November 23, 2015

Unexpected parallels between famously troubled musicians and 19th century Russian novelists (Part 2/4)

 

LDRvsPushkin    Aleksander Pushkin (1799-1837);  Lana Del Rey (1985-)

 

Lana Del Rey’s attitude towards her own death and the association between ‘living fast’ and ‘dying young’ is well documented through both her song lyrics and personal interviews. In an interview with The Guardian in June 2014 she stated that, “I wish I was dead already,” and then confirmed that she thought of early death as glamourous. She somehow associated this foreboding feeling with her inextricable but stressed marriage to her career. “I do [wish I was dead]. I don’t want to have to keep doing this but I am,” she said. In short, Del Rey has intimated a view of early death within her future, largely in light of the empathy she feels toward other musicians who tragically died young. This dismal attitude is central to her personal brand and goes well with the lifestyle she advertises, which is all about paradoxically seeking freedom through self-destructive enslavement. And yet she finds inadequate release in the music she cannot help but make, thereby wishing for a greater extrication from reality through some aspect of the reckless lifestyle that she apparently leads, a type of lifestyle that also tends to accompany young, glamourised deaths.

Pushkin, in a way, also prophesied his own death in a textbook example of how ‘life imitates art.’ In Pushkin’s novel, Yevgeniy Onegin, Lensky, a romantic young poet, is killed in the duel that he challenges Yevgeniy to after Yevgeniy’s public flirtation with Lensky’s beloved Olga, a woman whose feelings run much shallower for Lensky than his for hers. Under eerily similar circumstances, Pushkin was also mortally wounded in a duel over his straying wife, Natalya Goncharova, a great beauty who became a figure of scandal due to her affair with her brother-in-law, Georges d’Anthès. Ridiculed by high society as a cuckold, Pushkin challenged Natalya’s lover to a duel, which he lost. In the aftermath, while Pushkin lay dying for two days, he reportedly recalled a premonition that he had about the number six in relation to his death: the tragic duel that bore so much resemblance to his own happened in chapter six of Yevgeniy Onegin. And while the tendency to conflate fact and fiction runs deep through the veins of Russian literary studies, of which self-mythology is a noted characteristic, the circumstances surrounding Lensky and Pushkin’s death are indeed uncannily alike, regardless of whether the report of Pushkin’s last words is true or not.

Next (part 3/4): Amy Winehouse and Mikhail Lermontov

 

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