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Russian Literature (Very Short Introductions #53)

3.17  ·  Rating details ·  106 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Catriona Kelly takes an enlightening and nontraditional approach to exploring Russia's unique literary traditions. Rather than proceeding chronologically, she uses Pushkin as the central figure in Russia's literary genesis and analyzes how this “Russian Shakespeare” influenced his compatriots, the origins of Russian literature (including folktales), and how Russians regard ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Sterling (first published August 23rd 2001)
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Daniel Wright
Around the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, during the (reputed) surge of literary activity called the Enlightenment, a number of English intellectuals, notably Samuel Johnson, promoted their national author around the world. William Shakespeare, they said, is the greatest poet and writer in any language who has ever lived.

Whether they were right or not, there were a number of people abroad who agreed with them. But they had a problem. How could speakers of other languages engage
Ahmad Sharabiani
Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #53), Catriona Kelly

Rather than presenting a conventional chronology of Russian literature, Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction explores the place and importance in Russian culture of all types of literature. How and when did a Russian national literature come into being? What shaped its creation? How have the Russians regarded their literary language? The book uses the figure of Pushkin--'the Russian Shakespeare'-
Sep 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was awful. I love Russian literature and thought I could tolerate any kind of analysis of it, but I was wrong. The author, who, I believe, has a PhD in Russian Lit, seems to have forgotten that she's writing to people who don't know a thing about it. Or it would seem- who else would read "A Very Short Introduction to Russian Literature"? She takes a strange approach- instead of ordering the book chronologically, or based on different styles of writing, she talks about Pushkin only. She ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, non-fiction, 2015
You can regard an introduction as being just that - a whistle stop tour of some high points in Russian literature with a bit of an overview of its development - or you can take Catriona Kelly's approach and use one writer (in this case Pushkin) as a case study and springboard to discuss a sprinkling of some of the main themes. Given that I've always wanted someone to explain Pushkin's primacy in Russian letters to me, this does not necessarily pose a problem. That said, there's a feeling after r ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vsi, 17-review, britain, c21st
The first thing to say about this VSI on Russian Literature is that it needs updating.  Authored by Catriona Kelly from Oxford, it was published in 2001 - ten years after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 - and you only need to look at the Russian category on Stu's blog at Winston's Dad and here at ANZ LitLovers to see that not only are there now numerous post-Soviet writers clamouring for our attention but also that books suppressed under the Soviet regime are now seeing the light of day. The ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
'An Introduction to Pushkin, If You've Read Some Pushkin and Are Familiar With Most of the Major Russian Novelists and Poets' would be a better title. This book did not understand it was a VSI. If I hadn't already read a lot of Russian literature I would have been fairly lost, I had to go to the dictionary a few times for words that weren't even technical terms and the Further Reading is just a mess of references.

I read this and know a bit more than I did, but VSIs are meant to spark interest, p
Stephen Bruce
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kelly takes an interesting approach here, by focusing on the life, works, and legacy of Alexander Pushkin, as a window into the changing role of literature in Russian society over time. It is thus very different from the chronological summary of Russian writers that one might have expected from the title. But as the author notes, other books (such as Victor Terras's Handbook of Russian Literature) already cover the whole field fairly well, and it would have been difficult indeed to squeeze any k ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like other titles in the series, this book too is stimulating for brain and provoking the interest for further reading. Unlike an ordinary introduction book on a national literature, this book concentrates on the supreme person of the Russian literature tradition, Pushkin, and illuminates different aspects like religion, women writers, the prominent literary theories, in relation to and from the starting point of this great writer. This approach, while not enabling the reader to get fully introd ...more
Jul 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was very good. This is more a history of Russian literature from time of Pushkin to the present day. The author puts Pushkin, 'the father of Russian literature', at the center of his investigation. The response, and attitude of Russian writers and poets to Pushkin is used as a method to discover the many different strands of Russian literature. Fragments of writings and poems are discussed throughout the text, and the whole range of political, cultural, and ethnic issues peculiar ...more
Many Germans view their literature in terms of before and after Goethe. Catriona Kelly uses a similar approach to Russian lit presenting a series of asides that prefigure the central figure of Pushkin. Lermontov and others rightly make their appearances, but this brief introduction is really just an extended essay on Pushkin. Somewhat interesting, but not truly what the book was supposed to be, I think. Then again, having read several in this series, the only ones truly about their subjects are ...more
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book to gain insight into an anglophone's view of Russian literature. Catriona is clearly well-educated about the subject, and has provided me with a better understanding of the relationship between the Russian language and the literature. Her original approach to the subject felt like a novel of its own kind, whereupon I wanted to keep reading this analytical text to find out where she'd take it next. Overall, I would have preferred more discussion of authors other than Pushkin ...more
Juan Ignacio Gelos

"It is written in a lively and stimulating manner...and displays a range to which few of Dr. Kelly's peers in the field of Russian scholarship are equal."--Dr. Philip Cavendish

About the Author

Catriona Kelly is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and the author of A History of Russian Women's Writing and co-editor of Russian Cultural Studies, both published by OUP.

Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, russia
Less an introduction to Russian lit than a long essay on how the idea of literature has been received in Russia over the last two centuries. Kelly begins (naturally) with Pushkin, and uses his image in the Russian popular mind to build outward to discuss what literature does in Russian culture and how it's been used politically and socially.
Amr Ezzat
Review it later..
Danılo Horă
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The non-orthodox design of this book is truly a work of genius. It really helped me to rethink the way I write. But as an "introduction", I guess it doesn't work at all.
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