Wings (Kuzmin novel)
Cover of 2007 Modern Voices edition
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
The novel deals with teenager Vanya Smurov's attachment to his older, urbane mentor, Larion Stroop, a pederast who initiates him into the world of early Renaissance, Classical and Romantic art. At the close of the first part, Vanya is shocked to learn that the object of his admiration frequents a gay bathhouse. In order to sort out his feelings, Vanya withdraws into the Volga countryside, but his sickening experience with rural women, whose call on him to enjoy his youth turns out to be an awkward attempt at seduction, induces Vanya to accept his Classics teacher's proposal and accompany him in a journey to Italy. In the last part of the novel, Vanya and Stroop, who is also in Italy, are seen enjoying the smiling climate and stunning artworks of Florence and Rome, while Prince Orsini mentors the delicate youth in the art of hedonism.
Although the novel was competently written in an elegant style all its own, its reputation has been dogged by scandal. The central theme of aestheticized sensuality has spawned comparisons of Wings with contemporary works by Oscar Wilde and André Gide, which cover similar thematic territory. Vladimir Nabokov parodied Kuzmin's novel in his own short novel The Eye, using "Smurov" as the name of a male protagonist and "Vanya" of a female one.
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