A wonderful piece of literary detective work that charts the colliding lives of Russia’s greatest poet and the man who killed him in their duel – cultural history that reads like a thriller.
Pushkin’s Button is an astonishing tour de force, a riveting account of the last few months of Pushkin’s life before his death on 29 January 1837. It is also the story of the French soldier who killed him, Georges d’Anthes, a man in love with Natalya Pushkin, the poet’s wife, the most beautiful woman in all St Petersburg.
Vitale’s extensive archival detective work has unearthed a mass of fascinating written material about this famous love triangle – journals, letters, scraps of gossip by those in their circle – that brings the indulgent world of 1830s St Petersburg, with its salons and imperial balls, vividly into focus. Sparkling throughout with Pushkin’s own genial wit, Serena Vitale’s book is, as George Steiner says, ‘almost impossible to put down’.