- Author: Sofya Kovalevskaya
- Editor: Natasha Kolchevska
- Pages: xlii & 139 pp.
- Published: 2001
- ISBN: 9780873527897 (Paperback)
“This remarkable Russian novella combines contemporary social themes, elements of the author’s extraordinary autobiography, and the controversial ‘woman’s question’ of nineteenth-century culture.”
First published in Switzerland in 1892, finally printed in Russia in 1906, and never before translated into English, Nigilistka is the coming-of-age story of Vera Barantsova, a young aristocrat who longs to devote her life to a cause. Her privileged world is radically changed by Alexander I’s emancipation of the serfs. Vera first hopes to follow in the footsteps of Christian martyrs, but a neighboring landowner—a liberal professor fired from his position at Saint Petersburg University and exiled to his estate—opens her eyes to the injustice in Russia.
A blend of social commentary and psychological observation, Nigilistka depicts the clash between a generation of youth who find their lives caught up by political action and a society unwilling to abandon its patriarchal traditions.
Sofya Kovalevskaya (1850–91) was a mathematician whose contributions were acknowledged throughout Europe during her lifetime. She was the first European woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics and the first female member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Since the 1980s, her literary writings have received renewed attention among scholars and readers.