“The Queen of Spades” is a mock fairy tale about debt, gambling, guilt and the supernatural—and the deadening effect of money on love. An aging, once-beautiful Countess possesses the secret to a one-time super-win at cards—but at what price?
Third in a trilogy of Russian fiction recently read on Books Unbound, “The Queen of Spades” is often considered the best of the short stories by Alexander Pushkin—and if the plot seems familiar, it’s because of its enormous influence. Pushkin was an aristocrat with African slave ancestry who sympathized with the liberal reforms sought by the revolutionary Decembrists. He was exiled and his works subjected to such strict censorship that none of his plays was even performed during his life—which ended at the premature age of 37 following a duel with his beautiful wife’s reputed lover. Despite the official constraints on his work, Pushkin is widely regarded as Russia’s greatest poet and as the founder of modern Russian literature. Special music for the episode comes from the album The Russian Viola by Nobuko Imai and Roland Pöntinen.
Reader: Frank Buczolich
Host: Sarah Torbeck
Announcer: Doug Storm
Produced by Cynthia Wolfe and Doug Storm
Written by Cynthia Wolfe
Executive producer: Alycin Bektesh
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes