Discovering Russian Literature discussion

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Group Reads Archive - 2012 > Quiet Flows the Don - Volume II(War): Sept 14-22

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message 1: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Book Two (WAR; German: Krieg und Revolution) 329-662
Part one 329-489 / 21 chapters
Part two 490-662 / 29 chapters


message 2: by Adam (new)

Adam Fullerton (librarygeekadam) DISCLAIMER: NOT SURE IF THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS POST. PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION

I had mentioned in the Peace discussion that I found it somewhat depressing. Please understand that I still love the book, but the hardships and decisions the people make I find somewhat sad. What happens to Natalia even if Gregor never wanted to marry her is still sad (and he did lead her on when they were introduced). The duckling, although a minor event, is symbolic and still mood changing. The rape scene and Gregor's attempt to stop it. All the war and death in the War section. In my opinion, it paints a dark image of Cossack life not because they are bad people but because of the the way their life was especially during this time period. Their are inspiring parts as well, but the overall mood is rather dark. I have finished the book awhile ago now, but there are many more dark and sad instances. SPOILER: I do not remember what book it happened in but when Gregor's child dies and then Akinsia (spelling) betrays him. Gregor's brother Pyotr's (again spelling) wife sleeping around and then trying to seduce his father.

Of course this sense of rough life and dark attitudes is why I love reading Russian literature.


message 3: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Have you finished reading all 4 books? I just finished yesterday. It took me a little over 2 weeks. I agree with you. I also love the book but it's very dark.


message 4: by Adam (new)

Adam Fullerton (librarygeekadam) George wrote: "Have you finished reading all 4 books? I just finished yesterday. It took me a little over 2 weeks. I agree with you. I also love the book but it's very dark."

Yes I finished the all four parts and have picked up the second volume to the series The Don Flows Home to the Sea. I also bought the movie that came out in the late 1950s in Soviet Russia. The movie is 330minutes long! I have gotten through part of the movie but not all of it yet. It leaves out some parts of the book, but in the parts it does show, it is almost word for word from the book.


message 5: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Ah. I see. I grew up on that movie but only got around to the book now. Also, watching the movie now. Yes. Having all the dialogues in the movie would have made it much longer but the movie is still great. I think it's a very accurate depiction of what their life looked like and the characters are spot on.

That was my first acquaintance with Sholokhov but I'll be reading more of him. His other novels are great too I heard.


message 6: by George (new)

George | 58 comments I'm trying to understand what The Don Flows Home to the Sea is. Is it part of the novel or something else?
I read the novel in the original language and it had roughly 1400 pages. I wonder if the English translation is an abridged version. I'll have to check it out in the library and compare to the original.


message 7: by George (new)

George | 58 comments It might have to do with the way they split up the novel into the series when translating. In the Russian version it's split up into Books and Parts. I finished the whole thing ending with Book 4 Part 7.


message 8: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments George wrote: "It might have to do with the way they split up the novel into the series when translating. In the Russian version it's split up into Books and Parts. I finished the whole thing ending with Book 4..."

The English editions put together vol. 3 and 4 with the title "The Don flows Home to the Sea".


Adam wrote: "DISCLAIMER: NOT SURE IF THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS POST. PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION

I had mentioned in the Peace discussion that I found it somewhat depressing. Please understand that I still love t..."


The spoilers are from the end of volume 1. I have talked about the same two events in the other discussion because me too I was impressed by these two happenings.

I have read the first 100 pages of volume 2.
I start to feel the sadness but because I can feel the mood and the tiredness of the Cossacks who are fighting the war. It is sad to read about all these people who are dying while they just want to go home. I can identify with them and so I feel sad and tired like them. I can feel the uselessness of war.
I feel also sorry for all the people who die in a war perhaps also not knowing why they are fighting; they started to fight for one reason and now they are fighting for something else they don't know. Infact I liked the part when a Cossack (I don't remember his name) frees the German saying they are brothers.

