Russian Readers Club discussion

Favorite Russian book?? There are so many!

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Tatiana (DraCat) (tadrala) | 3 comments I like mostly contemporary russian prose, esspecialy with a mystic tone, like Pelevin's "wervolwes' sacred writing" (
I think it's a very interesting line in russian culture that rised from books of Gogol and Bulgakov

message 2: by Sandy (last edited Feb 11, 2008 01:30PM) (new)

Sandy (sandushinka) | 3 comments I'd have to go with Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita followed closely by Anna Karenina.

message 3: by Yuri (last edited Feb 21, 2008 12:49AM) (new)

Yuri (joopsky) | 2 comments There are so many REALLY good books of Russin writers.And as it was alredy said it's very hard to define wich IS the best. But speaking about best we should always remember that what is good for us is not always the same for another. For example I think that Dostoevsky is the most outstanding Russian author of 20th century, because no other writer understood, picked up and showed us peculiarities of so called "Russian soul". But someone may object this saying that Bulgakhov or Tolstoy is the best and what is the most important they would be right in their own way. There are no best book for everyone, so you shoul read as many as you can and thus pick up your own. And belive me it would the most pleasant search of yours)

message 4: by Alyoshka (new)

Alyoshka | 2 comments I would have to say my favorite Russian author is Dostoevsky. For him my favorite is between the Brothers Karamazov and the Idiot . Its a touch choice, one speaking to my whole soul, the other touching more pointedly in certain spots. I could say so much about both of them! I am also almost finished with Anna Karenina and loving that too, but not as much as Dostoevsky.

message 5: by Lianne (new)

Lianne (eclecticreading) I haven't read a lot of Russian literature so far (you think I'd have read a ton since my focus in university is Russian History), but my favourte so far is Ivan Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons". I think it had a gret balance between social commentary and character development and plot. I just could not put it down!

message 6: by Tom (last edited Jul 28, 2008 08:30PM) (new)

Tom Ok, let me delay a bit by first offering a short list:

But then, how compare short story writers to a novelist? So I'll start with the short story writers: for all his powerful lyricism, Babel just doesn't match Chekhov's compassion and depth (though B's "Guy de Maupassant" could match any of C's best stories). So now it's Anton vs Fyodor. Bros K is clearly the greatest novel I've ever read, it's scope all encompassing. But it's also exhausting, not something I feel compelled to pick up from time time to reread.

So I have to remind myself here that the prompt asks for "favorite" Russian writer, not necessarily the "greatest" one, the latter requiring more of an objective evaluation than an intuitive, visceral response. In those terms, then, it's easy: Chekhov's my favorite. Though his shorter stories, such as "Gusev" and "The Bishop" are unparalleled gems I reread often, in recent years, I find myself more and more drawn to and impressed by C's longer stories, such "The Duel" and "My Life," which are really closer to novellas, and "In the Ravine." One would think that the near enigmatic impressionism of the shorter stories might not hold up well over the length of a novella, but such is C's brilliance that this style only adds to the power of these works.

That's my choice: The Collected "Longer Stories" (Garnett trans.) / Short Novels (P & V trans.) of Chekhov.

Honorable Mention: Joseph Brodsky, for his essays.

message 7: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 9 comments I have many yet to read, but it will be a long time before any book knocks The Master and Margarita from the top of my favorite books list.

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The Narrator (thebirchegg) | 10 comments Mod
Posting the trans. helps enormously; thanks

message 9: by The Narrator (new)

The Narrator (thebirchegg) | 10 comments Mod
Here is my list (although ranking books is a little absurd; nevertheless I've just done it):

1. The Master and Margarita, Bulkakov
2. Fathers and Sons, Turgenev
3. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky.
4. The Cossacks, Tolstoy
5. Dead Souls, Gogol
6. What is to be Done? Chernyshevsky

It could go on and on, couldn't it... I've just read My Childhood by Gorky which is a very soulful, sad book, portions of it very affecting... And now I'm on to Cement, by Gladkov which I'm reading to get a sense of the Socialist Realism movement and is thus far really quite good, quite fascinating historically as well. I see I've said "quite" too many times thus I'll conclude!

