Discovering Russian Literature discussion

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GENERAL TOPICS > Is there an order to this?

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message 1: by Faye (new)

Faye Hello all :)

I've been reading The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and the author mentioned that Anna Karenina can be seen as a continuation or sequel to Eugene Onegin if you read Eugene Onegin first. This got me wondering - since I have no syllabus telling me what to read and when, do any of you more experienced Russian literature readers have any suggestions for an order of authors or their works that would shed a clearer light on them as I go along?

For example, before I read Frankenstein I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which helped me to see the inspiration Mary Shelley derived from Mariner and to understand the many references she made to it. I also read Homer and Virgil before reading Shakespeare, or I would have been lost with all of the mythological references he made. Conversely, I read Don Quixote long after reading a lot of the books that drew their inspiration from it, so I missed a lot of the references and allusions in those works that would have been fun to understand.

So far all the Russian lit I've read is Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Doctor Zhivago, 5 of Chekhov's plays (Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard), and now I'm reading War and Peace, so I still have a lot of ground left to cover. Any suggestions would be appreciated. :)


message 2: by Riya (new)

Riya (riyaishere) you've read a lot more Russian literature than i have. i hope someone answers your question soon, because im curious about the answer to this as well


message 3: by Azaghedi (last edited Mar 02, 2012 09:15PM) (new)

Azaghedi | 79 comments Well, Faye, that's a great question, and unfortunately, since I'm only a casual Russophile, I don't think I can answer it satisfactorily. I can only say I've noticed what you already read--that Pushkin loomed large in the minds of the great 19th century Russian writers. Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy all seemed to, at least in their own minds, owed a great deal to the Russian bard.

It seems like Russian literature started in earnest with Pushkin. After him, Gogol seems to have had a large impact on those that followed him as well. Dostoevsky himself even copped his style and subject matter in The Double. I know that Goncharov's Oblomov was quite influential as well, but just how much so, I'm unable to say.

Other than that, I'm sure each of the contributors to the Russian canon had their own favorites. I'd say it's safe to say that they probably read French literature, though, given that that language was in vogue for the literati at the time. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy both fawned over Dickens' David Copperfield, while the former loathed Shakespeare.

I will say that I notice a decidedly thinner application of Biblical and Greco-Roman mythological references in the Russian works I've read. And that's by no means a bad thing.

Now, my undereducated, anecdotal musings aside, here's a book on intertextuality (among other things) in Russian literature I found. Might be worth a read if you're interested in really getting into this topic.

http://www.amazon.com/Against-Grain-I...


message 4: by Faye (new)

Faye Steve wrote: "It seems like Russian literature started in earnest with Pushkin. After him, Gogol seems to have had a large impact on those that followed him as well. Dostoevsky himself even copped his style and subject matter in The Double. I know that Goncharov's Oblomov was quite influential as well, but just how much so, I'm unable to say."

Thanks so much, Steve! I've heard a lot of good things about Pushkin, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading his works. I'll be reading Eugene Onegin as soon as I've finished War and Peace. I've been anxious to read Gogol's Dead Souls, too, but I'm not familiar with what else he's written. I'll have to look into that. And I'll put Oblomov on my short list.

Now, my undereducated, anecdotal musings aside, here's a book on intertextuality (among other things) in Russian literature I found. Might be worth a read if you're interested in really getting into this topic.

That book sounds perfect. Thanks for finding it for me!


message 5: by Azaghedi (new)

Azaghedi | 79 comments No problem! As far as Gogol, he wrote mostly short stories, but he also has a famous novella ("Taras Bulba") and play ("The Government Inspector"). Among his more famous short stories are "The Nose," "The Diary of a Madman," and "The Overcoat." I haven't read a ton of his work, but from what I have, it's quite clear that the mold was broken when they made him!

And you're welcome regarding the book :)


message 6: by Tom (new)

Tom | 59 comments Well, if one were to take as guide Dostoevsky, who allegedly proclaimed "We all came out from under Gogol's "Overcoat," referring to G's classic short story, one might start there, though from my own fairly wide but unstructured reading of Russian Lit, Pushkin seems to get cited or invoked, some times slyly, sometimes openly, by lots of the "big guns." (mind you, having never actually read Pushkin, I gleaned this pattern mostly from helpful footnotes, especially in P/V translations). Still, it's hard to imagine a good bit of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, some Turgenev and certainly Bulgakov without picturing Gogol smirking manically in the background.


message 7: by John (new)

John | 1 comments Faye wrote: "Hello all :)

I've been reading The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and the author mentioned that Anna Karenina can be seen as a continuation or sequel to E..."


Faye

Pushkin is definitely the beginning of modern Russian literature. Onegin is a great placeto start. As it is a novel in verse make sure that you get an edition that is well noted just as you would for Shakespeare. In terms of the ideas thta go into Dostoevsky's worldview, I would suggest that Turgenev's Fathers and Sons would be the next step. Gogol, while tremendously important, had more of a stylistic effect on Dostoevsky than an intellectual one. There are elements of the poverty theme at play in The Overcoat but for my tastes that theme is not nearly as important in Dostoevsky as others on this thread have argued. I would also suggest reading Notes from the Underground to see how these themes developed over time in Dostoevsky's own work - ultimately into The Brothers Karamazov.


message 8: by Faye (new)

Faye Thanks so much for your input, Tom and John! I'll definitely focus on Pushkin and Gogol for a while.


message 9: by Azaghedi (new)

Azaghedi | 79 comments I can't believe I forgot to mention Mikhail Lermontov. He wrote a novel called "A Hero of Our Time" which I believe, at the very least, Dostoevsky found very inspiring.


message 10: by Tom (new)

Tom | 59 comments Ah, good reminder, Steve. ML has been on my list for some time, as well.


message 11: by Frank (new)

Frank Dedge If you're into magical realism at all, I highly recommend The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.


message 12: by Faye (new)

Faye François wrote: "If you're into magical realism at all, I highly recommend The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov."

Thanks, that's on my list. :)


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