Despite the bad things that some Cossacks do (like the betrayals, the robberies...) I can't blame them, on the contrary, now I start feeling sorry for them. Sholokhov's language is really wonderful: he talks about rapes, men dying in a war but then he puts these sweet and nice descriptions of nature that you feel again in peace and you think: nature has wonderful things but also dangerous sides; men, who are part of nature can't be only good or bad, they are both but this is human nature. Also in this Sholokov is only a neutral observer and he never says what is good and what is bad: he simply tells us what is happening. I don't know if I expressed myself in a good way :/

I continue to like that Sholokhov doens't put his opinions in the story and that he continues to be a neutral observer. The reader (at least me) can't take the defense of one part or the other: both are right or wrong for different reasons. I am talking about the Revolution who is near to start.


message 9: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Thanks for clarifying this, dely!

I also like how he depicts people with their positive and negative traits and how they can be both bad and good at the same time.

I also agree that Sholokhov doesn't put his opinions at all and you sympathize with both sides and their causes from time to time. This took courage at that time not to conform and describe the events as they were. And the writer still managed to get a Lenin's order and Stalin's Prize (as well as the Nobel prize later) for this work!


message 10: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments George wrote: "Thanks for clarifying this, dely!

I also like how he depicts people with their positive and negative traits and how they can be both bad and good at the same time.

I also agree that Sholokhov do..."


This is amazing! I really don't understand why such a wonderful book is out of print in Italy! I am so glad that at the end I could find all the four volumes.


message 11: by George (new)

George | 58 comments I'm glad you found it!)


message 12: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments I have finished the first part of volume 2.

It roughly doesn't seem that I am reading about the October Revolution. And where is the February Revolution? Don't missunderstand, I am loving the fact that I am not reading a historical book full of dates and important events that I can find in every history book. In fact, as soon as I read important events or important names (like Kornilov or Kerenskij) in the book then I go on internet to read more about it and so I can have a complete picture of the events.
It is, in a certain way, much better than a simple history book because here we have the point of view of simple soldiers in all their humanity. It is a good mix of historical events and personal story of the characters.
I am really noting how little I knew about the Russian Revolution and I am loving to deepen my knowledge about it with this book and in this way. Also because usualy we read about the Revolution from the point of view of the laborers and Lenin.


message 13: by Adam (new)

Adam Fullerton (librarygeekadam) As far as I know the English versions only have 3 volumes but I need to investigate that more. I would completely agree with the author keeping a unbiased approach. You don't know who to "cheer" for as characters go. You feel sorry for all of them at some point and at other points you are angry with them for not living up to the "hero" idea that is prevalent in many books.


message 14: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments Adam wrote: "I would completely agree with the author keeping a unbiased approach. You don't know who to "cheer" fo..."

Right!
In my opinion reading the book I was not aware about the importance of the historical events of that period because:
1) also the soldiers who partecipated at the events were not aware of the importance of what was happening. To read about the assault of the Winter Palace in the book and then on internet it seems that they are two different events. So, in my opinion, Sholokhov wanted to demonstrate how events can be lived in many different ways and different moods. Cossacks took part to one of the most important historical event of Russia (but also of the world) but they didn't know the greatness of this event. Usually we are able to give the right importance to such happenings only after they happened.
2) this is a book about the Cossacks and not about the changes in Russia. Sometimes I forget this but now, reading the book, the story continues again in the land near the Don so I understand why Sholokov didn't talk too much and detailed about the attack at the Winter Palace or the February Revolution.


message 15: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Dely wrote: "Cossacks took part to one of the most important historical event of Russia (but also of the world) but they didn't know the greatness of this event. Usually we are able to give the right importance to such happenings only after they happened."

