Dark Avenues

Dark Avenues
Dark Alleys  
Author(s) Ivan Bunin
Country France
Language Russian
Genre(s) short story
Publisher Novaya Zemlya, New York
Publication date 1946 (France)
Media type print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 978-1-84749-047-6

Dark Avenues (or Dark Alleys, Russian: Тёмные аллеи, Tyomnyye allei) is a collection of short stories by a Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Ivan Bunin written in 1937-1944, mostly in Grasse, France, first 11 novellas of which were published in New York, USA, in 1943. The book's full version (27 stories added to the first 11) came out in 1946 in Paris. Dark Alleys, "the only book in the history of Russian literature devoted entirely to the concept of love", is regarded in Russia as Bunin's masterpiece.[1] These stories are characterised by dark, erotic liaisons and love affairs that are, in the words of one critic, marked by a contradiction that emerges from the interaction of a love that is enamoured in sensory experiences and physicalty, with a love that is a supreme, if ephemeral, "dissolution of the self".[2]



In 1942, when most of the European Russian emigres were hastily preparing to flee for America, Bunin with his wife, Vera Muromtseva, destitute as they were, decided to stay in France. Journalist Andrey Sedykh visited Bunin just before departing to the USA. As he was ready to leave the house, the writer said to him. "Last year I wrote Dark Alleys, a book about love. Its there, on the table. What am I to do with it here? Take it with you to America; who knows, may be you'll manage to publish it".[3][4] In 1943 600 copies of the book were printed by asmall New York publishing company called Новая Земля (Novaya Zemlya, New Land).[5] Out of twenty stories Sedykh took with him only 11 were included: "Dark Alleys", "Caucasus", "The Ballad", "The Wall", "Muse", "Late Hour", "Rusia", "Tanya", "In Paris", "Natalie" and "April" (the last one later got excluded by the author from the second edition).[6]

Dark Alleys' full version (38 short stories) came out in 1946 in Paris, 2.000 copies printed. On June 19, 1945, the book were premiered at a public recital show in Paris which (according Soviet Patriot, an immigrant newspaper based in Paris) was highly successful.[7] But the general response to the book was somewhat indifferent, according to Georgy Adamovich. "<French> press reviews were mostly positive, occasionally even ecstatic, for how could it be otherwise, but unofficial, 'spoken' opinions were different and it caused Bunin lots of grief", the critic remembered.[8][9]

According to Vera Muromtseva-Bunina her husband considered Dark Alleys one of his "moments of perfection".[10][11] Yet, Bunin continued to work on it and was making amends for each new edition.

List of Dark Avenues' short stories

Only the titles of the 1946 edition are here included. One World Classics' edition (2008) features two more: Miss Clara and Iron Coat[12]

Part 1

  • Dark Avenues (or Dark Alleys, Темные аллеи). New York, 1943. The novella (and the whole book) took its title from two lines of Nikolai Ogaryov's poem: "Surrounded they were by scarlet wild roses blossoming / And dark lime-trees alley". The book's proposed alternative title (the one Bunin himself reportedly preferred) was Wild Roses (Шиповник).[13]
  • Caucasus (Кавказ). Poslednye Novosty, #6077, Paris, 1937, November 14.
  • A Ballad (Баллада). Poslednye Novosty, #6175, February 20, 1938. Paris. Bunin regarded this story one of his best ever. "Yet, like many of my stories of the time, I had to write it just for money. Once in Paris... having discovered my purse was empty, I decided to write something for the Latest News (Последние новости). I started remembering Russia, this house of ours which I visited regularly in all times of year... And in my mind's eye I saw the winter evening, on the eve of some kind of holiday, and... wandering Mashenka, this piece's main treasure with her beautiful nightly vigils and her wondrous language", Bunin wrote in The Origins of My Stories.[14]
  • Styopa (Степа). Poslednye Novosty, #6419, October 23, 1938, Paris. Written at Villa Beausoleil. "I just imagined myself at the riding brichka coming from brother Yevgeny’s estate which was on the border of Tulskaya and Orlovskaya guberniyas to the Boborykino station. Pouring rain. Early evening, the inn by the road and some kind of man at the doorway, using whip to clear his top-boots. Everything else just clicked in unexpectedly, so that when starting it I couldn't guess how will it end", Bunin wrote in My Stories Origins.[15]
  • Muza (Муза) - Poslednye Novosty, #6426, October 30, 1938. Paris. The story was inspired by another reminiscence, that of Bunin's mother's estate in Ozerki. Only the house, though, was real in this novella, all the characters were fictional.[16]
  • A Late Hour (Поздний час) - Poslednye Novosty, #6467, December 11, 1938, Paris.

