Aleksandr Kuprin

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Aleksandr Kuprin
Alexander Ivanovich Kuprin 7.jpg
Born: September 7 [O.S. August 26] 1870
Narovchat, Penza Governorate, Russian Empire
Died: August 25 1938 (aged 67)
Leningrad, Soviet Union
Occupation(s): writer • journalist
Literary genre: short stories
Literary movement: Naturalism

Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin (Russian: Александр Иванович Куприн) (September 7 [O.S. August 26] 1870 in Narovchat  – August 25, 1938 in Leningrad) was a Russian writer best known for his short novels like The Duel (1905) and The Pit.

Kuprin was a popular writer during the period generally known as The Silver Age of Russian literature. The Golden Age had produced the famous novelists Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy. The Silver Age was a period in which Kuprin and his contemporaries focused more on the short forms like the novella and the short story. His longer works of fiction were popular, though, largely due to their timely topics. The Duel dealt with the underside of army life, while Moloch dealt with working class struggles. The Pit treated prostitution and life in a brothel.

Kuprin's themes place him in sync with the late nineteenth century literary trend, Naturalism. Naturalism was a later development of Realism that was influenced by the development in the later nineteenth century of ideas like Positivism and Materialism. It also addressed darker topics that had previously been taboo, like The Pit.


Aleksandr Kuprin was born in the village of Narovchat in the Penza Governorate to Ivan Ivanovich Kuprin, a government official in Penza Governorate.[1] and Liubov Alekseyevna Kuprina, née Kulunchakova. His father was Russian, his mother belonged to a noble Volga Tatar family who had lost most of their wealth during the nineteenth century. Aleksandr had two sisters, Sofia (1861–1922) and Zinaida (1863–1934).

In 1871 Ivan Kuprin, aged 37, died of cholera, and three years later Alexander with his wife moved into the Widows' Home in Kudrino, Moscow, a period reflected in his tale "A White Lie" (1914).[2] In 1876 he entered the Razumovsky boarding school, which caused him a lot of what he later referred to as "childhood grievances," but also brought about his riotous nature and made him popular among peers as a fine storyteller.[3]

In 1880, inspired by Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish War, Kuprin enrolled into the Second Moscow Military High School, which turned into the Cadet Corps in 1882. Several of Kuprin's autobiographical stories, like "At the Turning Point" (1900), "The River of Life" (1906) and "Lenochka" (1910) refer to this period. "The memory of the birching at the Cadet Corps stayed with me for the rest of my life," he wrote not long before his death.[4] It was there that he develop an interest in literature and started to write poetry. Most of his thirty youthful poems date from 1883–1887, the four years when he was in the Cadet Corps. During this period Kuprin also made several translations of foreign verse (among them Béranger's "Les Hirondelles" and Heine's "Lorelei"). According to biographer Nicholas Luker, "perhaps the most interesting of Kuprin's early poems is the political piece "Dreams", written on 14 April 1887, the day before sentence was passed on the terrorists who had plotted to assassinate Alexander III in March of that year."[5]

In the autumn of 1888, Kuprin left the Cadet Corps to enter the Alexander Military Academy in Moscow. In the summer of 1890, he graduated from the Academy ranked sublieutenant and was posted to the 46th Dnieper Infantry Regiment (which he chose at random) stationed in Proskurov (now Khmelnitsky), where he spent the next four years.

In February 1902, Kuprin married Maria Karlovna Davydova (1881—1966), the adopted daughter of Alexandra Davydova, the widow of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory's director who, after her husband's death in 1889, became editor of Mir Bozhy (God's World). When she died in 1902, Maria Karlovna took it over and soon Kuprin became the head the fiction section of his wife's journal. They had one daughter, Lydia (1903–1924).

In the middle of the first decade of the 1900s their relationships deteriorated as Kuprin descended into alcohol abuse. On one occasion, outraged by his behavior in the company of drunkards and prostitutes whom he brought to their dacha, Maria Karlovna crashed a decanter over his head. Later he tried to set her dress on fire. This proved to be the end; in 1907 the couple divorced. Maria Davydova later married the Soviet diplomat Nikolai Iordansky; in 1966 she published her memoirs, Years of Youth (Годы молодости, 1966).[6]

Liza Geinrikh in 1909

Kurpin's second wife was Yelizaveta Geinrikh (1882–1942), a daughter of the Hungarian revolutionary Morits Rotoni-Geinrich who was brought up by the family of Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak, her sister Maria's husband. In the early 1900s she was a sister of mercy, later Lydia's governess and Alexandra Davydova's good friend. In 1907 the couple married and settled in Gatchina. In 1908 their daughter Ksenia was born. Their second daughter Zinaida was born in 1909 and died of pneumonia in 1912. After the Kuprins' return to Russia Yelizaveta Kuprina-Geinrikh devoted herself to compiling and publishing her husband's literary legacy. She committed suicide in 1942, during the Siege of Leningrad.

Ksenia Kuprina (1908–1981) in the late 1920s became a Paul Poiret model and then actress who, as Kissa Kuprine, appeared in 11 films, starting with Le Diable au cœur (1927) by Marcel L'Herbier. After her return to the USSR in 1958, she worked as stage actress, translator, author and scriptwriter. Her book of memoirs My Father Kuprin (Мой отец – Куприн) was published in 1978.[7]

Literary career

Kuprin in the early 1890s

In 1889 Alexander Kuprin met Liodor Palmin, an established poet who arranged for the publication in the Russian Satirical Leaflet of his debut short story "The Last Debut." Based on a real life incident, the suicide by poisoning on stage of the singer Yevlalya Kadmina in 1881, the tragedy also inspired Ivan Turgenev's tale "Clara Milich". Some three years passed between the appearance of "The Last Debut" and the publication of his second tale "Psyche" in December 1892. Like "On a Moonlit Night" which followed it, the piece showed the aberrations of a deranged mind, investigating the thin line between fantasy and reality.

Kuprin's few years of military service saw the publication of a short novel In the Dark (1893) and several short stories, mostly the artful studies of abnormal states of mind ("A Slav Soul", "Madness" and "The Forgotten Kiss" in 1894). Only "The Inquiry" (1894), his first publication to arouse critical comment, was concerned with the army, starting a series of Russian army-themes short stories: "A Place to Sleep" (1897), "The Night-shift" (1899), "Praporshchik" (1897), "The Mission" (1901) which finally resulted in his most famous work, The Duel. Kuprin scholar Nicholas Luker, in his biography Alexander Kuprin, calls The Duel his "greatest masterpiece" (chapter IV); Literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith echoed him, calling it "his finest novel." [8] Apart from his growing dissatisfaction with army life, the publication of "The Enquiry" was probably the major reason for Kuprin's resignation in the summer of 1894. "There can be no doubt that the appearance of such a work, written by an officer and signed with his full name, would have had unpleasant consequences for him."[9]

After retiring from the service, without any definite plans for the future, or "any knowledge, academic or practical" (according to "Autobiography"), Kuprin embarked upon a five-year-long trip through the South-West of the country. He tried many types of job, including dental care, land surveying, acting, circus performer, psalm singer, doctor, hunter, and fisher among others. All of these subsequently reflected in his fiction. All the while he was also engaged in self-education. Gleb Uspensky's sketches were a particular favorite.

In summer 1894 Kuprin arrived in Kiev and by September had begun working for local newspapers Kievskoe Slovo (Kiev Word), Zhizn i Iskusstvo (Life and Art), and later Kievlianin (Kievan). The qualities necessary for a good journalist, he believed, were "mad courage, audacity, breadth of view, and amazing memory," gifts he possessed in full measure.[10] While on frequent journeys to Russia's Southwest he contributed for newspapers in Novocherkassk, Rostov-on-Don, Tsaritsyn, Taganrog and Odessa.[11]

