Odoevsky, Vladimir

Tagged: Author

(1803-1869) Russian music critic and composer, philosopher, politician and author, almost exclusively of short stories; he wrote cookery articles as by Mister Puff; his surname is also transliterated as Odoyevsky. He was the last survivor of an ancient Russian family, and could therefore legitimately be designated a prince. Most of his early work was written for children, sometimes as by Granddad Irinei, and has not been widely translated; he is perhaps best known for Russkije nochi (coll of linked stories 1844; trans Olga Koshansky-Olienikov and Ralph E Matlaw as Russian Nights coll 1965), which contains at least one tale whose phantasmagoric intensity gives credence to comparisons between Odoevsky and E T A Hoffmann, though his primary influence was certainly Osip Senkovsky; all these authors were central to the early shaping of Fantastika in Europe. In "Opere del Cavaliere Giambattista Piranesi", the imprisoning oneiric drawings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi haunt an architect's Venice, clamouring to be executed. Of direct sf interest is the earlier "Dva dni žizni zemnago šara" (1828 Moskovskij Vestnik #14; trans Neil Cornwell in Odoevsky's Four Pathways into Modern Fiction 2010 as "Two Days in the Life of the Terrestrial Globe"), where a soirée is disrupted by vivid augurs of the arrival of Biela's Comet in the year 4339. Odoevsky expanded on this theme in 4338 i god ["The Year 4338"] (written 1837-1839; full publication 1926), the expansion clearly taking into account Senkovsky's "The Scientific Journey to Bear Island" from The Fantastic Journeys of Baron Brambeus (coll of linked stories 1833). Short excerpts from the novel have appeared variously in English, initially in Pre-Revolutionary Russian Science Fiction: An Anthology (anth 1982) edited by Valentin Korovin, as "The Year 4338: Letters from Petersburg". The world of 4338 features advanced Transportation (including travel in space), Weather Control, Communications devices that remotely (but suggestively) resemble the Internet, and other Technologies.

Odoevsky may be a figure of importance mainly in hindsight, as his sf seems to have had no influence for at least a century after its composition; but in hindsight the strength of his work seems clear. Recent collections of stories in English translation, all taken from various sources, include The Salamander and Other Gothic Stories (coll trans Neil Cornwell 1992), Two Princesses (coll trans Neil Cornwell 2010) and Two Days in the Life of the Terrestrial Globe and Other Stories (coll trans Neil Cornwell 2012). [JC]

Prince Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoevsky

born Moscow: 13 August 1803

died Moscow: 11 March 1869

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