January 01, 2013

Kozma Prutkov

January 13, 1863, saw the passing of the "eminent poet" Kozma Petrovich Prutkov, a product of the imaginations of Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy and three of his cousins, the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers. The fictitious poet came to embody literary banality and pomposity, while offering his creators the opportunity to gambol through the fertile fields of literary parody, a genre that informed the obituary they wrote for him:

The family, friends, and all who were close to Kozma Petrovich Prutkov have been afflicted with a terrible grief, but more terrible is the grief that has befallen our national literatureā€¦ Yes, he is no more! He has passed on, my dear beloved uncle! That kind relative, that great thinker and most gifted of poets, that invaluable servant of the state, who always treated his subordinates fairly yet sternly, exists no more!... My most treasured uncle Kozma Petrovich Prutkov always labored zealously, devoting most of his abilities and time to government service and assigning only his hours of leisure to learning and his muses, sharing with the public the fruits of these innocent labors. His superiors valued his zeal and rewarded him accordingly: having entered service in 1816 as a cadet in one of the finest hussar regiments, Kozma Petrovich Prutkov died with the rank of Actual State Councilor, with a seniority of 15 years and four and a half months, after irreproachably running the Assay Office for 20 years (beginning in 1841)! His subordinates loved him, yet feared him, and, likely, the majestic yet stern visage of the deceased will live on in the memories of the Assay Office's clerks: his high, backward slopping forehead, his thick, reddish, and lowered eyebrows, overhung by a poetically tousled lock of brown hair streaked with gray, his dim eyes, screwed up into a look of disdain, the yellowish, with a hint of chestnut, tint of his face and hands, the venomous sarcasm of his smile, which always exposed an array of teeth, admittedly blackened and reduced in number by tobacco and time, but still large and strong, and, finally, his head, eternally tilted backward, as well as his tenderly beloved capeā€¦ No, a man like this will not soon be erased from the memories of those who knew him!

The person of Kozma Prutkov has begotten many heirs and presides over a rich 150-year legacy of invented Russian poets.

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