Russian literature or books based in Russia

(58 Posts)
mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:07:35

I have a particular course of study coming up in Russian history from about 1891-1991. The lecturer in the past has referred to works of literature to illustrate points, so Madame Bovary for example to illustrate French provincial life, The Leopard to depict the Italian nobility at unification.

The only thing that has sprung to mind is Doctor Zchivago, which I have read before but could probably re-read.

BrienneOfTarth Fri 07-Jun-13 18:17:12

read "The Siege" by Helen Dunmore - set in St Petersburg during the second world war, it's a brilliantly written book and really evocative

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:18:56

That looks great. Just added it to my list.

Longtallsally Fri 07-Jun-13 18:26:48

Pasternac is good - hmmm, may have to reread. You can also try anything by Solzhenitsin or poet Anna Akhmatova

Longtallsally Fri 07-Jun-13 18:29:43

Some good ones here too [[ novels set in Moscow ]]

WipsGlitter Fri 07-Jun-13 18:29:58

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
We / I
Animal Farm
The Brothers Karamazhof
Checkhov Plays

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:32:23

I have hot The Gulag Archepalego so will give that a go.

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:34:00

Also have a Chekov selection so that pretty much sets me up I guess. I buy books when I see them in charity ships knowing I want to read them but adding to the pile. Great suggestions.

englishteacher78 Fri 07-Jun-13 18:34:31

You MUST look at Chekhov's plays very naturalistic and quietly funny in places. Stanislavsky wrote some drama theory and this is the method that the Moscow Arts Theatre used to put on Chekhov's plays. Chekhov also wrote some good short stories.

burberryqueen Fri 07-Jun-13 18:39:19

Anna Karenina
War and Peace
And quiet flows the Don
Sketches from a Hunters Album
sorry cannot remember who wrote the last two, maybe Turgenev?

kotinka Fri 07-Jun-13 18:39:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:41:17

Thanks, the Guardian list interesting.

I have read Anna Karenina a few times and War and Peace is another on my shelf, slightly before the period I wi be studying this year but if I get time will squeeze it in.

Oblomov Fri 07-Jun-13 18:43:21

Agree with everything said. I love the comparisons between Karenina and Bovary, so would recommend reading those 2 together. Tolstoy is fab. War and peace is good for this. Obviously I am a bit partial to Goncharov's Oblomov.
I really hope you enjoy.

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 18:45:45

I do wonder how I might be able to do my dissertation on some sort of comparison between Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. It is a history dissertation though, but I am sure I could find an angle.

CatherineofMumbles Fri 07-Jun-13 18:51:56

definitely second Oblomov by Goncharov! even if you don't use it, it is a must-read!

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 07-Jun-13 18:54:08

The Master and Margarita, by Bulgakov. It's amazing.

CatherineofMumbles Fri 07-Jun-13 18:58:24

Master and Margarita - yes!

RenterNomad Fri 07-Jun-13 19:25:15

Andrei Makine has written some rather impressionistic works, one of which, Once Upon the River Love, won the Prix Goncourt and Prix Medicis. It's also non-Moscow, non-St Petersburg, being set in Siberia. It's a bit of a memoir, based on his (I think) grandmother's life. He wrote another, The Crime of Olga Arbyelina, which is a bit more emigre in setting, but he manages that beautifully as well.

More modern stuff: do you read French? Gilles Leroi wrote an incredibly beautiful book about Leningrad/St Petersburg, covering the latter part of the 20th Century. I think it was L'Amant Russe. However, if you have any hang-ups about homosexuality, it might not be for you!

Boris Akunin's Fandorin series is an absolutely brilliant evocation of the late Tsarist period, but has clearly modern preoccupations (what is Russia? Is she in Europe? Is repression good, or is self-discipline the only worthwhile kind of repression?)

WRT the French, a lot of classic stuff, and particularly emigre literature is translated into French, and is in FNAC in a more mainstream kind of presentation than in the UK. Of course, most things are available online and second hand these days.

If you're near a Daunt's bookshop, they used to have literature organised by geography.

"Hammer and Tickle" (Ben Lewis) for jokes throughout the period

Viktor Pelevin (-perestroika and post-) is brilliant, but wait till you have a better idea of the background before tackling his stuff. (though if you are a Buddhist, that might be a way into his work)

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 19:33:03

I do have two Daunts nearby actually. I had forgotten about their geographic arrangement.

yellowcrayon Fri 07-Jun-13 19:49:17

Forever flowing by vassily Grossman - one of the best novels to capture Russia at the time. Also Faithful Ruslan. Both life changing.

Branleuse Fri 07-Jun-13 20:01:30

the master and margarita

RenterNomad Fri 07-Jun-13 20:05:07

Alrhough using literature to illustrate Russian/Soviet/Russian history is something to be very cautious about. There were real personnel and personal differences between the literature and history "wings" of my old Russian department, and rightly so, as an amoral approach is a particularly helpful one for the history: it helps strip away a lot of old/traditional interpretations. Also, almost anyone writing in/about the Soviet experience was doing so with imperfect knowledge even if, like Solzhenitsyn, it was knowledge others didn't have (i.e. about the "Gulag Archipelago")

maillotjaune Fri 07-Jun-13 20:08:40

Definitely The Master and Margarita.

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 20:17:10

RenterNomad that applies in all areas of history although I guess somewhat markedly in the case of Russia. I actually just love reading and one if my targets this year is to read more Russian literature. If when doing none uni reading I read sonething even slightly relevant it just kills two birds, I get to indulge and it is broadly relevant.

The lit comments I previously referred to were in passing comments and I then went and read the books, I would like this year to be able to "get" what he is referring to.

If nothing else I have a fantastic reading list for reading more Russian books.

iseenodust Fri 07-Jun-13 20:17:57

Cancer ward seriously good.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 07-Jun-13 21:55:41

How about some of Irina Ratushinskaya's poetry? Obviously she's near the end of your time span (I think she was released from prison in the late 1980s) but it might be something to add to the list.

Her autobiography Grey is the Colour of Hope is incredibly moving. I went to a bookshop event when this was published, will never forget the elderly ex-pat Russian couple who said they'd kept a candle burning for her for the 4 years she was in prison. They couldn't afford to buy her book, just wanted to see her, but the lovely bookshop owner gave them a copy smile

BooksandaCuppa Fri 07-Jun-13 21:57:35

I remember The Love of Worker Bees by Alexandra Kollontai - a piece about women of all different walks of life in the 1920s by a member of Lenin's government - as being quite compelling.

IKnowWhat Fri 07-Jun-13 22:30:44

I love Wild Berries by Yevtushenko. It is brilliant.
I have watched and enjoyed Chekhov plays at the theatre but I don't think I would like to read it. I think I would find it too heavy going. blush

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 07-Jun-13 22:34:33

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland that is so lovely.

I am so delighted with all if your suggestion. It has warranted a whole new wish list and I already have 12!

IKnowWhat Fri 07-Jun-13 22:34:49

Umm, sorry about the crappy English in my post. I meant to say I think I would find Chekhov plays hard going if I had to read them

<<light weight emoticon>>

tripfiction Sat 08-Jun-13 11:30:59

These are the books we have brought together for novels set in Russia. You can drill down further to access historical only if you want. Hope that helps

exexpat Sat 08-Jun-13 11:38:48

Can I recommend The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth? Brilliant writer, brilliant book.

Also, here's a clickable version of tripfiction's link, as there are a few interesting ones on that list:

mixedmamameansbusiness Sat 08-Jun-13 12:46:45

Thank you TripFiction and exexpat.

Now just working out how to purchase and sneak them into my bookshelves without DH noticing.

Sunnymeg Sat 08-Jun-13 13:13:05

The Bronze Horseman, by Paulinna Simons also set during the second world war. Unfortunately it does go a bit Mills and Boon in the middle. There
are also two sequels, but they are not as good as the first one.

CoteDAzur Sat 08-Jun-13 14:06:12

We The Living - Ayn Rand
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

... if you tire of the classics.

Or The People's Act of Love by James Meek.