In addition to feuilletons and chronicles Kuprin wrote small sketches, investigating particular environments, or portraying people of specific occupations or circumstances, gathered later into a collection. March 1896 saw the publication of eight such sketches in a small edition entitled Kiev Types, Kuprin's first book.[12] In October 1897 his second collection Miniatures was released, including one of his best known circus stories, "Allez!", which earned high praise from Leo Tolstoy. In 1905 Kuprin described Miniatures as his "first childish steps along the road of literature"; they definitely marked a further stage in his maturing as a writer along with his "Industrial Sketches" written in 1896–1899 after his visit to the Donbass region.[13]

In 1896 Russkoye Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth) published Moloch, Kuprin's first major work, a critique of the rapidly growing Russian capitalism and a reflection of the growing industrial unrest in the country.[13] He returned to the theme in "A Muddle" (1897) and "In the Bowels of the Earth" (1899).

In 1897 Kuprin traveled to Volhynia to work there as estate manager, then went to Polesye area in Southern Belorussia where he helped to grow makhorka. "There I absorbed my most vigorous, noble, extensive, and fruitful impressions... and came to know the Russian language and landscape," he remembered in 1920. Three stories of his unfinished "Polesye Cycle" – "The Backwoods", much acclaimed love piece Olesya and "The Werewolf", a horror story, – were published between 1898 and 1901. Moloch and Olesya did much to help Kuprin build his literary reputation. In September 1901 Viktor Mirolyubov, the editor of Zhurnal Dlya Vsekh (Journal For Everybody), invited Kuprin to join this popular Petersburg monthly, and in December he moved to the capital.


In Petersburg, Kuprin found himself in the center of Russian cultural life. He became friends with Anton Chekhov with whom he regularly corresponded until the latter's death in 1904, often seeking his advice. Kuprin's friendship with Ivan Bunin would last almost forty years, continuing in emigration.[14] Another important figure for Kuprin was the scholar and critic Fyodor Batyushkov of Mir Bozhiy (God's World); the 150 letters that are extant represent a minor part of their vast correspondence.[15] Later Kuprin expressed much gratitude to Viktor Mirolyubov[16] who, as well as Maxim Gorky, exerted strong influence upon his career.[17]

Fyodor Shalyapin and Alexander Kuprin

In 1901 Kuprin joined the Moscow Sreda (Wednesday) literary society which was founded in 1899 by Nikolay Teleshov and united mostly the young realist writers, among whom were Gorky, Bunin, and Leonid Andreyev. In February 1902 Kuprin married Maria Karlovna Davydova, the adopted daughter of Alexandra Davydova, the editor of Mir Bozhy. Alexandra died that same year, Maria Karlovna took over the publication and soon Kuprin left Zhurnal Dlya Vsekh to head the fiction section of the magazine that his wife was now editing.

In February 1903 the Gorky-founded Znanye (Knowledge) published the collection of eight tales by Kuprin, among them "The Enquiry" and Moloch. Leo Tolstoy praised the collection for its vivid language, and critics were almost unanimous in their approbation, pointing to Kuprin's closeness in themes and technique to Chekhov and Gorky. Angel Bogdanovich of Mir Bozhy (who in 1897 had written unflatteringly of Moloch) now praised Kuprin's compact style and his ability to convey a feeling of effervescent joie de vivre.[18] Gorky himself, writing to Teleshov in March 1903, ranked Kuprin a third Russian author, next to Chekhov and Andreyev.[19]

Despite his literary success, Kuprin's first years in Petersburg were stressful. His employment with the magazine left him little time for his own writing, and when his work did appear in Mir Bozhy, rumor had it that he owed his success to his family connections. "Life is hard: scandal, gossip, envy, hatred ... I feel very lonely and sad," he confessed to one of his Kiev friends in a letter.[20] Kuprin wrote less between 1902 and 1905 than he had in the provinces but, according to Luker, "if the quantity of his writing was reduced – some twenty tales in all – its quality was incomparably higher... More conscious now of the blatant contrasts prevalent in Russian society, he turned his attention to the plight of the 'little man' thus following the best traditions of Russian literature."[21] Among the notable stories were "At the Circus" (1902) praised by Chekhov and Tolstoy, "The Swamp" (1902), linked thematically with the Polesye cycle and "The Jewess" (1904), demonstrating Kuprin's profound sympathy for this persecuted minority in Russian society at the times when pogroms were regular occurrences in the Russian South West. Other themes of Kuprin's prose of this period include hypocrisy ("A Quiet Life", 1904; "Good Company", 1905), bigotry ("Measles", 1904) and the degeneration of the idle class ("The High Priest", 1905).[22]

