Alexander Kuprin prefaced his novel The Pit about the lives of early 20th century Russian prostitutes as follows, “I know many people will find this novel amoral and inappropriate, but nevertheless I dedicated it from the bottom of my heart to mothers and young people.”
Indeed, the novel’s publication was followed by an explosion of outrage. The “good” society accused Kuprin of slander and forever exiled him from its sitting rooms, charity auctions, and holiday balls. Progressive intellectuals winced and shuddered, but could not help admitting Kuprin had a point. As with the works of Marquis de Sade and George Sand, parents hid copies of the book from their children. But those who wanted to read the book found the way. Whether hated or admired, forbidden or applauded – one thing was certain: Kuprin’s beautifully written, brutally realistic, vivid, and poignant novel left no one indifferent.
Gender inequality and sex trade are still alive today, in our world of supersonic speeds and instant information exchange, hidden behind the latest and greatest political, social, and technological innovation. Strip away the details of the era, and Kuprin’s novel suddenly becomes very modern and topical, filled with archetypes that still exist today, and thought-provoking ideas that are bound to send your mind reeling.