Some feel Chernyshevsky's book is poorly written but I would disagree; he writes a bit like Upton Sinclair: so well that his straw characters actually come to life

message 10: by Daisy (last edited Jul 30, 2008 04:25PM) (new)

Daisy  | 4 comments Authors I like (besides the classic ones):
I. Grekova
Nina Berberova
Ludmila Ulitskaya
Olga Grushin: The Dreamlife of Sukhanov

And my all-time favorite too Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita

message 11: by The Narrator (new)

The Narrator (thebirchegg) | 10 comments Mod
I'm looking forward to reading The Dreamlife of Sukhanov; next on my list...

message 12: by Phillip (last edited Aug 04, 2008 09:19AM) (new)

Phillip This is really a difficult questions, but the first few books that come to mind are:

1) Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
2) Dead Souls - Gogol
3) The Slynxx - Tolstaya
4) Master and Margarita - Bulgakov
5) Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

......Daisy, I am also a fan of Nina Berberova. I once had a copy of "Three Novels" (novellas, actually). A friend borrowed it and moved and now I don't have it anymore, and now I can't find a copy of it anywhere. Have you read that one? If so, do you remember or can access the names of those three short novels?

Any help (from anyone) would be greatly appreciated.

message 13: by Tom (last edited Aug 04, 2008 04:38PM) (new)

Tom I have to admit that I got only half way through Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, and found it rather flat. It's been a few years, so I should give it another shot.

PS But I will make a plug for Turgenev's essay "Execution of Tropmann." Quite powerful! Think of it as much more developed version of Orwell's essay "A Hanging." (which I'm convinced is really a short story!)

message 14: by Chrissie (last edited Nov 22, 2009 10:15PM) (new)

Chrissie Phillip,
I am a new member in this group but just maybe I can answer your question about Nina Berberova book comprising three novellas. Could it be The Ladies from St. Petersburg? This book has three novellas in it! I have not read it or any other by this author but I want to. Short stories don't work with me. Could you recommend a novel? I must say that IF the three novellas are not too short, if you really get into the characters' lives I could read that too..... It is just that even fabulous short stories just do not make it with me. I do not want just a quick glance.

message 15: by Zachary (new)

Zachary I would have to go with Tolstoy's War and Peace and then Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. There are so many great Russian novels, but for me, these two were the most insightful and beautifully written pieces of literature.

message 16: by Sasha C. (new)

Sasha C. (bookannelida) | 1 comments So far...

1. Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky
2. Resurrection - Tolstoy
3. Fathers and Sons - Turgenev
4. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

message 17: by Kate (last edited Nov 30, 2009 02:12PM) (new)

Kate Buck (Beatnikfly) | 1 comments CRIME AND PUNISHMENT!!! Love the crazy wanderings of the St Petersburg's streets. Nihilism at its best.../worst X

message 18: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I didn't quite know where to put this question..... Has anybody readGenerations of Winter by Aksyonov? It is suppose to be like War and Peace of the 20th century! I thought that maybe someone could tell me if it is really good!

message 19: by John (new)

John | 30 comments Chrissie wrote: "I didn't quite know where to put this question..... Has anybody readGenerations of Winter by Aksyonov? It is suppose to be like War and Peace of the 20th century! I thought that maybe..."

I used to be a really big fan of Aksyonov, like crazy. Yet I found Generations of Winter boring and poorly written.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I haven't read too many Russian novels but my favourites to date:

War and Peace - Tolstoy (had an advantage because I love history)
Fathers and Sons-Turgenev
Crime and Punishment-Dostoevsky

Of course philosophers love Dostoevsky. I read somewhere the Brothers Karamazov was Freud's favourite novel. I didn't enjoy it as much as Crime and Punishment.

message 21: by Lisa (last edited Dec 22, 2009 03:59PM) (new)

Lisa Hayden Espenschade (lizok) | 17 comments I agree with Ivan about Generations of Winter -- I read the whole trilogy and skimmed some parts because they were tedious. It does cover a lot of 20th-century history and it is a family saga, but it's not nearly as good as War and Peace, in either style or substance. (War and Peace is my favorite!)

message 22: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Ivan and Lisa, thanks for your tips about Generations of Winter. I guess what I read was just advertising blab! The comparison to War and Peace piqued my interest, but at the same time made me sceptical - why wasn't there more talk about this great masterpiece?!

message 23: by Kat (new)

Kat | 2 comments I have to give my vote for favorite Russian book (at least in my mood today) to Gorky for writing Mother because
1. The historical background of the time and the location of the novel opened my mind to something I'd never learned about before.
2. Any book that can make me cry (a few times) because I care that much about the characters means something.
Anyone else read it?

