Cover by Alexander Vasin
This collection of stories written by the composer is further testament to Prokofiev's literary talent.
The book is illustrated by the famous Moscow graphic and internet designer Alexander Vasin
and introduced by Sviatoslav Prokofiev (the composer's elder son).
Stories [Rasskazy] is the result of a long process of research begun by Oleg Prokofiev
(the composer's younger son), continued after Oleg's death by Vadim Kozovoy
and finally completed by Alla Bretanitskaya.
Here, as a sample, is the story "A Bad Dog", published in English in Three Oranges No.3 (May 2002).
Introduction by Serge Prokofiev Jr.
"What do I feel about my writing? First and foremost, something simply to be enjoyed." Prokofiev as author? Improbable, but true. We are familiar with the Autobiography and letters to friends and colleagues, where he has no difficulty expressing his thoughts with ease. However, his literary experiments, which date from 1917, are in a completely different class. Sorting out papers and manuscripts from his childhood, he came across an unfinished novel. Although he enjoyed re-reading it, he came to the conclusion that its six chapters were simply word-spinning and that it lacked one vital element - ideas. On reflection, he realised that, with a good idea it was possible to write a reasonable story. What concerned and alarmed him was the question of style. "My style caused me concern - did it have individuality or was it awkward? It ought to be one thing or the other, but nothing else." He came to the conclusion: "If there's an idea, then the style will be subservient to the idea. I have an idea, that means I'm an author." He set to work with gusto and quickly wrote his first story The Poodle, subtitled A Bad Dog, in July 1917 in Essentuki. A reference to Arthur Schopenhauer towards the end of the story is not fortuitous. Prokofiev's interest in Schopenhauer had been aroused in 1912-1913, when he read the fundamental works, The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and The World as Will and Idea. This was the time when he and his friend Max Schmidthoff used to discuss and argue about philosophy.
In 1917 and the following year Prokofiev was actively engaged in writing stories, enjoying the search for subjects as well as the process of writing - "an idea for a story about a man without any bones...", "a man wh sees his double in his dog...". He would go over what he had written, making alterations. Sometimes two or even three stories would "mature" at the same time.
He wrote about ten stories, which unfortunately have not survived in their entirety. They were written on separate sheets of paper when he was travelling, and then corrected, the majority on his way to Japan through Siberia. Many pages have been lost and it is not always possible to recreate a completed whole from the sketches that survive. Nevertheless, what has survived provides us with an opportunity to learn something of another aspect of his talents - Prokofiev the writer as opposed to Prokofiev the composer. We should not expect unusual felicities of style and language or apply literary criteria to these stories. It should be remembered that he wrote for his own enjoyment, that it was a temporary enthusiasm secondary to music, which it could never replace. Yet on one occasion, going through these stories, Prokofiev jokingly observed that if he had not become a composer, he probably would have turned out to be a writer. "As for taking time and energy away from my composing, I can honestly say that I have been working very hard recently and that if I do take a breather, it should act as a beneficial refresher and, after it, my work will progress all the better." (Read the story)
(Serge Prokofiev Jr)