If The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is the best known of Nikolai Leskov's works outside Russia, that is owing mainly to the opera Dmitri Shostakovich made of it in 1934. Like Soviet critics of the time, Shostakovich saw the heroine as the embodiment of protest against a corrupt and stultifying bourgeois society and therefore justifiable in her actions, if not exactly innocent. To make that reading more persuasive, he eliminated the third and most terrible of her crimes. Andrzej Wajda did not go so far in his film version, A Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962), but he did make the third victim a selfish and manipulative little creature and therefore "deserving" of his fate.
Leskov's story allows for no such simplifying social explanations. It is a dramatic portrayal of the amoral, ambiguous, elemental force of sexual passion, as intense in its heat as in its coldness. In stylistic directness and narrative concentration, it is unique among his works. He wrote it while visiting relatives in Kiev, where he was given space in the university's punishment room. He later described how his hair stood on end as he worked on it alone in that unlikely place and swore he would never describe such horrors again. The story, one of Leskov's earliest, was first published in Dostoevsky's magazine Epoch in 1865.
Please note: This audiobook is in Russian.