Fine copy of the first publication of Kuprin’s most famous work
The novel describes the events leading up to the duel between young officer Romashkov and a higher ranked officer, due to Romashkov’s affair with the latter’s wife. The novel touches on several recurring themes of 19th and early 20th century Russian realist fiction. Namely, Kuprin highlights the stifling atmosphere of military life in provincial Russia, the fraught relationship between individual ideals and collective compromises, and ultimately the meaning and value of human life when confronted with the pettiness of everyday experiences. The Duel was highly praised by critics soon after its publication in 1905. During the same year of the publication, Russia lost the war to Japan, which made the majority of critics perceive Kuprin’s work in this context due to its critique of Russian military ideals. Tolstoy commented: ‘I should better not have read it. Very hard’.
Alongside The Duel, the present volume holds prose by three celebrated Russian authors of those years. The famous Russian and Soviet writer Maksim Gorky; the Nobel prize winner Ivan Bunin, who rose to fame in his later years of emigration; as well as Stepan Skitalets (Stepan Petrov), poet and folk musician.
The ‘Znanie’ Society, set up by members of the Literacy Committee under K.P. Piatnitski in 1898, was reorganised by Gorkiy after his first great success, and began releasing these ‘Collections’ in 1904. Lenin wrote that in them Gorkiy himself tried ‘to concentrate the best forces of creative literature’. The Almanacs also featured Chekhov, Yushkevitch, Andreyev and Gorkiy himself. In the reactionary atmosphere after the revolutions of 1905, many of its members quit the Society, which had always been inclined towards the revolutionary and contentious, and Gorkiy broke off his connection with the publication in 1912 while living abroad.
First publication; 8vo (21 x 15 cm). Title, contents, 320 pp.,  (Duel takes pp. 1-288); ink mark to title page, some marginalia. Contemporary half cloth binding over marbled boards, flat spine with gilt lettering; covers and hinges slightly rubbed.
Provenance: D.E. (gilt Cyrillics letters to spine foot); Suren Melik-Stepanyan (library label to upper pastedown, stamp to title page).
Stock ID: 83606