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Sanin: A Novel It evoked almost unprecedented discussions, like those at the time of Turgenev s Fathers and Sons Some praised the novel farthan it deserved, others complained bitterly that it was a defamation of youth I may, however, without exaggeration assert that no one in Russia took the trouble to fathom the ideas of the novel The eulogies and condemnations are equally one sided Thus did Mikhail Artsybashev , whose novels and short stories are suffused with themes of sex, suicide, and murder, describe the reaction to publication inof Sanin, his second novel The work provoked heated debates among the Russian reading public, and the journal in which it was published serially was soon closed down by the authoritiesThe hero of Artsybashev s novel exhibits a set of new values to be contrasted with the morality of the older Russian intelligentsia Sanin is an attractive, clever, powerful, life loving man who is, at the same time, an amoral and carnal animal, bored both by politics and by religion During the novel he lusts after his own sister, but defends her when she is betrayed by an arrogant officer he deflowers an innocent but willing virgin and encourages a Jewish friend to end his self doubts by committing suicide Sanin s extreme individualism greatly appealed to young people in Russia during the twilight years of the Romanov regime Saninism was marked by sensualism, self gratification, and self destruction and gained in credibility in an atmosphere of moral and spiritual despondencyArtybashev drew upon a wide range of sources for his inspiration Sanin owes debts to Dostoevsky s Notes from Underground, Nietzsche s notion of the superman, and the work of the individualist anarchist philosopher Johann Kaspar Schmidt Michael R Katz s translation of this controversial novel is the first into English in almost seventy years Russian pornography is not plain pornography such as the French and Germans produce, but pornography with ideas Kornei Chukovsky Those who saw in the much discussed novel only suggestive scenes, shocking their morality or titillating their senses, were mistaken it was, as usual in Russia, a book with a message, and Sanin slept with all his mistresses to prove a thesis rather than to obey a natural urge Marc Slonim


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