The Duel

In 1904 Kuprin started working on The Duel. This novel, conceived in his second year in the army, and commenting on the "horror and tedium of army life," was published on May 3, 1905.[23]The creation of this novel was a cathartic experience for Kuprin. "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... I have to write about all I have known and seen. And with my novel I shall challenge the tsarist army to a duel," he informed his wife in a letter.[24]

The Duel became the literary sensation of the year in Russia. In 1905 some 45.5 thousand copies were sold, a vast number for the early 1900s. The controversy this novel caused continued until 1917. Critics of the left welcomed The Duel as "another nail in the coffin of autocracy," while their conservative counterparts condemned it as "perfidious assault on the ruling order."[25] One officer even challenged Kuprin to a duel through a Petersburg paper, while a group of twenty officers sent Kuprin a letter in 1905, expressing their gratitude. The Duel marked "the summit of Kuprin's career... assuring him immortality in the annals of Russian literature."[26]


Kuprin in Gatchina (cartoon from the 1910s)

After the 1905 Revolution Kurpin became openly critical of the regime. He established links with sailors of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, and even attempted to enlist on the battleship Potyomkin, which mutinied in June 1905. Regarded politically unreliable, he was put under secret police surveillance.[9] In "Events in Sevastopol" he described the destruction of the cruiser Ochakov, which he witnessed in Balaklava. His later tale "The Caterpillar" (1918) reveals that he helped to rescue several sailors who escaped from the blazing cruiser.[27] The Black Sea Fleet commander, Admiral Grigory Chukhnin, generally seen as responsible for the tragedy, ordered Kuprin to leave Sevastopol within 48 hours and instituted legal proceedings for defamation. In June 1906 Chukhnin was assassinated, but the case was not closed and two years later in Zhitomir, Kuprin was sentenced to a fine and ten days' house arrest.[28]

Among his better known stories of the mid-1900s were "Dreams," "The Toast," "Art" and "The Murderer," taking on the issue of violence that swept over Russia at the time. "Junior Captain Rybnikov" (1906) which told the tale of a Japanese spy posing as a Russian officer, was praised by Gorky.[29] Much discussed were "An Insult" (1906) and "Gambrinus" (1907), an emotional summation of many motifs of his writing after 1905, echoing the declamatory tone of "Events in Sevastopol."

From 1905 onwards Kuprin again became engaged in numerous non-literary fields. He put himself forward as an elector to the first State Duma for the city of Petersburg. In 1909–1910 he made an air balloon flight with a renowned sportsman Sergey Utochkin, then ventured into the Black Sea depths as a diver and accompanied the airman Ivan Zaikin on his airplane trips. In 1907 he divorced his first wife and married Yelizaveta Geinrikh (1882–1943), who in 1908 gave birth to their daughter Ksenia.[30]

In 1908 Kuprin's relationship with Gorky deteriorated and he quit Znanye. The same year saw the publication of "Seasickness," a short story relating the rape of a Social Democrat heroine and showing her revolutionary husband in an unfavorable light, which Gorky regarded as a deliberate slur on the Russian Socialists.[31] Among Kuprin's other works of the period are "Emerald" (1907), the most famous of his animal stories, "Sulamith" (1908), an ode to 'eternal love' closely based on The Song of Songs, the autobiographical "Lenochka" (1910), and The Garnet Bracelet (1911), his famous "doomed romanticism" novella where hopeless love finds its quietly tragic apotheosis. The Lestrigons (1907–11), a set of sketches on the fishermen of Balaklava,[9] provided a lyrical paean to the simple life and an epic glorification of the virtues of its simple folk. In October 1909 Kuprin was awarded the Pushkin Prize, jointly with Bunin.[32]