Nobody understood the significance of that event at that time. It was that merely one political group took over one particular building with little blood shed and declared their power. Even the Bolsheviks themselves called it the overthrow. Only later this event would be known and promoted as the Great October Socialist Revolution.


message 16: by George (last edited Oct 01, 2012 07:57AM) (new)

George | 58 comments As far as I remember Sholokov talked about the February Revolution. It might have been in the War section though as it occurred while the Cossacks were still fighting in the World War I. What followed that was the creation of the Provisional Government with Kerensky in charge, and Kornilov's attempt to consolidate power, followed by his and some other officers' temporary arrest. All this was in the book.


message 17: by dely (last edited Oct 01, 2012 11:57AM) (new)

dely | 340 comments George wrote: "As far as I remember Sholokov talked about the February Revolution. It might have been in the War section though as it occurred while the Cossacks were still fighting in the World War I. What fol..."

Yes, though he dedicated to it only a few words and perhaps I didn't read them giving the right importance.
However, I am no more able to look at the revolution from the same point of view. If first I considered it something right, something like "the good against the bad" now I am understanding better that also the ones who were considered "good" have done a lot of evil in order to carry on their ideals. I think, and I am always more convinced, that there is never a good reason to kill our own "brothers". At the end, during the wars, the ones who suffer the most are the ordinary people. We look now at the Revolution as something that helped the oppressed but these oppressed turned to be killer.
I have still 40 pages to finish volume 2 and I am sympathizing for Cossacks, I don't want that the Bolsheviks send them away from their land.


message 18: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments I have finished the second volume.
Well, regarding what I have written above (#17), it is impossible to sympathize for one side or the other. Both are right and both are wrong and we can only feel pity for both sides.
In the last pages of the book there is a list of all the red Cossacks executed by the other Cossacks. I couldn't find anything on internet, only that Podtiolkov was killed (28 april 1918). I was curious to know if all these names are real, if they are the real names of the people killed that day. Somebody knows something about it?


message 19: by George (new)

George | 58 comments To answer your question above, even if they were not real there were real ones just like them that were executed in just the same way. A Civil War is a horrible thing in itself and there were a lot of atrocities commited by all sides.


message 20: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Dely wrote,: "However, I am no more able to look at the revolution from the same point of view. If first I considered it something right, something like "the good against the bad" now I am understanding better that also the ones who were considered "good" have done a lot of evil in order to carry on their ideals. "

It all really does depend on one's point of view. The Revolution did help the oppressed people in some ways but it brought about many injustices too.


message 21: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments George wrote: "It all really does depend on one's point of view. The Revolution did help the oppressed people in some ways but it brought about many injustices too."

I have seen to the revolution always in a good way, the folk that rebels against injustices; the poor and the oppressed that raise and take the power against the power. But I was sure that everybody was for the Revolution (except the rich people), I knew nothing about the Cossacks till now, that Bolsheviks wanted to take also their land (though the land of the Don is part of Russia).
Seen that I am against Fascism and Nazism I have always looked in a good way to Soviets and their ideals. Also now, in a lot of Italian Partisan folk songs, they look positively to Russia and the ideals of Soviets and you can see the red Russian flag.
In this song, for example, they sing also "we go to conquer the red spring" and it is referred to the red of the Russian flag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ5461...

If I don't remember wrong Cossacks later allied with Germany (so also with Italy) and they arrived till here to help fascists.

If I don't go wrong you are Russian though you live abroad and you are also young but I was curious to know if perhaps your grandparents told you something about that period. My grandfather told me often about WWII but I don't remember a lot, only that he was a prisoner of the English and so he has learned a little bit English and it was funny to listen to him speaking English. He too was only a farmer but he had to go to fight though he didn't care a lot about politics.


message 22: by George (new)

George | 58 comments Just like I said, it depends on the view, and nothing is ever just good or bad or black and white.

During the Soviet time, the general consensus was that the majority of people were for the Revolution except the old oppressive classes (the nobility, landowners, the new capitalists) who “made their riches on the backs of the oppressed masses” and who wanted to retain the status quo.

