More Information and Questions for Reading

As you continue to read, remember that Tynyanov is writing in the Soviet period - the first writer we've read who is, even though he's writing about a period 100 years before (as he occasionally emerges to remind us).This shapes the way he can approach the past.

More Questions for Reading DEATH OF THE VAZIR-MUKHTAR

1. Russian (and Soviet) society has always been big on the resonant anniversaries, and often they'll hold a celebration, publish books, hold conferences, on the 50th or 75th or 100th anniversary or someon's death, or of the founding of the city of St. Petersburg, for example. What does it mean to think about what happened more or less exactly a century before? What is the impact on a reader to delve into the past this way?

2. For most of its history the Soviet Union was officially atheist, and with a few periods excepted religion was quite marginalized, if not actively repressed. How does religiosity appear in this work

3. Is Samson what you were expecting when you first read the story of how he came to leave Russia? What are the contradictions of his character, and why would be be a particular nemesis to Griboedov? (As opposed to the various Persians we read about.)

4. How is poetry presented in the work? Count Khvostov appears twice, once in Griboedov's apparently flattering compliment to the Persian court poet Fazil'-khan - and then once when Fazil'-khan and Prince Khozrev-Mirza are visited by Count Khvostov himself. The name "Khvostov" sounds like the word for "tail," хвость. A Russian who knows Pushkin's opus will also recall his very insulting epigram on Khvostov (which ended by saying that Khvostov can't restrain either the flow of his verses, or the flow of his urine - I think this was improvized once when Khvostov had to leave the room in haste after he had been reading to a group of poets). Why would Griboedov want to insult a court poet in another country - especially since the narrator tells us that the verse turned out to be ("surprisingly") not bad?

5. How do the Russians in Moscow react to Pince Khozrev-Mirza when he visits?

6. Why do you think the novel ends with Pushkin? (I asked before what the effect of replacing Griboedov's name in the novel's title with "the Vazir-Mukhtar." Again, Tynyanov's novel about Pushkin is called Pushkin, and the novel about Küchelbecker is called by Küchelbecker's nickname, Kiukhlia (Кюхля), affectionate though tricky to pronounce. Does the title work a bit to alienate the reader from Griboedov?)