ShinyPenny Mon 10-Jun-13 18:28:53

The Beginning of Spring, Penelope Fitzgerald.

ellesabe Sun 23-Jun-13 20:18:08

The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Waferthinmint Thu 27-Jun-13 21:40:31

Personally I would read actually history books eg: Natasha's dance for Russian culture. And the whisperers the everyday lives of people under Stalin

travellingwilbury Thu 27-Jun-13 21:53:12

A second for cancer ward , it is a brilliant read , not massively cheerful of course but I doubt many Russian novels are .

mixedmamameansbusiness Fri 28-Jun-13 12:24:29

Natasha's dance and theWhisperers are already on the list and I own them since he is actually my lecturer but I want some background literature a. Because I am addicted to reading so it may as well be something relevant and b. because literature is often referred to in passing etc and I would like to be more clued up and c. One of my goals this year is to read more Russian lit.

Waferthinmint Sat 29-Jun-13 15:54:31

Orlando Figes is your lecturer? I am seriously jealous! I teach a lot of Russian history in school and would love to meet him.

mixedmamameansbusiness Sat 29-Jun-13 19:08:43

Yes, he is. I consider myself very lucky. Where in the country are you based? If you are in London he does an insane amount if book promotion talks. I often pop along, DH calls me a groupie.

Clawdy Sun 30-Jun-13 16:45:02

Hero Of Our Time - Mikhail Lermontov. Our bookgroup read it last month,and most of us loved it.

Solnushka Mon 01-Jul-13 00:31:12

Is just books you want to get up on? Because this is very interesting about the development of rock music in the Soviet Union:

I'd add Twelve Chairs and sequel to the literature list. Russians quote it a lot. Well, my husband quotes it a lot (he's Russian). From this, and because it is cynically witty about people, I think of it as a sort of Catch 22 sort of thing.

From about the same time, I remember this collection as being a really interesting one because it's mostly about the lives of ordinary people:

Zamyatin's Si Fi dystopia book We, does Brave New World before BNW and got banned: i

I sixteenth Master and Margarita cos it's fab. I think Russians might know Heart of a Dog better, because it got made into a well known film.

You probably ought to have a look at Pushkin too. Way before time, but still hugely influential. The good news is he also wrote dirty limericks.

Anyway, also very jealous about you having Orlando Figes as a lecturer - Natasha's Dance in particular is very very good.

mixedmamameansbusiness Mon 01-Jul-13 07:27:00

Thanks for more suggestions ... So exciting.

Whatever happens it looks like I will be reading the Master and Margarita!

tripfiction Thu 05-Sep-13 20:10:50

Have just read a terrific novel set in 1920s Russia 'Red Winter' by Dan Smith

Sharpkat Thu 05-Sep-13 20:16:51

A contemporary and easy read - A week like any other - Nataliya Baranskaya.

If you cannot find a copy I would be happy to dig mine out.

CircassianLeyla Sun 08-Sep-13 21:31:03

More suggestions thank you.

Have NC but great to see more ideas.

CircassianLeyla Sun 08-Sep-13 21:31:50

Actually just about to start Blood Red, Snow White. Has anyone read it?

Pennyink Mon 09-Sep-13 22:38:43

If you like books on Russia, try my partner's new novel, Devil's Acre by Jonathan Bastable. He's a Russophile and writer (he was a correspondent in Moscow for the Sunday Times) during The Yeltsin years. He got me to read The Master and Margarita within weeks of our meeting...

It's part love-story/part history. Currently on Kindle but should be out in paperback/on the iPad soon. Be so great to know what the mumsnetting Russian-novel readers think!

CircassianLeyla Mon 09-Sep-13 22:46:48

Ohhhh how exciting. Will definitely give that a go.

Pennyink Tue 10-Sep-13 09:29:33

Thank you! I read it before we got together and loved it!

elkiedee Tue 01-Oct-13 02:10:30

Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate - set during WWII but about that and so much more

Victor Serge's memoir and his novels - several have been reprinted by NYRB recently

Helen Dunmore, The Siege is a great historical novel, but the first two were actually there observing what they wrote about. Sarah Quigley's The Conductor is another take on the Siege of Leningrad.

BelleOfTheBorstal Tue 01-Oct-13 02:35:04

Edward Docx Self-Help. Fabulous book.

bemybebe Tue 01-Oct-13 02:49:02

The Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov
Master and Margarita is a must

bemybebe Tue 01-Oct-13 02:53:45

ah, and The Bison: A Novel about the Scientist Who Defied Stalin by Granin

AnneWentworth Sun 12-Jan-14 17:14:41

Resurrecting my own thread. Adding The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov - just brilliant.

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