Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bestùžev -Marlinskij
Three short stories of Livonia
(Solfanelli Editore- Chieti)

Italian version by
Alfredo Bertollo & Pier Luigi Coda

The text

Knock Knock Knock

In the short story "Knock Knock Knoch" Ivan Sergeevič Turgenev wrote:"Marlinsky is out of date now—no one reads him—and even his name is jeered at; but in the ‘thirties his fame was above everyone’s—and in the opinion of the young people of the day Pushkin could not hold candle to him. He not only enjoyed the reputation of being the foremost Russian writer; but—something much more difficult and morerarely met with—he did to some extent leave his mark on his genera-tion. One came across heroes a laMarlinsky everywhere, especially in the provinces and especially among infantry and artillery men; they talked and corresponded in his language; behaved with gloomy reservein society—”with tempest in the soul and flame in the blood” like Lieutenant Byelosov in the “Frigate Hope.” Women’s hearts were “devoured”by them".


Turgenev wrote "Knock Knock Knoch" in Baden Baden in 1870, since then it's been almost a century and a half, but the reputation of Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bestùžev-Marlinskij is basically remained confined between the classrooms of scholars of Slavic culture.
Today, In Italy, the name of Bestùžev says little or nothing; you can remember the translation of the story Ammalat Bek translated by Carmen Putti, published in 1997 by Santi Quaranta and, in particular, the critical note by Luigi Margarotto "The povest 'Ammalat-Bek of Bestùžev-Marlinskij ", published in Eastern Europe, 17 in 1998, which, while focusing in a critical analysis of the story of Ammalat-Beck, broadens an in-depth and well-documented overwiew on the literary and historical vision of the Author .

Ivan Sergeevič Turgenev
(Il'ja Repin)


Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bestùžev
Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bestùžev was born in St. Petersburg November 3, 1797 (October 23, before the Gregorian reform) and was two years older than Puškin. His life deserves to be romanced, he looms in the prototype of the Romantic hero, the man of action, the political revolutionary. Beautiful, young, and flattered by women, however, restless, constantly in search of action, of struggle, of social commitment. He came from a noble and rich family that allowed him to have an excellent education, plus it was equipped with a natural inclination towards foreign languages​​, so much so that after a few months of study, he could read in the original Goethe, Schiller, Dante , Thomas Moore, Byron, Walter Sott, Victor Hugo.

The mother
Praskovya Mickhailovna Bestùževa
(V.L. Borovikovskij - 1806)

He was destined for a military career, but the stars who ruled over him dragged him into the dark underground of unpredictable tragedies with confused and uncertain contours. Together with his friend and poet Kondratij Fëdorovič Ryleev founded the almanac The North Star which became , in a short time, one of the most qualified literary magazines of the time with collaborations of Griboyedov and Puškin. In 1824 he joined the secret society (Society of North) and here began his revolutionary adventure .
But his dreams of reforming society and constitution tsarist miserably wrecked December 14, 1825 together with the dream of the other Decembrists. Ryleev ended up on the scaffold; Bestùžev escaped scaffold by a whisker in a way that still does discuss: voluntarily handed himself over to the Tsarist police admitting his involvement and maybe ... perhaps betraying venture partners. Was used against him a "strange" clemency ; obviously not passed it smooth at all, and was sentenced to exile in Siberia, but his brothers, Mikhail and Nikolaij, who had a more marginal role undoubtedly, were sentenced to forced labor.
The monotonous inactivity of captivity did not suit his fiery and impetuous temper ; Bestùžev loved the action, combat, and wrote a letter with servile and flatterer tones to Tsar Nicholas I asked to be enlisted as a soldier and sent to the battle front (" I'm just trying to shed my blood for the glory of my king ..."). The Tsar accepted his plea and, in 1829, sent him on the Caucasus front to fight against the rebels of local populations. Not only that but - sole Decembrist to enjoy that privilege - also allowed him to resume the literary activity provided that publish under another name. Bestùžev chose the pseudonym Marlinskij by the name of the place Marli near Peterhof, where he had served in the military as a young man.

Then the Caucasus was ground on fire, in the forefront, Bestùžev finally could detonate his daring and romantic mood of the hero in action. Certainly did not lack the courage and resolve. He distinguished himself in many battles and was promoted to sergeant. Shook his threat even artistic inspiration and in the Caucasus wrote the book that is considered by critics the most significant of his literary output: Ammalat Bek.

