In what form is the short story known as “Lefty” by Nikolai Leskov written?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Nikolai Leskov wrote "The Left-Handed Craftsman: A Tale of the Cross-Eyed Left-Handed Craftsman of Tula and the Steel Flea" (1881) in the form of and after the style of a Russian folk tale with fantasy woven into it. Anton Chekhov considered Leskov a mentor and he agreed with Maxim Gorky that Leskov was the most Russian of the 19th century writers, with his writing uninfluenced by Western culture.

These traits of Russianism are apparent in Leskov's short story affectionately known as "The Left-Handed Craftsman" or "Lefty." The story is humorous and exaggerates into improbabilities the successes and achievements of the Industrial era in a similar manner as Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Artist of the Beautiful" does. Leskov's story shows some influence from Gogol's earlier works that combined fantasy with narrative, such as "The Overcoat" (1842).

"Good heavens," said the Emperor, "is it really as detailed as all that?"
So they put the [mechanical] flea under the microscope ... and no sooner had the Emperor taken a look ... than a smile broke out on his face and he took the [left-handed] Tula craftsman ... and kissed him, ....
"You see, ...Why, the fellows have shod the flea's feet."
Everyone now ... had a look, and, indeed, each of the flea's feet had been shod with a real horseshoe.

Of course, in this example of fantasy woven in with folk tale, the irony is that while the Russians produce finer work, with craftsmen's signatures included on the minuscule flea horseshoes with invisible nails made by Lefty, they were unable to produce a mechanical enhancement and, in fact, destroyed the mechanical function of the dance the minuscule English flea could formerly perform.

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