message 24: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Kitty, could you provide the link to the book you mean by using the "add book/author" button centered above the comment box. Thank you - I cannot get to the book you mean:

message 25: by Kat (new)

Kat | 2 comments Sure, I did as you suggested, but I couldn't find the book using that search, here is the link to it,

message 26: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Kitty wrote: "Sure, I did as you suggested, but I couldn't find the book using that search, here is the link to it,"

Kitty, thank you. It seems it is part biographical. Readers have written informative reviews.

message 27: by Asalia von Curl (new)

Asalia von Curl (thecurl) | 4 comments I do love classics!
Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Fonvizin, Karamzyn are my favourites. Gorky's 'Makar Chudra' has amused me a lot.
Mikhail Zoschenko's, Ilf and Petrov's satire...Viktoriya Tokareva's novels...
But this is poetry that I love most of all! I can recite 30 of Lermontov's poems. Mayakovsky, Blok are the authors I am enraptured with.

And what about our contemporaries? I think Akunin is pretty good with his Fandorin saga, isn't he?

message 28: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (lluvyi) | 1 comments Definately Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, but I also love Chekhov and Pushkin.

message 29: by Zuly (new)

Zuly Anna Karenina has been my favorite for many years and through many readings. War and Peace might just surpass it, but I'll have to read it again to be sure. I still have a lot of Russian lit. to cover. At the top of my Russian writers' to-read list is The Master and Margarita. Haven't read Dostoevsky since my teens, so I'll withhold judgement. Rating the best is a crazy game, but everyone has their own "best," and I love reading others' ratings!

message 30: by Monte (new)

Monte (MLeonova) | 2 comments Ivan Turgenev and Andrey Platanov have to be my top two. Dostoevsky is in the top 5.

message 31: by Tom (last edited Sep 04, 2010 10:51AM) (new)

Tom Forgive me for ballot-stuffing, but having recently reread Chekhov's "In the Ravine," I feel compelled to confirm my earlier vote for the Good Doctor of Russian Lit. That stunning piece contains the scope of an epic novel and the minute compressed gesture of a haiku. What many perceive as bleakness in his stories, I see as spiritual, celebratory in affirming the existence of a faith in human nature that doesn't extol or condemn but simply and profoundly acknowledges frailty and persistence. Ach,excuse me, for this is exactly the kind of abstract gibberish that Chekhov would dismiss. Just read the story. Please do read it.

message 32: by Zuly (new)

Zuly Thanks for the recommendation. I will read "In the Ravine" this weekend. I assume that "In the Gulley" is the same story, different translation.

message 33: by Tom (new)

Tom Zuly, I've not come across that translation in my 3 different editions -- Yarmolinsky, Garnett, Pevear & Volokhonsky -- but I imagine it must be the same story.

message 34: by Alik (new)

Alik (afuchs) | 2 comments I see that Andrey Platonov has already been mentioned, and would like to mention him again. His prose is one of the best things that happened to the Russian literature (and language) in the 20th century. For me, there is nothing even close to that in the Soviet Union.
And excerpts of the new translation as LanguageHat quotes it here - - make me believe a miracle has happened.

message 35: by John (new)

John | 30 comments Platonov has been ridiculously overrated. It is an interesting, but not even the second-rank writer, but more like a third-rank. His personal story has made him into a legend among Russian readers, especially in the dissident circles, and clouded the eyes of many. People cannot admit even to themselves that, with all respect to Platonov's life, as a writer he is just mediocre. His language is clumsy and pretentious, and his writing are essentially devoid of ideas.

In English translation, not excluding the last one, he is simply incomprehensible.

message 36: by Alik (new)

Alik (afuchs) | 2 comments Ivan wrote: "Platonov has been ridiculously overrated. It is an interesting, but not even the second-rank writer, but more like a third-rank. His personal story has made him into a legend among Russian readers,..."

I beg to differ. I know little of his personal life (apart from the fact that he was in fact an ardent communist), but his prose always strikes me as most inventive, free and idiosyncratic. I do not think my appreciation of this writer has been borrowed or even greatly influenced by any learned opinion.