Left, the first French edition of Ammalat Bek published in 1835 by E. Duverger

But on "Marlinskij the Obscure," as George Rueckert calls him in his essay, the stars were not ready to roll out their veil of mystery and anguish. In 1833 his friend Olga Nestercova was killed by a shot left from his gun. Just an accident? So ruled justice, but the questions remain and no one, perhaps, will be able to clarify with certainty. The fact is that the soul of Aleksandr Bestùžev began to darken and sadden ("I'm crying over the sheet and I rarely cry"), his friends Ryleev and Griboyedov had already left in dramatic circumstances, at the beginning of 1837 a stupid duel would lead to death even Puškin. Bestùžev learned of the news in Tiflis and was suitably shocked, he had no peace all night, the next morning, as he wrote in a letter to his brother Pavel, reached the monastery S. David on Mtac'minda and, on the grave of Griboyedov, made to celebrate a funeral Mass in honor of the poet.

The Caucasus region

Dark predictions began to attack him, always to his brother writes: "I know that my death will be violent and out of the ordinary, and not too far away. Boils in my veins a blood too hot, really too hot to be cooled in my old age. I only pray not to die on a bed suffering or in a duel, for the rest it's done the will of Providence."
His sensation was soon to come true: June 19 (June 7, prior to the reform), 1937, was killed during a skirmish with the Circassians. His body was never found and many legends sprang up about it, someone claimed he was gone and fled to marry a beautiful mountain, others that had passed in the ranks of the enemy to fight against his own, riding a white horse with a drawn sword.

Mysteries, fantasies? Perhaps, after all the same Bestùžev stated that one must "possess a rich imagination like mine to coat with imagined qualities authentic trifles, but I always liked to trick myself, when the deception leads to a real pleasure."
Maybe all the secrets of "Bestùžev - Marlinskij the Obscure" are locked up in this sentence, and perhaps his true story is still being written.


On the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of the writer, the Russian state has issued October 1, 1997 a commemorative stamp designed by the painter B. Ilyukhin.
The postcard depicts a scene from the story "Test" of 1830 (right).



The three stories that we propose in this volume are taken from "Tales of Livonia " and are quite explanatory of Bestùžev's narrative philosophy and of his Gothic/romantic footprint . The history of the Baltic countries had always fascinated him, especially the recurrent occupations of Estonia by the neighbors : The Knights of the Livonian Germans , the Swedes , the Danes and the Russians (Roman and Olga) . Here mingled ethnicities and cultures , heroic adventures of weapons and mysterious castles populated by crimes, visions and ghosts; girls harassed by male arrogance and heinous crimes perpetrated under the shade of an unfair complacent legality, vexing and corrupt, (How many horrible things are buried in the dusty archives of criminal records! I met many who signed death sentences with proud face while they should be branded with shame, I met people who screamed loudly against vice , but not stifling the voices of their evil deeds).

Wedding party
(Konstantin Egorovič Makovskij - 1883)
Painting outside text

The Russian Bride's
(Konstantin Egorovič Makovskij - 1883)
Panting aoutside text

The poetic soul of the author seems to lie only in the passionate contemplation of nature, a force almost panic that softens the cosmic vision of the universe: beautiful snowy landscapes, lakes covered with ice, assorted noises, creaks, the wonderful "singing to the moon" in " A terrible sorcery". "Here and there hilarious sketch hilarious humor, as the dreamlike of the Auditor adventure that captures a poor Tamburmaggiore of the French army, believing Napoleon Bonaparte (The Corrazziere) or the miserable ending of the yokel "wizard" who, in the middle of his "amazing" spell falls asleep prey to the fumes of alcohol (A terrible sorcery).

Napoleon's retreat in Russia
(Adolph Northen) Painting outside text

Bridge in the wood
(Rafail Levistkij) Painting outside text

Tamara and Demon
(Konstantin Egorovič Makovskij 1889)
Painting outside text

In outline resonate armies on the move, the shuffling of the horses in their gallop; echo the spears, the choirs of the tournaments, the torments of thwarted love that not always find landings of happiness. Just enough to unleash his imagination, enriching it with popular wisdom, dreams of justice, defense of bridesmaids bullied. Ann Radcliffe, Lord Byron and Walter Scott interwoven with the Russian tradition and magic folk to turn into living, breathing poetic, expressive force.
So the Bestùžev's narrative"function" reinforces: " How can they complain writers today saying that we do not live in a century romance ? . Just look in the villages , in the towns where they still have not disappeared characteristics and peculiarities of the faces and find an inexhaustible source of Russian nature bluntly, without impurities. Moreover, as long subsist passions and weaknesses, arising from the circumstances or convenience, man will always curiously careful to man; every time returns with the other forms to the same heart. I'm convinced that , by selecting the secret traditions of each family, inside each of them you can find a number of events and uncommon case."
The heart and soul of the great Russia are overlooking the panorama of world literature ; Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bestùžev: "Marlinskij the Obscure" has done his part and track , as they say, the groove , and now the stage is set to welcome Gogol', Turgenev and, above all, Fëdor Dostoevskij e Lev Nikolàevič Tolstòj.


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