Poetry vs. prose

A man was killed in Russia in an argument over poetry vs. prose. (D.B. Johnson / Newscom / LA Times)

There is a knife in this story. And by the time you get to the end, someone is going to use it.

Tipping you off to the knife is a dramatic lesson taken from Anton Chekhov, one of Russia's great playwrights and short story writers. Russia has a history full of indelible writers of fiction: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol, just to name a few. Poets haven't made as big an impression on English-language readers, but from Alexander Pushkin's time to the present, poetry has been a big part of the literary discussion in Russia.

That discussion got heated earlier this month in the country's Sverdlovsk region. Two acquaintances were arguing about which is better, poetry or prose. 

“The only real literature is prose,” the 67 year-old victim insisted.

Then, as the regional investigative committee wrote with unusual poetic flair, "The literary dispute soon grew into a banal conflict, on the basis of which the 53-year-old admirer of poetry killed his opponent with the help of a knife," as the Guardian reports.

Both men were reportedly drunk during the incident, which took place Jan. 20.

Lately, drinking and literature have been a dangerous mix in Russia. In September one man shot another while waiting for beer in an argument over the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

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