Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Ivan Bunin

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Ivan Bunin in 1933 for “the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing.” At the time of the award, Bunin, the final heir to the great galaxy of Russian writers from the gentry class (most famously Tolstoy and Turgenev), was living in exile in France, and the award was largely seen as a tribute both to a great writer, whose career spanned more than a half-century, and to the mission of Russian émigré literature. Among his early works “Antonov Apples” (1900) is often singled out for its rich nostalgia for a vanishing world and lush verbal portrait of nature. His masterpiece “The Gentleman from San Francisco” (1915), translated by D. H. Lawrence, can be read as an allegory on the falsity of bourgeois civilization, which here entails a disconnect from nature and real life. “Sunstroke” (1925) announces one of his major themes in emigration, namely, love. The story can be viewed as a paradigm of his treatment of love, which though deeply felt is never lasting. Sexual encounters are brief, profoundly moving, but ultimately transitory. All of this is told with Bunin’s trademark serpentine syntax, marvelously rich vocabulary, and details that allow one to see, feel and smell the sea, the hotel, and the winding road from the quay.




“They rode uphill, a slight incline amidst sparse, crooked lamp posts, the road soft with dust—the ascent seemed infinite.”