“He gave orders that they were not to get any hot glum pudding in flames, for fear the spirits in their innards might catch fire…”
I am introduced to Russian literature by Nikolay Leskov’s ‘The Steel Flea’ which is an abbreviated form of its Russian title, ‘The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea’. Written in the 19th century, this book is considered as one of the finest works of Nikolay. His political humour with a touch of sarcasm is what gives the story its unique voice.
The story often styled as a folk-tale, tells a story about a left-handed craftsman (named Lefty) from Tula who managed to successfully outperform his Englishmen counterparts by crafting a miniature steel flea (which if wounded perfectly would dance all around you), on the orders by the Emperor of Russia.
The story is short and crisp and doesn’t allow me to tell you more about it lest I spill out the plot.
As you progress through the book, you’ll find words with repetitive mistranslations, for e.g. (nitroscope for microscope), (thrist mate for first mate) and I do not understand if they are a byproduct of poor proofreading or been purposefully kept in order to make it humorous? Either ways, I am not impressed.
A mere 52 page story would restrict you to be emotionally invested in the characters but if you’re looking to be introduced to Russian literature or to the sly narrative style of Nikolay, this must better be your pick!
This is a part of ‘Little Black Classics’ from Penguin to celebrate its 80th birthday and I bought a few of them because I was intrigued to read stories from across time and space. Read reviews of the other little black classics on the blog. I hope to review all of them sooner or later. Stay tuned.
Also read: More book reviews
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