Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Solomon and "Made in Russia"


Vodolazkin’s data back to the drawing board

Unfortunately, Vodolazkin is among those who turn a deaf ear to Thomson. It is interesting therefore to take a fresh look at the data collected by him and Tatiana Rudi. These data are quite important, regardless to not always helpful interpretations provided by Vodolazkin himself.

1. Manuscript tradition

Vodolazkin and Rudi came to conclusion that the earliest manuscript published by Evseev is not the best one, and such kind of conclusion among the Slavists is rather unusual. Of course, nobody will argue against a theoretical possibility to meet a better text in a later manuscript, but if a Slavic scholar needs to make practical use of this principle he must go into long explanations, if not excuses. After the publication of the first edition of his monograph, Vodolazkin has been attacked by A. Peresvetoff-Morath[1]. Among different points of their discussion, there was one about the relative priority of the texts preserved in different manuscripts, either the earliest one (Peresvetoff-Morath’s opinion) or that chosen by Vodolazkin and Rudi. On this point, Vodolazkin stood firmly: the age of a manuscript has no necessary connection to the quality of the text that it preserves. It is a pity that, despite all Thomson’s warnings, he has never made the further logical step, namely, to understand that the dialectal features of the oldest or the best manuscript or even the whole manuscript evidence have no necessary connection to the original dialect of the author, either.

Ironically, the new investigation of the manuscript corpus performed by Vodolazkin and Rudi revealed another problem that so far passed unnoticed. The best text is available not in one manuscript but in two, and the second manuscript is the South Slavic (Serbian) one[2].

This South Slavic manuscript has been discovered on an unknown (prerevolutionary) date by Mikhail Nestorovich Speranskij (1863—1938), but first mentioned in press in his posthumous publication in 1960[3]. It was never known to Istrin who operated with Russian evidences of Prophecy only. Speranskij interpreted his discovery within already established lines of the previous scholarship, and so, took it as an evidence of a Russian work having leaked into the South Slavonic literatures. Such an attitude, uncritical as it is, could be, at least, partially justified by the commonly accepted, then, Evseev’s opinion that the best manuscript is that of his edition, and so, the recension presented in the South Slavic one, has had considered as corrupted. Vodolazkin deprived himself of such an excuse.

Given that, according to Vodolazkin’s and Rudi’s study, the best recension is presented in two manuscripts, one of them being South Slavic, we should expect reopening of discussion about the origin of the work. A hypothesis of South Slavic origin of the Slavonic text should be carefully reviewed and, if necessary, rejected. Even if we have never read Thomson (while Vodolazkin has certainly read him)[4] and do believe that the dialect features of the manuscripts could provide the clue to the very origin of a given work, it is obvious that, in the present case, some difficulty arises and the previous scholarly consensus is challenged by the new facts. However, Vodolazkin seems not feeling any discomfort with repeating Speranskij (p. 305).

 For lack of any explicit discussion of a possibility of the South Slavic origin of the text, we are forced to extract Vodolazkin’s implicit views on the matter. His first, linguistic, line of argumentation has been crushed like a wall of a house where everybody was and remains sleeping.

 The second line of Vodolazkin’s argumentation that is based on the textual intercessions could be considered now as the only ground to reject, within the frame of Vodolazkin’s approach, a hypothesis of the South Slavic original of the Slavonic text of Prophecy. We have shown above how shaky this ground is. Every kind of textual coincidence between Prophecy and Russian chronographic monuments can be treated in any way, because our present knowledge of the relevant textual traditions is too far from complete.

I do not see any other argument for Russian origin or against South Slavic origin of the Slavonic text of Prophecy, neither in Vodolazkin’s study nor elsewhere. Therefore we have to conclude that the possibility of South Slavic origin remains open, especially because of the facts established by Vodolazkin and Rudi. If Vodolazkin refused to explore it, we have to do it instead of him.

[1] A. Pereswetoff-Morath, A Grin without a Cat. I. Adversus Judaeos texts in the literature of medieval Russia (988—1504); II. Jews and Christians in medieval Russia – assessing the sources (Lund, 2002). Cf. a detailed answer by Vodolazkin: Е. Г. Водолазкин, Об улыбках и котах (по поводу книги А. Пересветова-Мората «A Grin without a Cat». Lund, 2002), Русская литература (2004) Nr 4. 198–204.

[2] «Самым полным и исправным списком П<ророчества> С<оломона> является, вопреки мнению И. Е. Евсеева, не Я, а КБ (наряду с В, содержащим сербский извод памятника)» [“The most complete and correct manuscript of Prophecy of Solomon is, on the contrary to I. Ye. Evseev’s opinion, not Я, but КБ (along with B that contains the Serbian recension of the monument)”] (с. 311).

[3] In his article «Русские памятники письменности в югославянских литературах XIVXV вв.» (“Russian Literary Monuments in the South Slavic Literatures of the 14th – 15th cent.”, autograph of 1938), in: М. Н. Сперанский, Из истории русско-славянскихъ литературных связей. Сб. статей. Предисл., подгот. к печати, ред. и прим. В. Д. Кузьминой (М., 1960) [M. N. Speranskij, From the History of the Russian-Slavic Literary Connections. Collected Papers. Introduced, prepared to print, edited and commented by V. D. Kuz’mina (Moscow, 1960)] 55–130, esp. 85–89. Vodolazkin provides only a blind reference that does not allow knowing what exactly article is meant.

[4] Dealing mostly with the Russian prerevolutionary scholars, Thomson noticed that “[a]ll too often claim of an East Slav origin has been made after the examination of only part, viz. the E<ast> Slav part, of the evidence” (Thomson, ‘Made in Russia’..., 300). In the case of Prophecy of Solomon, this was the situation of Istrin. However, Speranskij and especially Vodolazkin demonstrate that even the availability of the non-Russian part is not always of help..

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