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The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Clarence Brown's marvelous collection introduces readers to the most resonant voices of twentieth-century Russia. It includes stories by Chekhov, Gorky, Bunin, Zamyatin, Babel, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn, and Voinovich; excerpts from Andrei Bely's Petersburg, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, and Sasha Solokov's A School for Fools; the ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 615 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published June 4th 1985)
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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  257 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Abby Cember
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A splendid collection of gems that even Russian majors like me don't know about. I would especially recommend Platonov's "The Potudan River", Olesha's "Envy" and Kazakov's "Adam and Eve", even if you're not going to devour the whole book like I did this summer in between experiments. Clarence Brown did a great job of salvaging the small precious stones from among the rubble (and, to extend the metaphor, the dubiously lauded literary analogs of Brutalist architecture) of Soviet letters. My opinio ...more
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Russian literature lovers, Kafka readers
A quality collection of stories (in whole and in part) from the great Russian writers of the twentieth century. Brown's commentary is incredibly helpful, aiding both to the reader's understanding of the time the works were written as well as to the general enjoyment of the works themselves.

I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in Russian literature or great literature in general - especially those with a fascination for the Kafkaesque.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read most of this over about four years; for some reason I kept taking Russian courses in college. It's pretty depressing stuff. It's a great collection, though, with short introductions to each author that gives good political and autobiographical information about them.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-russians
Pretty good selection of twentieth-century literature. Per usual, the most compelling reads were the giants--Tolstoy, Chekhov, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn. But I also discovered some excellent Russian writers with whom I was not familiar. Particularly compelling was the excerpt of Georgi Vladimov's Faithful Ruslan and Nadezhda Mandelstam's extracts about the night her husband Osip was informed on by a friend. Shalamov's Lend-Lease was incredible and I have Kolyma Tales now on my to-read list. And fina ...more
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
A little uneven. Maybe the editor had favorites because some authors get much more space for no reason I can discern. Still, Nabokov's 'The Return of Chorb' is one of my favorites and there's a small, but decent selection from Isaac Babel who is awesome. This anthology doubled my list of favorite Russian authors when I first read it.
Brad Cramer
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Very interesting look into Russian literature shorts. Gives you an appreciation for the Russian mindset at the turn of the century. You have to wonder how many popular authors were actually in favor of communism. Worth the time to read.
Rachel Zibrat
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2010, own
Fantastic selection. My favorite was the novella "Envy" by Yuri Olesha - a dark, deranged, beautiful satire. So many good stories beyond this as well, with only a couple of misses (I wasn't terribly interested in the Isaac Babel).
Phil Greaney
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I dipped into this as part of my 'Russia' literary readings and loved it. It has all those major voices alongside those who are less well known outside of Russia (perhaps). There's a good mix of literary and fictional writers, and is useful as a guide to history, such as it's reflected through writing - and how couldn't it be when one thinks about the major upheavals in the Soviet Century? In other words, the historian will find it useful too. It's hard to imagine a better single-volume book to ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Trying to read more Russian writers led me to pick this up at the library. Wish there were more women included, but a great selection from Tolstoy to Soviet era writers like Solhensitsyn. Poetry too. Also, helpful biographical information. One beef: Osip Mandelstam's biography never mentions his wife, Nadezhda, while HER biographical section is almost entirely about him, their writing together, and their marriage. What?
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent selection, with particularly memorable stories from Babel, Platonov, and Shalamov, not to mention the full text of Olesha's impossible to find Envy! Mayakovsky, Bulgakov, and Esenin are surprisingly omitted, while Tolstoy and Chekhov are dragged out of the nineteenth century into the first chapters. I do admit enjoying Gorky's recollections of Tolstoy, however. This collection also does well in bringing attention to lesser known late-soviet authors.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just ignore the irritating editorial tone/purple prose/asides in all the biographical summaries.
Good for what it was. Nice introduction to some lesser known Soviet writers. Although, I don't think I particularly liked the extended excepts of longer classical works. I was very much displeased that the editor chose to put the end of Faithful Ruslan in the collection. Ruined the experience if you ever decide to read the full text. I was very pleased with the Solzhenitsyn story though.
Noelle Dancer
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great selection but it could have been more evenly dispersed. A few of the authors, like Chekhov, I could have used more of in place of some of the longer story choices. I also wish the editors personality wasn't so injected in the introductions but oh well, still quite enjoyable.
Anna C
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
Wow, they apparently haven't updated this thing since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Lesha Symons Ervin
A very unusual book(akin to A Clockwork Orange.) Reccomended tor a quick, dreamlike read.
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I like the sections on the Soviet writers the best...
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Some of the Russian selections are terrific (as in "Envy"), but others left me cold (no pun intended).
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Clarence Brown was born in 1929 in Anderson, South Carolina. He is a retired professor of Russian literature and comparative literature from Princeton University. He has written books of criticism and published several books translated from Russian.