The Pit. 1909–1917

In 1908 Kuprin started working on The Pit, his most ambitious and controversial work. The first part of this novelistic study of prostitution appeared in 1909, the second in 1914, and the third in 1915. Part I provoked widespread controversy. Parts II and III were met with almost universal indifference. Kuprin apparently could not decide whether his novel should be a documentary or fiction, so he oscillated between the two or attempted to combine them in an artificial way. "He is more successful when in documentary vein, and so Part I, with its details of life in the brothel, is by far the best."[33] The novel was criticized by some Russian critics and authors (Leo Tolstoy among them) for excessive naturalism; among those who admired it was the young Nina Berberova.[34]

Kuprin and his wife during World War I

The Pit was Kuprin's last major work, and to many it signaled the decline of his creativity. His best-known 1912–1914 stories are "Black Lightning" and "Anathema," while his visit to the South of France between April and July 1912 gave rise to "The Cote d'Azur," the twenty sketches forming a cycle of travel impressions.[9]In 1911 he moved his family to Gatchina, near Saint Petersburg.

As World War I broke out, Kuprin opened a military hospital in his Gatchina home, then visited towns on the Western front. Towards the end of 1914 he appealed through the press for money for the wounded, and in December rejected the idea of celebrating the 25th anniversary of his literary career. As a reserve officer, he was called up in November 1914, and commanded an infantry company in Finland till May 1915, when he was discharged on grounds of ill health. That was the reason he could not become a war correspondent, a career he aspired to during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. Among his few stories that reflected the war, most notable were his satires ("Goga Veselov", "The Cantaloups", "Daddy", "Grunya"), which took a swipe at the cynics who were making fortunes upon the nation's grievances.[33]

During the February Revolution Kuprin was in Helsinki, where he had gone on medical advice. Returning to Gatchina, he expressed his enthusiasm at the collapse of tsarism in a series of articles and in May started editing the Socialist Revolutionary Party's newspaper Svobodnaia Rossiya (Free Russia), contributing also to Volnost (Freedom) and Petrogradskii Listok (The Petrograd Leaflet). While welcoming the freedom brought by the February Revolution, he foresaw the excesses that further upheaval might bring and warned against Russia's plunging into an orgy of bloodshed.[35]

The October Revolution did little to clarify Kuprin's political position. In the articles he contributed to various papers till mid-1918 – Petrogradskoe Ekho (Petrograd Echo), Vecherneye Slovo (Evening Word), and Zaria (Dawn) among them – his attitude to the new regime remained ambivalent. He recognized the historical significance of the Bolshevik Revolution and admired Lenin as "an honest and courageous man," stating that "Bolshevism constitutes a great, pure, disinterested doctrine that is inevitable for mankind."[36][37] Still, while working for a brief time with Maxim Gorky at the World Literature publishing company, he criticized prodrazverstka (food apportionment) and the policy of War Communism,[38] arguing that the Bolsheviks threatened Russian culture, and that their insufficient knowledge of the country had brought suffering to the peasants. In June 1918, Kuprin was arrested for a short time for an article in the paper Molva (Rumor) critical of the regime. One of his 1918 stories ("The Caterpillar") praised the heroism of women revolutionaries, another ("The Ghost of Gatchina") was an anti-Bolshevik tale of the tyranny of Russia's new masters.

At the end of 1918 Kuprin drew up elaborate plans for Zemlia (Land), a paper designed especially for the peasantry. His proposed program involved assisting the government in the radical transformation of rural life along lines not conflicting with the principles of communism. Supported by Gorky and approved by Lenin who met Kuprin on December 25, 1918, the project was never realized.[39]

Years in emigration

Kuprin in the 1910s

On October 16, 1919, Gatchina was taken by the White Army led by General Nikolai Yudenich. For a fortnight Kuprin was editing Prinevsky Krai (Neva Country), a paper published by Yudenich's army headquarters. In October, as the Whites retreated westward, Kuprin traveled with them to Yamburg, where he joined his wife and daughter. Via Narva, the family reached Revel in Estonia, and in December left for Finland. After half a year in Helsinki, they sailed for France, arriving in Paris in early July 1920.

