French aristocrat and writer who is best known la Russie en 1839 PDF his travel writing, in particular his account of his visit to Russia, La Russie en 1839. Astolphe de Custine was born in Niderviller, Lorraine. His family belonged to the French nobility and possessed the title marquis since the early 18th century.
Custine’s father and grandfather both sympathized with the French Revolution but were both guillotined. Custine’s mother was imprisoned and barely escaped the same fate. Under the direction of his strong-willed mother, Custine was raised in an chaotic yet stimulating social environment. Custine was given an excellent education and seemed to be headed towards a life in society. An income of 60,000 francs a year enabled him to live as he pleased. He owned an estate outside Paris, at Saint-Gratien, where on occasions he was visited by Frédéric Chopin. On 28 October 1824, Custine’s life was irrevocably changed.
That night, he was found unconscious in the mud outside of Paris, stripped to the waist, having been beaten and robbed. Custine allegedly had attempted to have a sexual encounter. However the exact reason for the attack was never proven. In the years after these tragedies, Custine became very pious. Custine gravitated toward the Romantic movement and spent the next few years writing poetry and novels.
Custine wrote one play and purchased a theater to produce it, but the play closed after three performances. None of his literary works received much attention. Custine and Saint-Barbe’s home in the rue de La Rochefoucauld to form a ménage à trois. Wrote Custine: « He has an excellent heart, an original mind, is graciously ignorant of everything, and what settles it all, a charming bearing and countenance. Custine eventually discovered that his knack was for travel writing. He wrote a decently received account of a trip to Spain and was encouraged by Honoré de Balzac to write accounts of other « half-European » parts of Europe, like southern Italy and Russia. Custine visited Russia in 1839, spending most of his time in St.
Petersburg, but also visiting Moscow and Yaroslavl. Most of Custine’s mockery was reserved for the Russian nobility and Nicholas I. Custine said that Russia’s aristocracy had « just enough of the gloss of European civilization to be ‘spoiled as savages’ but not enough to become cultivated men. They were like ‘trained bears who made you long for the wild ones. The nature of its Government is interference, negligence and corruption.
You rebel against the notion that you could become accustomed to all this, yet you do become accustomed to it. In that country, a sincere man would be taken for an idiot. A wealth of unnecessary and petty precautions here engenders a whole army of clerks, each of whom carries out his task with a degree of pedantry and inflexibility, and a self-important air solely designed to add significance to the least significant employment. The profession of misleading foreigners is one known only in Russia. Custine criticized Tsar Nicholas for the constant spying he ordered and for repressing Poland. Custine had more than one conversation with the Tsar and concluded it was possible that the Tsar behaved as he did only because he felt he had to.
Kennan describes Russia as a horrible domain of obsequious flattery of the Tsar and spying. Custine said the air felt freer the moment one crossed into Prussia. In the mid-20th century, many commentators drew parallels between Custine’s description of Russia and contemporary Soviet Union as well as noticing many similarities between his character outline of Nicholas I and Joseph Stalin. La Russie en 1839 went through six printings and was widely read in England, France, and Germany but banned in Russia. Nevertheless, some books printed in France were smuggled in and made an impact on Russian society. From 1890 to 1891, fragments of the book were published in Russian journals. Poorly-abridged versions of the book were published in 1910 and in 1930 in the Soviet Union.