only characterizes her as a typically overemotional regimental wife, but also parodies the cliches of Kuprin's own early writing. Romashov's habit of thinking of himself in the third person in the bombastic vocabulary of cheap novels serves the same effect: "The eyes of the beautiful, strange lady rested with pleasure on the slim, lean figure of the young officer" (IV, 20). Occasionally Kuprin punctures his hero's romantic dreams with a sharply mocking statement of the truth. As Romashov thinks of himself - "His expressive black eyes glittered with resolution and contempt!" - Kuprin swiftly informs us that "his eyes were not black at all. but the most ordinary-looking of eyes - yellowish with a little green rim round the pupil" (IV. 43).

Verbosity among characters in The Duel is rare, and only Osadchy and Nazansky become prolix. The former's tirades are (*106) stimulated by drink, but the latter's monologues are his stock in trade whether he is sober or not. With their confused thoughts, frequent pauses and contradictions, Nazansky's monologues convey the complexity of his emotions. Our impression of verbal disorder is intensified by his rapid changes of both pace and style, from the lyrical to the rhetorical and the bombastic to the conversational. Kuprin recognized the bookish flavor of monologues by Nazansky and Osadchy. In 1908 he confessed to a friend: ".. .some of my favorite thoughts in the mouths of the heroes ... sound like a gramophone (I made this mistake, for example, with Nazansky)."36 Still, Nazansky's monologues lend The Duel its strongly publicistic tone, and it was his calls to freedom that Kuprin quoted so effectively at public readings of the novel in the revolutionary months of 1905.

While Nazansky is revealed primarily through his speech, Romashov is shown chiefly through his inner monologues of varying length and intensity, in which Kuprin elaborates his hero's thoughts and demonstrates his penchant for romantic fantasy. As Berkov notes. in this connection Kuprin resorts to words suggesting the imponderable process of his hero's thought rather than distinct facts, words like "it seemed that...," "as if...," and "he seemed to see.... " 37 But apart from his biting remarks to Raisa in Chapter IX and his angry outburst to Nikolaev toward the close. Romashov's speech is as undistinguished as his personal appearance.

In accordance with the neutral quality of most of Kuprin's language, his descriptions are neither extensive nor elaborate, and his restrained prose contains few metaphors or similes. As Kuleshov indicates,38 many of Kuprin's similes liken his characters to ani- mals, most often to point up the bestiality of the figure concerned. Thus Osadchy, Веk. and Nikolaev are likened to wild animals, and the officers' arrogant contempt for civilians leads Kuprin to compare them to turkey-cocks. Only Romashov's ingenuous orderly Gainan is granted a sympathetic animal simile, when Kuprin compares him to a clumsy young puppy. Other similes are striking for their unusualness: the clinging mud in the town is compared to Turkish delight, and cherry trees in blossom resemble a throng of little girls in white dresses. A very effective image is foLind in Chapter XVIII, where the lonely Romashov feels irresistibly attracted to the brothel, "as on a cold night weary, frozen birds of passage are drawn to the beacon of a lighthouse" (IV, 180). Kuprin's treatment of nature deserves brief mention. Like the (* 107) material portrayal of military and domestic settings, he uses nature description sparingly. It appears almost exclusively in connection with the three main characters {Romashov, Nazansky, and Shurochka), and is most often seen through the eyes of the hero, for whom nature serves as a "litmus paper"39 that clarifies his emotions both for himself and the reader. Thus the spring morning makes Romashov's house arrest seem more onerous still, while the innocent beauty of the dawn after his fight with Nikolaev makes him feel base and vile. But it is in the forest scene in Chapter XIV that Kuprin is at his descriptive best. As Romashov and Shurochka lie in the grass talking of love, the blood-red sunset flaring ominously in the sky symbolically foreshadows the fatal clash between the hero and Shurochka's jealous husband.

Several of Kuprin's literary contemporaries praised his writing in The Duel. "His language is beautiful and very graphic," said Tolstoy, "he doesn't overlook anything that might ... produce an impression on his reader."40 Gorky was no less vocal in his com- mendation, and pointed to the immense improvement in Kuprin's language. In a letter of 1911 to a young writer, Gorky advised him to learn linguistic skill from great authors like Turgenev and Chekhov, adding that Kuprin had followed this advice with great success - "Take his language before The Duel and after, and you'll see what I mean.... "41

IX Critical Response

The publication of The Duel produced a furore among both critics and the reading public, and the ensuing controversy continued till 1917. Most commentators saw the novel as an attack not only on the army but on autocracy itself. The military evils revealed by Kuprin were symptoms of the incurable disease afflicting the whole of Russia. Thus the work attracted critical attention more for the social and political issues it raised than for its literary qualities.

Journalists and critics were sharply divided in their responses: those of liberal and radical persuasion welcomed The Duel as another nail in the coffin of autocracy, while their conservative and reactionary fellows condemned it as a perfidious assault on the ruling order. One progressive critic wrote of the "fatal rust" eating away at the apparatus of militarism and preparing its inevitable ruin.42 Gorky wrote that Kuprin had done all thinking officers a (*108) service by showing how isolated they were as a caste: "He has helped them ... recognize ... their position in life, to see all its abnormality and tragedy." 43 Many reactionary critics saw in The Duel an outright slander on the Russian army. One described the work as "a most indecent lampoon full of slovenly insinuations, ... calculated to make some soldiers ashamed of their profession."44 Needless to say, the vast majority of officers were incensed by the novel, and one even challenged Kuprin to a duel through a Petersburg paper.45 On the other hand, in the summer of 1905 a group of twenty officers wrote to Kuprin expressing their gratitude for the novel, and commenting that the sores on the body military required fundamental treatment of a kind only possible if the whole of Russian life were transformed.46 But such views were highly exceptional among the military. One general condemned The Duel as a malicious attack on the army inspired by the treacherous Gorky.47 In 1910 there appeared an entire pamphlet on the novel, recognizing the truth of much of what Kuprin had written, but still accusing him of distortion in his picture of the army.48

In their attempts to denigrate the novel, several critics maintained that it portrayed some specific regiment, and that its picture of the army was not representative. In an article of 1906 for a Vienna paper, Kuprin denied having had a particular regiment in mind.49 The episodes in his novel derived, he said, from varied situations in the army, and no character was drawn from his own regiment.50 He concluded the article by predicting a bloody holocaust in which all Russia would rise in rebellion. Little did he know that in just over a decade his prophetic words were to prove correct.

X Unrealized Further Plans

Kuprin was dissatisfied with the ending of The Duel, and for years could not consign Romashov to the past. He felt the closing chapters were badly written because he had been so rushed. He had wanted to describe the duel between Nikolaev and Romashov. but pressure of time had forced him to end the work with the brief duel report instead.51 Two years after the novel's publication, he offered a Moscow publisher an "unwritten chapter" of The Duel. It would show, he said, Romashov's thoughts and feelings at the duel, and that "at the last moment ... he realizes unerringly Nikolaev ... will kill him."5 Such a chapter would have severely weakened the (*109) dramatic effect of the novel's finale, and it is fortunate that the publisher refused it.

A more serious problem, however, was that in killing his hero, Kuprin had robbed himself of the possibility of writing a sequel to The Duel with Romashov as its central character, a possibility suggested by Romashov's decision to resign his commission. Kuprin went so far as to plan a sequel - the novel Nishchie (The Beggars) - but realized that without alterations to the end of The Duel the project was impossible: "Romashov, recovered from serious wound, retires to the reserves ... and ... leaves for what seems to him a bright, new future. And now here he is in Kiev.... But Romashov - my double - is killed, and I can't write The Beggars without him."53 Seeing the autobiographical nature of the projected novel, Gorky strongly disapproved of Kuprin's plans to resurrect Romashov and urged him to direct his energies to something new.54 The Beggars never became much more than an idea, so The Duel remained as it was, entire and whole, marking the summit of Kuprin's career and assuring him immortality in the annals of Russian literature.