The next seventeen years in Paris saw the decline of Kuprin's creativity as he succumbed to alcoholism. Grieved at his separation from Russia, he became lonely and withdrawn.[40] The family's poverty made the situation worse. All this combined to hinder his writing.[41] "The more talented a man is, the harder is for him life without Russia," Kuprin told a reporter in 1925.[42]

Kuprin's nostalgia explains the retrospective quality of his work in emigration. He returned to familiar themes from his earlier writing and dwelt on personal experiences linking him with the homeland he had lost.[43] His visit to southwest France in 1925 inspired "Crimson Blood" (1926), a colorful account of a bullfight in Bayonne, followed in 1927 by "The Blessed South", four sketches on Gascony and the Hautes Pyrenees.[9] Then came the predominantly urban sketches made in Yugoslavia, the result of Kuprin's visit to Belgrade in 1928 to attend a conference of the Russian writers in emigration.[44]

The three major works of Kuprin's Parisian years were The Wheel of Time (13 sketches styled as a novel, 1929), the autobiographical The Junkers (1932), and the romantic "Jeannette" (1933), describing an elderly professor's affection for a little girl in his neighborhood.[45]

Return to Russia and death

Alexander Kuprin's grave

By 1930 Kuprin's family was in poverty and debt. His literary fees were meager, and heavy drinking dogged his Parisian years. After 1932 his sight began to deteriorate, and his handwriting became impaired. His wife's attempts to establish a book-binding shop and a library for émigrés were financial disasters. A return to the Soviet Union offered the only solution to Kuprin's material and psychological difficulties. In late 1936 he finally decided to apply for a visa. On May 29, 1937, seen off only by their daughter, the Kuprins left the Gare du Nord for Moscow. On May 31 they were met by representatives of writers' organizations and installed in the Metropole Hotel. In early June they moved to a dacha owned by the Soviet Union of Writers at Golitsyno, outside Moscow, where Kuprin received medical attention and rested till the winter. In mid-December he and his wife moved to an apartment in Leningrad.

Years in Paris had broken his health and transformed him into an old man. The tragic change was noticed by the writer Nikolay Teleshov, his friend of the early 1900s. Visiting Kuprin shortly after his arrival, Teleshov found him confused, rambling, and pathetic. "He left Russia ... physically very robust and strong," he wrote later, "but returned an emaciated. ... feeble, weak-willed invalid. This was no longer Kuprin – that man of outstanding talent – it was something... weak, sad, and visibly dying." Later Bunin insisted that Kuprin's role was purely passive: "He did not go to Russia – he was taken there, very ill, already in his second childhood," he wrote.[46]

Kuprin's return earned publication of his works within the Soviet Union, but he wrote practically nothing new after that. In June 1937, to mark the first anniversary of Gorky's death in June, Izvestiya (The News) published Kuprin's "Fragments of Memoirs." In October the sketch "My Native Moscow" was released. The writer's general reaction to what was happening around him was far from euphoric. In her account of Kuprin's last months, the writer Lydia Nord painted a picture of a disillusioned old man who felt he was a stranger in his native country.[47]

In January 1938 Kuprin's health deteriorated. By July his condition was grave; already suffering from a kidney disorder and sclerosis, he had now developed cancer of the esophagus. Surgery did little to help. Alexander Kuprin died on 25 August 1938, and was interred in Volkovo Cemetery's Literaturskiye Mostki (Literary Bridge) in Leningrad two days later.[48]


Kuprin was part of a large group of important Russian writers who were forced or chose to emigrate from the Soviet Union. The group included many of the great writers of the Silver Age of Russian literature, including Andrey Bely, Ivan Bunin, Maksim Gorky, the poet Marina Tsetaeva, and critic Victor Shklovsky among many others. The loss of so many great writers greatly impacted the Soviet literary scene, and "caused a profound break in Russian literature."[49] A generation of Russian literature was deeply impacted if not entirely lost. Kuprin fared among the worst in exile, descending into alcoholism. His significant work was behind him. He was an example of a Russian variation of Naturalism, but that movement was short-lived, although elements of it can be found in later American literary works by Stephen Crane, Jack London and Theodore Dreiser among others.

