I’ve run across a couple of mistakes in my recent reading; one is substantive, the other trivial but hilarious. The first: Katerina Clark’s Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution is an excellent book, but we all make mistakes, and she makes one on page 95 when she calls Lermontov’s Masquerade, lavishly performed on the eve of the February Revolution, “that old chestnut of the classic repertoire.” It’s an understandable assumption about a play written by an acknowledged classic of Russian literature in 1835, but it’s wrong; as Marc Slonim writes in his book Russian Theater, from the Empire to the Soviets (p. 46):
[Lermontov’s] most important theatrical work is Masquerade (1835) written when he was twenty-one. He tried hard to put it on the stage, and revised it three times but could not break the resistance of censors, who banned it in 1836. Permission to present Masquerade was not given until 1862, but then it failed to arouse the audience. By a strange irony of destiny, it was not played again until the last days of the tsarist regime in 1917 and did not become a theatrical success until 1933 and 1938 when it was a century old.
It’s not clear to me why the play was so determinedly banned—surely not simply for showing aristocrats behaving badly—but I’ve just finished reading it and I can certify that it is a powerful work, and an astonishing accomplishment for a twenty-one-year-old.
The other error is a simple typo, but it gave me much joy: on p. 94 of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires 1914, by Dennis E. Showalter: “No state in history had fought a war to restore the exact status quo ante helium.”