The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fishermen, The
FISHERMEN, The. ‘The Fishermen’ (Rubaki), Dmitri Vasilyevitch Grigoróvitch, is a story of life among the peasants of northern Tula, where the broad river Oká flows through a level country to empty into the Volga at Nizhni Nóvgorod. These peasants get their living by fishing. Grigoróvitch, like most Russian writers, concerns himself with types of character. He was doubly an artist. His training as a painter and as the historian of art served him well in depicting the river landscape in every aspect. We see it in all the varying seasons of the year. Many of the pictures are veritable poems. Village life is also described with humor and realism. This is especially notable when some of the peasants visit the annual market, where episodes of traffic and of drunkenness occur. All the persons introduced are muzhiks; there is no introduction of “high life.” The plot is as simple as that of a Greek drama, but it touches the deepest springs of human life: honor and treachery, pure unselfish love and ignoble passion, joy and tragedy. The principal persons are found in the izba of the patriarchal old fisherman, Glyeb Savinitch, whose large family is increased at the beginning of the action by the adoption of a mischievous and surly little boy, Grishka, the illegitimate son of “Uncle Akim,” a distant relative of Glyeb's wife, Anna Savélyevna, a ne'er-do-well, boastful, idle, lazy and improvident, who comes to Glyeb's home to beg shelter and shortly afterward dies there, painfully and pathetically, leaving his “godson” for his relatives to bring up. On the other side of the river lives Uncle Kondráti with his granddaughter, the gentle and charming Dúnya. Glyeb and Kondráti are interestingly contrasted: the one proud, powerful, moody, violent-tempered (generally just and kindly), full of peasant wisdom often expressed in clever proverbs; the other calm, serene, religious and noble—the finest type of the muzhik. The story is a tragedy in humble life but a masterpiece of faithful delineation, touching the human heart. Grigoróvitch, as few other modern writers, succeeds in truthfully contrasting vice and depravity with the nobler virtues of unselfishness and pure love, the ugly traits of human nature with the finer qualities which often exist side by side in the same characters; but he is never pessimistic; in the end some element of good triumphs. ‘The Fishermen’ was published toward the end of Grigoróvitch's most brilliant and fruitful period, which lasted from 1847 until 1855. An English translation, anonymous, was published in New York in 1917, with a brief foreword by Dr. Angelo S. Rappoport.