Kuprin's position in the history of Russian literature is highly significant, if not unique. Born into an age overshadowed by the great Russian novel, which had reached its zenith in the 1860s. he turned to the short story as the genre suited both to his own restless temperament and to the manifold preoccupations of his generation... With his contemporaries Chekhov, Gorky, and Bunin. he brought the genre of the short story to an efflorescence without parallel in Russian letters. What he conceded in restraint to Chekhov, conviction to Gorky, and subtlety to Bunin, Kuprin made up for in narrative pace, construction of plot, and richness of theme. These latter qualities, coupled with his abiding interest in the human soul, make him still very readable today.[50]

Made famous by his novel The Duel (1905),[51] Kuprin was highly praised by fellow writers including Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Leonid Andreyev, Nobel Prize-winning Ivan Bunin[52] and Leo Tolstoy who acclaimed him a true successor to Chekhov. Although he lived in an age when writers were carried away by literary experiments, Kuprin did not seek innovation and wrote only about the things he himself had experienced and his heroes are the next generation after Chekhov's pessimists. Vladimir Nabokov styled him "the Russian Kipling" for his stories about pathetic adventure-seekers, who are often "neurotic and vulnerable." All through the twentieth century Alexander Kuprin remained "one of the widest read classics in Russian literature," with many films based on his works, partly due to "his vivid stories of the lives of ordinary people and unhappy love, his descriptions of the military and brothels, making him a writer for all times and places."[53]

The Garnet Bracelet (1911), was made into a 1965 movie.[54]

A minor planet 3618 Kuprin, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1979, is named after him.[55]

Select Works in English

  • A Slav Soul: New Edition, 2018
  • At the Circus, 2012 (V tsyrke, 1902)
  • The Duel, 2001 (Poyedinok, 1905)
  • River of Life, and Other Storie, 2019 (Reka Zhizni, 1906)
  • The Pit, 2014 (Yama, 1909–1915)
  • The Garnet Bracelet 1982, (Granatovy Braslet, 1911)


