Remember the scene in Annie Hall where Marshall McLuhan pops up—to expose a showoff’s botched interpretation of the media guru’s work? Well, this is almost as good in a different way.

“Some years ago,” wrote Rachel Donadio in the New York Times, “I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. ‘Can you believe it!’ she shouted into the phone. ‘He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!'”

The Annie Hall-type occurrence—the comeuppance of Pushkin snobs

Now comes word from a Pushkin expert—in fact, a TeleBlog fan—that the great Russian poet was himself a nonsnob toward people who hadn’t heard of him. Our source? Julian Henry Lowenfeld, a poet-translator who provided translation, commentary and biographical information for My Talisman, Selected Lyric Poetry of Alexander Pushkin, a bilingual book in Russian and English.

“Pushkin himself would have laughed, I think, to hear that somebody broke up for not having heard of him,” he e-mailed me after reading E-books, Pushkin and the dating bar, our pointer to the Times essay. “It often happened that he would fall in love with someone who spoke very little Russian.”

Whether or not your SO knows of Pushkin…

The Players ClubIf you live in the New York area and your significant other doesn’t know of Pushkin, here’s a strategy a lot kinder and less complicated than breaking up .

Why not simply take him or her to a celebration at the historic Players Club of Pushkin’s  209th birthday—“an evening of poetry and song,” with “performances in English verse and music of beloved poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Block, Yesenin, Mayakovsky, Rilke, Machado, Pessoa and others” by Julian Lowenfeld and Luiz Simas, the pianist-composer?

I’m sure they’d welcome you and your SO even if he/she does know of Pushkin.

Exact time: Friday May 2, at 8 p.m.

Place: The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park South, New York, N.Y. (subway stop: 14th Street/Union Square on the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R or W Lines).”

For reservations: Call The Players at 212-475-6116 or Julian L. at 917-375-9996.

image More on the book: You can buy it at St. Petersburg Bookstore, telephone  800-531-1037; email, The store has both Russian- and English-language sites. And the author plans an English site at, online as of May 10. The book, by the way, contains drawings by Pushkin.

Further details on Julian Lowenfeld, also a lawyer and playwright and composer: According to a listing of poet-lawyers: Lowenfeld’s great-grandfather,” a Russian correspondent for Berliner Tageblatt, “was reputedly the first to translate Leo Tolstoy into German. Lowenfeld studied Russian literature in Harvard, did postgraduate work at Leningrad University (now St. Petersburg University) and then obtained his law degree at a New York university.”

And more on the Players Club, from its site: “In 1888, Edwin Booth, America’s pre-eminent Shakespearean actor, and 15 other incorporators, including Mark Twain and General William Tecumseh Sherman, founded The Players. Modeled after London’s famed Garrick Club, The Players was the first American ‘gentleman’s club of its kind.” Purpose is the “promotion of social intercourse between members of the dramatic profession and the kindred professions of literature, painting, architecture, sculpture and music, law and medicine, and the patrons of the arts.” See this page for further details.

Public domain editions of Pushkin’s writings: (many formats) and Feedbooks (ePub, Mobipocket/Kindle and various versions of PDFF—and better aesthetics than typical PD editions). Those reading Russian can go to for his complete works and those of many other writers.

Related: Maksim Moshkow and What one man’s hobby can accomplish, by Quinn Anya Carey.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail