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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681374901
Pages: 448
Publication Date: October 13, 2020

Lady Macbeth of MtsenskSelected Stories of Nikolai Leskov

by Nikolai Leskov, translated from the Russian by Donald Rayfield, Robert Chandler, and William Edgerton, introduction by Donald Rayfield

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An NYRB Classics Original

October 2020 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club.

Nikolai Leskov is the strangest of the great Russian writers of the nineteenth century. His work is closer to the oral traditions of narrative than that of his contemporaries, and served as the inspiration for Walter Benjamin’s great essay “The Storyteller,” in which Benjamin contrasts the plotty machinations of the modern novel with the strange, melancholy, but also worldly-wise yarns of an older, slower era that Leskov remained in touch with. The title story is a tale of illicit love and multiple murder that could easily find its way into a Scottish ballad and did go on to become the most popular of Dmitri Shostakovich’s operas. The other stories, all but one newly translated, present the most focused and finely rendered collection of this indispensable writer currently available in English.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
The Sealed Angel

The Enchanted Wanderer
The Steel Flea
The Unmercenary Engineers
The Innocent Prudentius


Certainly what impresses in Leskov is his all-seeing but unjudging eye. . . . Leskov is emphatically unlike either Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, and bears only passing comparison with Turgenev. Rather, he emerges as a literary missing link, a writer who brings the metafictional playfulness of Sterne into the Russian tradition, melding this sophistication with his embrace of the folk tale and vernacular of the common people. Then, vitally, there is his legacy to Chekhov: a moral benevolence and humor-filled acceptance of the full range of humanity.
—Claire Messud, The New York Times

Nikolai Leskov’s absence from classic Russian literature lists must end now! If you like Russian, and you like funny, you will love Leskov.
—Gary Shteyngart

Stories as strong as fables and crazy as life.
—Alice Munro