I would agree that since the majority of the people were indeed fed up with tsarism and the old ways they supported the Revolution. However, different people and different political parties and fractions had a different vision of the future. Thus, the Civil War broke out after the Bolsheviks came to power. The ones fighting on the side of the Red Army and the Bolsheviks fought for their ideas of the new and just World that would come if they win. The White Armies included both supporters of the old regime and those who supported the ideals of the February Revolution – a western type democracy with a Parliament and different political parties competing for power.

Then there were also those just fighting for their way of life and their land like the Cossacks we read about in the book.

So it wasn’t just the old classes (and the rich) who didn’t support the Revolution. Many other fractions of the Russian society did not support the Bolsheviks’ grab of power, as their visions of the future didn’t coincide.

We can’t just say that the Bolsheviks wanted to take the Cossacks’ land. They came to power and declared themselves the new legitimate government of the whole Russia. So, everyone had to abide by the rules and accept this new government. Whoever accepted the new rule continued to live their lives but became a subject to this new power. Those who didn’t revolted and fought (just like the Cossacks in the book).

I think it was inevitable that the old Cossack live would be in conflict with the new life brought about by the Revolution. The Revolution brought about great change and modernization (Industrialization, elimination of illiteracy, migration of large masses of people from villages to cities, etc). Keeping the old agrarian life with these new changes was just not possible. We know from history (not just Russian) that the new industrial era always comes in conflict with the old agrarian one and often times destroys it. This is exactly what was happening here too.

Some Cossacks (mostly those who left Russia as a result of the Civil War) indeed sided with Nazi Germany later, and were viewed by the majority of the soviet citizens as traitors.

There are definitely stories in my family about that time. My great grandparents were from the lower classes (workers and peasants) so they naturally supported the Revolution and fought in the Civil War on the ‘reds’ side. My grandma told a story of my great grandpa who was a communist trying to establish the Soviet power in a certain Ukrainian village, and he was almost killed by his fellow villagers. My family’s argument was very similar to that of Podtelkov from the book (before he was executed) –these ignorant people are trying to kill us – those who’re fighting for their power and their benefit!


message 23: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments George wrote: "Just like I said, it depends on the view, and nothing is ever just good or bad or black and white.

During the Soviet time, the general consensus was that the majority of people were for the Revo..."


Thank you very much, what an interesting post!
You are right, there isn't only black or white and good or bad and sometimes I forget it because by character I am such a person: everything or nothing, good or bad, I go from one side to the other! So, sometimes, also in the stories I read I am looking for this in order to understand better (even if I know that it is the wrong way to watch at events).

I think this book should be read by a lot of people. It is helping me to see happenings also from another perspective and perhaps it will also help me to see the shades of both parties involved in the Civil War or in general the shades of events. I am also noticing that I should deepen my knowledge of history because except the few hours at school (some centuries ago!) I have never deepened a lot by my own and now I am really feeling this lack.


message 24: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Hi all, I just want to know if the readings are complete are is it on-going. I thought the novel had 4 sections but it seems only two had been active. Have I made a mistake and has added an extra "volume III" thread?

If it's on-going do continue :)


message 25: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments Amalie wrote: "Hi all, I just want to know if the readings are complete are is it on-going. I thought the novel had 4 sections but it seems only two had been active. Have I made a mistake and has added an extra "..."

No mistake! The problem is that every volume has 400 pages and one week for one volume (as in the reading schedule is written) is not enough, at least for me. If I don't go wrong George and Adam are already finished and so there is only me who is reading.

I am half through volume 3 but I haven't written in the discussion because I had nothing to say.


message 26: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
dely wrote: "No mistake! The problem is that every volume has 400 pages and one week for one volume (as in the reading schedule is written) is not enough, at least for me. ..."

Sorry about that but all the time. Since the next reading is on contemporary, these threads will stay at the same place. I'll add both volumes in a single thread, together, in case anyone wants to ay or ask anything. Enjoy your reading!


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