Part 2

  • Rusya (Руся). Novy Zhurnal (New Journal), #1, April–May 1942, New York. "That is a common thing with me. Once in a while would flicker through my imagination - some face, part of some landscape, a kind of weather - flicker and disappear. Occasionally it would stay, though, and start demanding my attention, asking for some developement", Bunin wrote, remembering the way this novella's original image appeared.
  • A Beauty (Красавица), The Simpleton (also: A Half-wit, Дурочка). Both - Novoselye magazine, #26, April–May, 1946, New York.
  • Antigona (Антигона), An Emerald (Смарагд), Calling Cards (Визитные карточки), Tanya (Таня), In Paris' (В Париже). Stories written exclusively for Dark Alleys.
  • Wolves (Волки). Novoye Russkoye Slovo (New Russian Word), #10658, April 26, 1942. New York.
  • Zoyka and Valerya (Зойка и Валерия). Russian Collection (Русский сборник), Paris, 1945.
  • Galya Ganskaya (Галя Ганская). Novy Zhurnal, Vol. 13, 1946. New York. "The whole story is fictional, but the artist's prototype was Nilus", Vera Muromtseva-Bunina wrote in a letter to N.Smirnov (January 30, 1959). Pyotr Nilus was Bunin's friend in Odessa.
  • Heinrich (Генрих). Dark Alleys. According to Vera Muromtseva-Bunina, Genrich's prototype was partly a real woman. "Max Lee, there was such journalist and writer who wrote novels in tandem with her husband, their real sirname was Kovalsky, if I remember correctly" (Rysskye Novosty, Paris, 1964, #984, April 10).[17]
  • Natalie (Натали). Novy Zhurnal, #2 1942, New York. Bunin heavily edited the original text preparing it for the second, Paris edition. Of th einitial idea he wrote: "I asked myself: very much in the same vein as Gogol who'd come up with his travelling dead soul merchant Chichikov, what if I invent a young man who travels looking for romantic adventure? I thought it was going to be a series of funny stories. But it turned out something totally different".[18]

Part 3

  • Upon a Long-Familiar Street (В одной знакомой улице). Russkye Novosti, Paris, 1945, #26, November 9. In this newspaper issue one page was entirely devoted to Ivan Bunin’s 75th birthday.
  • Riverside Inn (Речной трактир). Novy Zhurnal, New York, 1945, Vol.1. This novella was published in New York as a single brochure with Mstislav Dobuzhinsky's illustrations.[19]
  • Madrid (Мадрид), The Second Pot of Coffee (Второй кофейник) . Both - Novoselye, New York, 1945, #21.
  • A Cold Autumn (Холодная осень). Russkye Novosty, Paris, 1945, #1, May 18. Inspired, arguably, by Afanasy Fet's poem (Какая холодная осень! Надень свою шаль и капот...)
  • The Raven (Ворон). Russkye Novosty, Paris, 1945, #33, December 28. Soviet ctitic A.Tarasenkov in a foreword to the Selected Bunin (ГИХЛ, 1956, p. 20) mentioned this novella among Bunin's best work written in emigration. Later Thomas Bradly, in his introduction to Bunin's The Gentleman from San-Fransisco and Other Stories (1963, New York, Washington, Square Press, XIX, p. 264) argued that the writer's best novellas of 1930s and 1940s were Dark Alleys and The Raven.
  • The Steamer Saratov' (Пароход Саратов), The Camargue (Камарг), Beginnings (Начало), Mother in Law (Кума), The Oaklings (Дубки).[20]
  • Revenge (Месть). Novy Zhurnal, Ney York, 1946, #12.
  • Swing (Качели). Russkye Novosty, Paris, 1945, #26, November 9.
  • Pure Monday (Чистый Понедельник). Novy Zhurnal, New York, 1945, Vol.10. Wife Vera Muromtseva recalled having found a scrap of paper (ater one of her husband's sleepless nights) on which he wrote: "I thank you, God, for enabling me to write ‘Pure Morning’". (Letter to N.P. Smirnov, January 29, 1959). "This novella Ivan Alekseevich rated as his best ever," she wrote in a letter to .L. Vyacheslavov on September 19, 1960.
  • One Hundred Rupees (Сто рупий), The Chapel (Часовня). Both previously unpublished.
  • In Spring in Judea (Весной в Иудее). Russkye Novosty. Paris, 1946, #49. April 19. This novella gave its title to a Bunin’s last in-his-lifetime collection, published in New York in 1953.
  • A Night Stay (Ночлег). Весной в Иудее. Роза Иерихона.

English translations

  • Hugh Aplin (One World Classics, 2008)


  1. ^ Oleg Mikhailov / Иван Алексеевич Бунин. Собрание сочинений. Том 7. Изд. Художественная литература, 1965. Олег Михайлов. Примечания. Стр. 355
  2. ^ Eros and Nirvana in the Art of Bunin, by James B. Woodward, The Modern Language Review, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jul., 1970), pp. 576-586
  3. ^ A. Sedykh. Distant and Close (Далекие, близкие). New York, 1962, p. 210
  4. ^ O. Mikhailov, p.365
  5. ^ И. Бунин. Темные аллеи. Первое издание. - Dark Alley's first edition, 1943.
  6. ^ O.Mikhailov, p.364
  7. ^ O.Mikhailov, p.372-373
  8. ^ G. Adamovich. Loneliness and Freedom. Chekov Publishers, New York, p.115.
  9. ^ O.Mikhailov, p.376
  10. ^ O.Mikhailov, p.367
  11. ^ Russkiye Novosty, Paris, 1961, November 17.
  12. ^ Dark Avenyes. One World Classics edtion (first 19 pages).
  13. ^ A.Sedykh, 215
  14. ^ V. Grechaninova / Иван Алексеевич Бунин. Собрание сочинений. Том 7. Изд. Художественная литература, 1965. В. Гречанинова. Примечания. Стр. 383
  15. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.384
  16. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.385
  17. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.387
  18. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.388
  19. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.389
  20. ^ V. Grechaninova, p.389

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