Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Durnovka (door-NOF-kah). Fictional Russian village in which the novel is set. Its name might be translated into English literally as “Evil Town” or “Illville,” and Ivan Bunin clearly intends it to represent all that he regards as being wrong with Russian rural society in the last days of the czars. Durnovka is probably based to some degree upon the real village of Ognyovka, where Bunin himself lived. It is a generic peasant village of the period but also a symbol of all Russia, of all that Bunin perceives as being wrong with Russia at the time.

Standing in a deep ravine, the village has thirty peasant cottages on one side of its gorge and the tiny manor house on the other side. The manor is not held by exalted princes or gentlefolk of the sort one finds in books by Leo Tolstoy or Ivan Turgenev, but by a man named Tikhon Ilich Krasov, whose own grandfather was a freed serf. Tikhon Ilich is himself little more than a kulak—a wealthy peasant of the sort who, two decades later, would be murdered by the thousands in the collectivization campaigns of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. His manor house is little more than a well-built farmhouse, originally an outlier manor for a landlord who had a number of holdings and his primary seat elsewhere. The village’s peasant cottages are equally unimpressive, small wooden shacks of appalling squalor. Many of them, such as that of Siery, are quite literally falling apart, missing...

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The Village Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Connolly, Julian. Ivan Bunin. Boston: Twayne, 1982. An analytical survey of Bunin’s major works, with a special emphasis on the evolution of Bunin’s views on human existence. Examines the treatment of Russian society in The Village against the background of Bunin’s perceptions on the inevitable decline and fall of major cultures and civilizations.

Kryzytski, Serge. The Works of Ivan Bunin. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. The first monograph on Bunin published in English. Contains a detailed description of Bunin’s work and its critical reception. Compares Bunin’s treatment of Russian peasant life in The Village to that found in the work of his contemporaries.

Marullo, Thomas G. “Ivan Bunin’s Derevnja: The Demythologization of the Peasant.” Russian Language Journal 31, no. 109 (1977): 79-100. Outlines the way in which Bunin’s exploration of Russian village life contrasts with traditional portraits of the peasantry in Russian literature.

Poggioli, Renato. The Art of Ivan Bunin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953. Assesses Bunin’s place in Russian and world literature. Its examination of The Village draws attention to the structure of the work and to the relationships that Bunin establishes among the central characters.

Woodward, James B. Ivan Bunin: A Study of His Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980. A stimulating discussion of Bunin’s work that analyzes the role that nature plays in Bunin’s fiction. Also focuses on the way that human attitudes toward nature shape the experience of Bunin’s characters.