Discovering Russian Literature discussion

GENERAL TOPICS > Modern Russian Lit Recommendations

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message 1: by Emily (new)

Emily Hi guys!

I'm a (struggling) student of Russian, and I was wondering if anyone might be able to suggest me some light reading? I was thinking something modern, and not too complex - I need to start reading in Russian, but I'm definitely not ready for Tolstoy yet!


message 2: by Anna (last edited May 05, 2014 09:43AM) (new)

Anna Ankona (ankona) Hi, Emily. How about Boris Akunin books? I especially recommend his Fandorin series .

message 3: by S. (new)

S. Shelton | 16 comments Good morning, Emily:
May I suggest "St. Catherine's Crown." This is a historical action adventure story set in the Russian Revolution and post revolution. It's premise is that Grand Duchess Anastasia, though seriously wounded, survived the regicide. Rescued by the Czech Legion, she evades the Soviet secret police in her escape to a secret White Russian community in China. The Cheka, and treasure hunters via to find her and the Romanov jewels and the crown. They meet in the final chapter for a surprise ending.

message 4: by Marko (new)

Marko Jurcevic (marko88) | 1 comments Hi Emily,

I can suggest to you "The Twelve Chairs" or "The Little gold Calf" by Ilf & Petrov.

It's a classic and comedy.

message 5: by Azaghedi (new)

Azaghedi | 79 comments What level would you put yourself at, Emily? I ask because I am also a struggling student of Russian, though I'm probably straggling far behind you in the struggle!

I've never read him in Russian yet, but I've really enjoyed Dovlatov in translation. His language comes across as uncomplicated and a bit laconic. It could fit your needs, so I'd suggest checking him out. I enjoyed 'Чемодан' and 'Наши' most. He's beyond my skill level at the present time, but maybe some of these recommendations others have given will fit my abilities.

message 6: by Larry (new)

Larry Wang Honestly, some of Tolstoy's works are quite easy, actually. I, for one, was introduced to Russian Literature as a teenager by The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which I absolutely loved. It's short, quite easy and great literature.

message 7: by Bigollo (last edited May 07, 2014 03:21PM) (new)

Bigollo | 104 comments If I were asked to translate a Russian author from Russian into English (I am Russian but not a translator, btw) at my choice, I would probably choose Leo Tolstoy.

I have yet to come across another author who will do as good in terms of being clear of what he’s trying to say.

Hence, I, too, would recommend Lev Nikolayevich for a student of Russian to start the practice of reading in Russian.

War & Peace too thick? Anna Karenina too hard? Well, the Count wrote on many levels, even for kids.

How about his ‘Childhood’ for starters?

message 8: by Azaghedi (last edited May 08, 2014 09:58AM) (new)

Azaghedi | 79 comments "Три медведя" by Tolstoy was a pretty easy read. I also enjoyed his "Сила детства," though that wasn't as simple. Note that (I think) some of the vocabulary in both the aforementioned stories may be a little outdated.

message 9: by Bigollo (last edited May 08, 2014 07:46PM) (new)

Bigollo | 104 comments Yes, all literature written over a hundred years ago has outdated words. Pretty much on every page.
But it’s just words. They can be looked up in a dictionary. BTW, there are many anthologies of Russian stories compiled specifically for foreign students, and those have footnotes and dictionaries for difficult words in them.

TMHO, vocabulary is not the hardest part of a language. Yes, of course, it takes years and years to learn even basic foreign vocabulary. But there is another part of language (I’m talking about written language here, the spoken one has even more dimensions); namely, its grammar. To me, that’s where the heart of the language is, its spirit and beauty and its challenge. I think, everyone who studied a second language (not to mention a third and so on) must have been surprised how languages may differ in respect of grammar. Some grammatical concepts of one language are completely missing in another. (to give an example, the concept of article (the words ‘a’ and ‘the’ in English) is nonexistent in Russian. And yet, an idea born in one language can practically always be expressed in another language, only by other means, other structures.

The Russian language has six grammatical cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives. And they are not equal in terms of frequency of usage. The Nominative and The Genitive are in much higher demand than others. Maybe the Dative too.

I have this observation. Not a scientific one, maybe just my personal quirk. It seems to me, when reading figures like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, that they were using much freer the whole spectrum of grammatical cases. And the modern Russian tends to replace a sequence of multiple cases, that could be potentially used in a sentence, - by more simple structures, say by creating more clauses.
But I may well be prejudice here… But, hey! English, coming from a very declensional language family (Germanic), eventually lost all its grammatical cases but one. Everything flows.

message 10: by Emily (new)

Emily Thanks so much everyone! Will check out all of your suggestions! :)

message 11: by Emily (new)

Emily Azzageddi wrote: "What level would you put yourself at, Emily? I ask because I am also a struggling student of Russian, though I'm probably straggling far behind you in the struggle!

I've never read him in Russian ..."

It's hard to say. I study it at university and I lived in Russia for a few months so my speaking got quite decent, but my grammar was never fantastic, and now I've moved elsewhere and it's starting to fade a little. I've read a couple of books that were designed for people learning (I would recommend one called рассказ сенсация - was quite funny and had some good business vocab and exercises!) but I'm thinking I might try some short stories now.

I'll check out Dovlatov though, sounds good, thanks!

message 12: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Perova | 14 comments I'm surprized that no one on this list, who is interested in contemporary Russian fiction, mentioned the Glas series of New Russian Writing with more than 100 authors represented in collections and single-author books: modern classics, rediscovered classics from the 1920s, and very young authors.
Do have a look at

Natasha Perova, editor of GLAS

message 13: by S. (new)

S. Shelton | 16 comments Natasa: Thanks for the information.

message 14: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Green | 37 comments The Reader wrote: "So when I was eleven years old we started five years of mandatory russian classes. It was hard so I decided to read in russian to learn perfect russian and BANG now I'm sixteen years old and I am a..."

Dude that's awesome!

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Boris Akunin (other topics)