THE STEEL FLEA The Tale of the Cross-Eyed, Left-Handed Gunsmith from Tula and the Steel Flea by Nikolai Leskov - A Short Story - 1881- included in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and other Stories by Nikolai Leskov - 2020- with an Introduction by Donald Rayfield - translated by William Edgerton
Born February 4, 1831 in Oryol Oblast, located in Western Russia
Died March 5, 1895 in St. Petersburg, Russia
He lived for eight years in Kiev where he began to write for Ukrainian and Russian publications. His wife was born in Kiev.
The collection also includes The Enchanted Wanderer and today’s story as well as three other works besides Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Last month I read Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, a work of great depth about meaningless murders caused by sexual jelousy. Leskov’s The Steel Flea could not be more different, an amazingly creative story that amazed and delighted me as I think it will many others.
Set in the early 19th century, as the story begins we are on a tour of England with Emperor Alexander the First and his Entourage. The English want to convince him that they have the best of everything. His assistant Pavlov wants to go back to Russia, missing his family and his farm. He tells the Emperor everything is better back in Russia.
The English show Alexander a nearly microscopic steel flea. It is an operational miracle, the product of incredible English craftsmenship. From this Lekhov takes us back to Russia, with the steal flea where Russian craftsmen try to duplicate the flea.
The creation of the steel flea is just so original.
This story is just a pure delight.
If you wish to expand your reading of 19th century Russian literature beyond the best known writers this collection of Leskov’s works would be good start.