  • 1 Kuleshov, p. 207.
  • 2 M.K. Kuprina-Iordanskaia, Gody molodosti (Moscow. 1966), p. 121.
  • 3 Ibid., p. 81. Though it is technically a tale (povest), Kuprin often called The Duel a novel (roman). In 1937, for example, he wrote: "...the Knowledge publishing house published my first big tale or rather novel - The Duel" (see IX, 66).
  • 4 Ibid, pp. 130-31.
  • 5 Volkov,p. 168.
  • 6 Kuprin describes the episode in "Moi pasport" ("My Passport") of 1908 (V, 119-23).
  • 7 Volkov.p. 165.
  • 8 Kuprin о literature, p. 221.
  • 9 Afanas'ev, p. 69. The dedication was dropped in later editions.
  • 10 Kuleshov, p. 280.
  • 11 Though many saw The Duel as the artistic spearhead of that attack, it would be wrong to overemphasize its connections with 1905 or the Russo-Japanese War in the way many Soviet commentators do. It was after all begun over a decade before, and had its writing gone more smoothly, would have been published well before 1905. Its appearance at a time of crisis owed more to chance than good management.
  • 12 Kuleshov, p. 258.
  • 13 See ibid. p. 251.
  • 14 When it does finally emerge, Romashov's biography parallels Kuprin's own: Romashov is from Narovchat in Penza Province; has only a mother, having lost his father at an early age; was educated in boarding school. Cadet Corps and Military Academy. He is making his first attempts at literary work, and the title of his third tale is The Last Fatal Debut.
  • 15 Volkov,p. 189.
  • 16 K.N. Batiushkov, F.D. Batiushkov, A.I. Kuprin (Vologda, 1968), p. 129.
  • 17 Ibid., p. 133. Nazansky might even be seen as Romashov's double, representing the broken officer Romashov may well have become had he not been killed and had remained in the army.
  • 18 Kuleshov. p. 240.
  • 19 To a lesser extent, the link manifests itself in Romashov too, who is ashamed of his bespectacled plainness. After his first spell of thoughtfulness while under house arrest. Shurochka tells him he has "even grown more handsome" (IV, 66).
  • 20 Gareth Williams. "Romashov and Nazansky: Enemies of the People," Canadian Slavonic Papers, IX, no. 2 (1967), 194-200. For an examination of Stirner's work see J. Carroll. Break-Out from the Crystal Palace, the anarchopsychological critique: Stirner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky (London, 1974).
  • 21 Max Stirner, The Ego and his Own, tr. S. Byington (New York, 1918), p. 309.
  • 22 Ibid., p. 171.
  • 23 Ibid, p. 178.
  • 24 Ibid., p. 174.
  • 25 Ibid. pp. 197-98.
  • 26 Ibid, p. 268.
  • 27 Ibid., p. 187.
  • 28 Ibid., р. 338.
  • 29 Ibid., p. 190.
  • 30 Ibid., p. 387.
  • 31 Ibid.p. 386.
  • 32 Williams, p. 196.
  • 33 Stirner, p. 381.
  • 34 Kuleshov, p. 268.
  • 35 Ibid.
  • 36 L.V. Krutikova, A.I. Kuprin (Leningrad, 1971), pp. 55-56.
  • 37 Berkov, p. 56.
  • 38 Kuleshov, p.273.
  • 39 Ibid, p. 260.
  • 40 Ibid. p. 278.
  • 41 Afanas'ev, pp. 88-89.
  • 42 Afanas'ev, p. 70.
  • 43 Ibid., p. 69.
  • 44 Ibid., p71.
  • 45 See .KM Batiushkov, ED. Batiushkov, A.I. Kuprin, op. cit., p. 131.
  • 46 See Peterburgskie vedomosti. No. 149 (June 21, 1905), p. 2.
  • 47 See Berkov, op. cit., p. 61.
  • 48 Drozd-Boniachevskii, "Poedinok" Kuprina s tochki zreniia stroevogo ofitsera, St. Petersburg, 1910.
  • 49 Alexander Kuprin, "Armee und Revolution in Russland," Neue jreiePresse (Vienna). 15103 (September 8, 1906), 2-3.
  • 50 Perhaps unconsciously. Kuprin was less than honest here. See the articles by V. Afanas'ev ("Sovremennilsa. Poedinka," Ogonek, 36 (1960), 19; and "Na podstupakh к Poedinku, " Russkaiu literatwa, 4 (1961), 159-63). which show that many characters in The Duel are based on actual people.
  • 51 For an account of Kuprin's difficulties with his last chapter see T. Osharova, "Kuprin v rabote nad finalom Poedinka." Russkaia literatura, 3 (1966), 179-85.
  • 52 Volkov, p. 203.
  • 53 Kuprina-lordanskaia, Gody molodosti, p. 231. In his sequel Kuprin intended to have Romashov meet Shurochka as a prostitute in Kiev. During her final meeting with Romashov she said that if her husband failed to enter the Academy she would leave him and seek her fortune in Petersburg, Odessa, or Kiev: "I'll do violence to myself, but I'll burn myself out in a single instant as brilliantly as a firework!" (IV, 215). For further details of The Beggars, see Kuleshov. pp. 415-20.
  • 54 See Kuleshov,p.416.

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