Taras Bulba Hardcover – Apr 1 2003
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“One of the ten greatest books of all time.” —Ernest Hemingway
From the Inside Flap
The First New Translation in Forty Years
Set sometime between the mid-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century, Gogol's epic tale recounts both a bloody Cossack revolt against the Poles (led by the bold Taras Bulba of Ukrainian folk mythology) and the trials of Taras Bulba's two sons.
As Robert Kaplan writes in his Introduction, "["Taras Bulba] has a Kiplingesque gusto . . . that makes it a pleasure to read, but central to its theme is an unredemptive, darkly evil violence that is far beyond anything that Kipling ever touched on. We need more works like "Taras Bulba to better understand the emotional wellsprings of the threat we face today in places like the Middle East and Central Asia." And the critic John Cournos has noted, "A clue to all Russian realism may be found in a Russian critic's observation about Gogol: 'Seldom has nature created a man so romantic in bent, yet so masterly in portraying all that is unromantic in life.' But this statement does not cover the whole ground, for it is easy to see in almost all of Gogol's work his 'free Cossack soul' trying to break through the shell of sordid today like some ancient demon, essentially Dionysian. So that his works, true though they are to our life, are at once a reproach, a protest, and a challenge, ever calling for joy, ancient joy, that is no more with us. And they have all the joy and sadness of the Ukrainian songs he loved so much."
"From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Set sometime in the 17th century, ï¿½Taras Bulbaï¿½ describes the life of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, a people so accustomed to war that it has become the focus of their existence. Taras is a Cossack colonel, an old fighter who has survived into middle age and fathered two sons, now themselves on the verge of manhood. Far from slipping into complacent quiescence, however, he is as warlike as ever, and his sonsï¿½ return home from their seminary studies rouses him to return from semi-retirement to full-time work (i.e. raiding and pillaging). His overriding motive is to initiate his sons into full Cossack manhood. The military ï¿½ or personal ï¿½ consequences are irrelevant. What matters is that his sons must learn war.
After an interval at their stronghold, the Sech, an all-male enclave where the Cossacks practise the arts of peace (i.e. getting roaring drunk), Taras is able, with little difficulty, given the nature of his audience, to foment a campaign against the neighbouring (and therefore enemy) Poles. This situation exemplifies a clash-of-civilizations scenario wherein the Orthodox Cossacks are engaged in chronic conflict with the Catholic Poles on the one hand and the Muslim Turks and Tatars on the other.Read more ›
First, I was disappointed by the lack of depth he wrote for his characters - they never really sprung to life for me. Rather, they read more like charactures - carousing, drinking, rallying to the "true, Orthodox faith", pirating and plundering. This is as true of the minor characters as it is of Taras Bulba and his sons themselves - characters you would expect more "fleshing out" given the nature of the novel. I was also disappointed by the lack of scope - for a novella about the struggle for Ukrainian independence, the story itself was remarkably thin, dealing only with the events surrounding Tara's attack upon an unnamed Polish city, and his subsequent quest for revenge.
However, there is much to like about Taras Bulba. As one would expect from Gogol, the imagry is fabulous - vivid descriptions of Cossack life from their humble steppe homes, to their flamboyant dress, to the very way in which they drink themselves into a stupor. For this alone, the book is worth the time and effort to read it.