It was in October of 1881 that the Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea was published. It was immediately regarded as the finest piece of work completed by Leskov, particularly for its ingenious storytelling ability and its skaz style (Leskov, 1965). Every line seemingly carried a humorous and satirical undertone. This novel is a folk tale, something engrained in the Russian culture and representative of generations of shared stories (Oinas, 1978).
It is Leskov who clearly indicates that there is no need to forget old traditions quickly, even if they are ancient. While there may no longer be such hard working craftsmen in Russia, with machines now on par with natural talent and genius. Yet, machines are favorable because of the increase in wages they can bring, but they should not be considered supreme over artistic enterprise, something which cannot be measured. Workmen understand how to get benefits from machines, but they still allude to the old days with pride and affection so paramount to the Russian culture (Leskov, 1965). Acting as an archetype for the relationship between Russia and the West, this story is one deeply embedded in the minds of the Russians, and today it is used to signify the ingenuity and the craftsmanship of Russia (Leskov, 1965). The language of the story is full of colloquialisms and neologisms which are natural and funny, the majority of which were invented by Leskov, contributing yet again as a symbol to the unique gifts to be found among the Russian people (Oinas, 1978).
The deceitfulness abounds in this particular publication, making it difficult to distinguish between those who were helpers and those who actively placed a wrench in things. This was tied directly to the feelings of the nation at the time. In 1881, the then-Russian Empire was right in the middle of Anti-Jewish pogroms, which placed the imperial authorities in crisis mode. The pogroms spread throughout the better part of 1882, the same time this piece was published. Officials in Russia at every level responded to the national emergency, not tolerating or instigating the pogroms, as many mistakenly believe (Haberer, 2014).
With the present feelings toward Russian Christianity and policy at the time, the story focused on the confused sin that Russians felt was deep inside of every man. Russians at the time felt that no one was a saint among them, and that the soul of the Russian man was far from a virtuous one, something that was epitomized in the tale. In addition, the story involves some early Russian Christian legends taken from 10th and 11th century Byzantine stories (Haberer, 2014). Overall, Leskov treated his subjects as a means through which to display outspoken episodes and the deep immorality in every man.
- Haberer, E. (2014). Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882, by John Doyle Klier. The English Historical Review, 709-712.
- Leskov, N., & Min, N. (1965). Lefty, being the tale of cross-eyed Lefty of Tula and the steel flea. Moscow: Progress.
- Oinas, F., & University, B. (1978). Folklore, nationalism, and politics. Columbus, Ohio: Slavica.