  1. "Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin," The Literature Network. Retrieved Ausust 31, 2020.
  2. Nicholas J.L. Luker, Alexander Kuprin (Boston, MA: Twain Publishers, 1978, ISBN 0805763228), Part 3.
  3. V.B. Katayev, "Alexander Ivanovich Kuprin," The Biobibliographical Dictionary (Moscow, Russia: Prosveshchenye Publishers, 1990). Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  4. V.N. Afanasyev, Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin (Moscow, 1960), 6.
  5. Luker, Part 4.
  6. V.G. Lidin, "About the author M.K. Kuprina-Jordan, Years of Youth," M.K. Kuprina-Iordanskaya. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  7. Tatyana Alexandrova, "Alexander Ivanovych Kuprin," Vinograd magazine, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  8. Martin Seymour-Smith, The New Guide to Modern World Literature (New York, NY, Peter Bedric Books, 1985, ISBN 978-0872260009), 1051.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 I. Pitlyar, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes Vol. I. (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, 1964), 485–501.
  10. F.I. Kuleshov, "Unpublished Kuprin. Scientific Notes. Vol.II, Articles on Literature," Iuzhnosakhalinsky GPI (Sakhalin, Russia), 61.
  11. Luker, Part 5.
  12. E. Rothstein, "Notes and commentaries, Sketches and Essays," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library. Vol. 9, 1964), 349–381.
  13. 13.0 13.1 I. Pitlyar, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, 1964, Vol.2), 479–494.
  14. Lev Nikulin, "Kuprin and Bunin," Oktyabr (October), No. 7, 1958, 204–218.
  15. I. Gura, "Kuprin's Letters to F.D. Batiushkov from Danilovsky," Almanac Sever (Northern Almanac) (Vologda, Russia, 1963), 152–158.
  16. V.S. Miroliubov, "Literary Archive, vol. 5, 1899–1907," Moscow-Leningrad: Academy of Science, 1960, 118–27.
  17. I.V. Koretskaia, "Gorky and Kuprin," Gorky Readings, 1964–1965 (Moscow, 1966), 119–61.
  18. A. Bogdanovich, "Critical Notes," (Критические заметки), Mir Bozhy, No. 4, 1903, 7–11.
  19. Afanasyev, 51.
  20. Volkov, 116.
  21. Luker, Part 6.
  22. I. Pitlyar, A. Tamarchenko, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, Vol. 3, 1964), 369–399.
  23. Kuleshov, 207.
  24. I.A. Koretskaya, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, Vol. 4, 1964), 478–495.
  25. Afanasyev, 70.
  26. Luker, Part 7.
  27. E.M. Aspiz, "A.I. Kuprin in Balaklava," Krym, Vol. 23, 1959, 131–36.
  28. Luker, Part 8.
  29. Koretskaya, Works Vol. 4, 478-495.
  30. I.A. Koretskaya, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, Vol. 5, 1964), 401–418.
  31. Luker, Part 8.
  32. The Biobibliographical Dictionary
  33. 33.0 33.1 Rothstein, Vol. 6, 450–469.
  34. The Italics are Mine, Nina Berberova, 48–49.
  35. Luker, Part 9.
  36. Kuleshov, 478.
  37. Afanasyev, 156.
  38. The Biobibliographical Dictionary
  39. Kuleshov, 482–484.
  40. Luker, Part 10.
  41. E. Rothstein, O. Mikhaylov, and P. Vyacheslavov, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, Vol. 8, 1964), 426–438.
  42. Kuleshov, 503.
  43. Luker, Part 10.
  44. P. Vyacheslavov, E. Rothstein, and O. Mikhaylov, "Notes and commentaries," The Works of A.I. Kuprin in 9 volumes (Moscow: Pravda Publishers. The Ogonyok Library, Vol. 7, 1964), 392–417.
  45. E. Rothstein, O. Mikhaylov, and P. Vyacheslavov, 426-438.
  46. Luker, Part 11.
  47. Lydia Nord, "The Return of A.I. Kuprin," (Возвращение А.И. Куприна), The Engineers of Souls (Инженеры душ), (Buenos Aires, 1954), 60–64.
  48. Luker, Part 4.
  49. Victor Terras, A History of Russian Literature (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0300059342), 522.
  50. Luker, Part 11.
  51. Nicholas J.L. Luker, An Anthology of Russian Neo-realism: The "Znanie" School of Maxim Gorky (New York, NY: Ardis Publishing, 1982, ISBN 0882334212), 137.
  52. "Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin," The Literature Network. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  53. Sergie Sossinsky, "The Moscow Windows' Home," Moscow News HISTORY; No. 6, February 17, 1999.
  54. "The Garnet Bracelet," Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  55. Lutz D. Schmadel, Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (New York, NY: Springer Verlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3662517352).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Luker, Nicholas J.L. Alexander Kuprin. Boston, MA: Twain Publishers, 1978. ISBN 0805763228
  • Luker, Nicholas J.L. An Anthology of Russian Neo-realism: The "Znanie" School of Maxim Gorky. New York, NY: Ardis Publishing, 1982. ISBN 0882334212
  • Schmadel, Lutz D. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. New York, NY: Springer Verlag, 2016. ISBN 978-3662517352
  • Seymour-Smith, Martin. The New Guide to Modern World Literature. New York, NY, Peter Bedrick Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0872260009
  • Terras, Victor. A History of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0300059342

External links

All links retrieved June 17, 2023.


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