That said, I am able to imagine how one can find him incomprehensible. Everyone has his own bulk of knowledge and his good taste, and critical reading is in a certain sense a process of deduction. What does not comply must be dismissed. I am sure I would find many of the things that the learned and the refined relish impenetrable or insipid. That's my loss, probably.

message 37: by Igor (new)

Igor levshin (igor_le) | 2 comments >Platonov has been ridiculously overrated

sounds rediculouse to me :) i could agree with Ivan in 'In English translation, not excluding the last one, he is simply incomprehensible'. i can't say i've read a lot of tr. but the tr. i've read are inadequate. Well, Platonov is one of the most untralatable Russians. Still he is ... well i'd say he is just Great -- like Dost, Tolstoi et al. Or i'd say there are 2 lines:
1. Nbokov
the lines go diffetent ways but the Greats may cross sometime :)

message 38: by Maury (new)

Maury | 1 comments Anybody knows Leonid Leonov. I love his masterpiece "Russian forest"

message 39: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Mary, the book description is blank here at GR. At Amazon I found the following information:

"The plot is a simple one, based on the complex relationship between the girl Polya and her father Vikhrov, a professor of forestry, but the events which form the novel's background are described with an epic sweep charged with social meaning. We find here half a century of Russian life, the Great Patriotic War, the harsh clash of scientists, a maturing new generation, different life patterns, the timber merchant Knishev, who went through Russia's forests with the axe, leaving a trail of wanton destruction, the half-crazy landowner lady cheated by Knishev, Colonel Chandvetsky of the secret political police, and last but not least Professor Vikhrov's principal opponent, the mealy-mouth time-server flirting with liberalism - Gratsiansky. And all these, one way or another, are linked with the life of the novel's central character and his family, and ultimately with the history of the Russian forest, which Leonov treats as something inseparable from the history of the Russian S! tate itself."

"The Russian forest here is a symbol of the national life. Embodied in the idea of self-perpetuation, it becomes a criterion of the Soviet man's moral purity, his patriotism and heroic stature at a calamitous time in his country's history."

Please explain wht YOU liked and disliked about this novel.

message 40: by Sasha (new)

Sasha (sashgeist) Ilf i Petrov's 'The Golden Calf' - witty, fun, engaging, enlightening. A Classic!

message 41: by Paul (new)

Paul Richardson (paulerichardson) | 18 comments Aleksander wrote: "Ilf i Petrov's 'The Golden Calf' - witty, fun, engaging, enlightening. A Classic!"

Absolutely! The Little Golden Calf

message 42: by Marinakoable (new)

Marinakoable | 3 comments Aleksander wrote: "Ilf i Petrov's 'The Golden Calf' - witty, fun, engaging, enlightening. A Classic!"

How is the translation?

message 43: by Paul (new)

Paul Richardson (paulerichardson) | 18 comments The best. And well foot-noted for those not familiar with the myriad of cultural references in the work.

message 44: by Paul (new)

Paul Richardson (paulerichardson) | 18 comments You can, btw, read the first 20 pages or so for free on Scribd:

message 45: by Marinakoable (new)

Marinakoable | 3 comments Paul wrote: "You can, btw, read the first 20 pages or so for free on Scribd:"

Paul, thank you!

message 46: by Leonard (new)

Leonard (leonardseet) | 6 comments There are so many great Russian novels and Dostoevsky is my favorite novelist. Here are my favorites.

1. The Brothers Karamosov - Dostoevsky
2. War and Peace - Tolstoy
3. Crime and Punishment - Dostevsky
4. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Solzhenitsyn (I'm surprised that it is not mentioned.)
5. Fathers and Sons - Turgenev
6. Oblomov - Goncharov (I think this is a fun story. Here is to Oblomovism.)
7. The Master and Margarita - Bulgakov (Another fun story)

Then, there is Chekhov; I like "The Three Sisters" more than "The Cherry Orchard."

message 47: by Charlize (new)

Charlize | 8 comments So many wonderful novels, but Anna Karenina will always be dear to me...It was my first taste of Rus. lit when I was in the 8th grade- hooked ever since!

message 48: by Charlize (new)

Charlize | 8 comments The works of Chekhov and Master and Margarita follow a close 2nd.

message 49: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I agree on those two, Charlize

message 50: by Charlize (new)

Charlize | 8 comments Thanks Chrissie :D Such wonderful books. I may actually re-read Anna again since the last time I read it was 6yrs ago!

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