Michael R. Katz is C. V. Starr Professor of Russian Studies at Middlebury College, Vermont Natalia Pervukhina-Kamyshnikova is Professor of Russian at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
This memoir by Vladimir Pecherin (or Petcherine) (1807-85) is a story of the life of a rebel against any form of despotism. Shortly after his appointment as Professor of Classics at Moscow University, Pecherin fled from Russia in 1836 to pursue radical politics in Europe. He was the first Russian political emigrant. In 1840, he suddenly and unexpectedly converted to Catholicism and entered the Redemptorist Order as a monk. After 20 years of service as a missionary, he parted ways with the Redemptorists and for the last 23 years of his life served as a chaplain at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Pecherin wrote the memoir during his time in Dublin.His controversial memoir, poignantly critical of the Russian government and the Catholic Church of his time, was only published for the first time in Russia a hundred years after his death. It contains a vivid account of his adventures in Europe, mainly in Belgium, after leaving Russia, and his struggle against poverty. He was an exceptionally fine writer and talented poet. In this first translation of Pecherin's memoir into English the reader finds an engaging story of the individual who could have been a character in a novel by Dostoevsky, torn from his Russian soil.
Introduction by Natalia Pervukhina-Kamyshnikova
First Memories, 1812
1815, Odessa in Barracks
My Romance. Lipovets, Province of Kiev, 1821
Khmelnik, Podolsk Province, 1823
Episode from Petersburg Life, 1830-3
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave of Vladimir Pecherin, Sergei's Son (Memoires d'outre tombe)
Dublin, 13 October 1865
Lugano and How I Wound Up There
As Bad as it Gets!
Flight from Zurich
The Journey to Metz and the Ensuing Events
The Journey from Metz to Liege (or, as we say, Littikh)
The Apostle of Communism and the Conspiration de Baboeuf
Story of Captain Fiott and his Valet
McNally and Co. (Illustrated Edition)
The Turning Point
Fourdrain-Lekointe - Potosky
Dublin, 22 June 1871 (New Style)
The Legend of the Monk and the Devil (from the Grand Menaion)
The Religion of Saint-Simon
Dublin, 13 August 1871 (New Style)
The Year 1840
Dublin, 10 November 1871
Admission into the Redemptorist Order (Liege, 1840)
The Novitiate, 1840-1
Dublin, 20 October 1872
The Move to England, 1844-5
Fear of Russia - The Novel of Life
London, 1 May 1848
London, From May to August 1848
'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...'
Letter of V. S. Pecherin to the Superior General of the Redemptorist Order, N. Mauron. Desert and Freedom
Dublin, 13 October 1865
Dublin, 21 October 1865
26 August 1873, Miltown Park
"The memoirs and letters reveal a talented albeit self-conscious writer, relating an eventful and full life of which he can say in all seriousness ‘under the influence of a lofty inspiration, I have conceived and constructed the long poem of my life and … have maintained its complete unity’."
"This book, a translation from Russian, is also different from the norm. It is not a biography as such but rather the result of 61 years of reflection and self examination, a strict consideration of the present and nostalgia for the Russian past, all set in fifty separate reflections. It is introduced by Natalia Pervulkhina-Kamyshnikova, Professor of Russian at the University of Tennessee. … Pecherin’s first thirty-one entries are, indeed, genuine memoirs which initially set down scenes from his childhood and adolescence and bring to vivid life existence in tsarist Russia ruled by Emperor Nicholas I who tried to employ the strictest measures to prevent any penetration of western European ideas into Russian society. Pecherin and his contemporaries, who harboured romantic ideas of freedom, justice and personal human value, were not prepared for censorship and police surveillance. Many of Pecherin’s peers managed to conform to the new regime but Pecherin, who had travelled in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland, could not accept the new state affairs, hence Katz’s title 'The First Russian Political Émigré'. … When he died in 1885, the Freeman's Journal said that he would be regretted for his 'great piety, unassuming demeanour, gentleness of disposition and charity.' It could also have recalled his sermons from the pulpit which were said to be spell-binding."
We are indebted to Michael Katz for exhuming these Notes from beyond the Grave, kept in the shade by the Tsarist censor, partially published in the USSR (in 1932 and again in 1989) and for the first time translated into English. The care brought to this critical edition retains the romantic spirit of a free thinker, as well as the beauty of his style. (Quotation translated from French).
Cahiers du Monde russe 49/4