The Russianization Of Gil Blas: A Study In Literary Appropriation


Although the novel eventually achieved an unprecedented artistic and philosophic greatness in nineteenth-century Russia, the process of naturalizing this European literary form on Russian soil proved, especially in its initial stages, to be difficult and often unsuccessful. During the early years of the nineteenth century, when an appropriate prose idiom was gradually being forged in Russia, major and minor writers alike struggled to capture the distinctive features of the native life they witnessed around them on the pages of "original" Russian novels, novels that were nevertheless highly indebted to foreign models for both their style and their structure. In his book, the author studies the fate of one particular European model in nineteenth-century Russia: Alain Renï Lesage's Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (1715-35). He examines the attempts made by several writers, among them Pushkin and Gogol as well as Narezhny, Bulgarin, and Simonovsky, to exploit the literary possibilities offered by this popular French eighteenth-century work. In appropriating the hero as well as the narrative structure of Gil Blas, transplanting them both to native soil, and adapting them to fit the peculiar cultural exigencies of life in tsarist Russia, these writers sought above all else to transform Lesage's picaresque classic and thus effectively to "Russianize" it.

Publication Date



Slavica Publishers, inc.

Document Type