Sunday, 4 January 2015

Russian Literature Challenge 2014: wrap-up

I managed 11 books, or 12 if Pnin counts. Level 3. 

1/ Notes from Underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

2/ Chekhov's 40 Stories (Anton Chekhov)

3/ Fathers and Sons (Ivan Turgenev)
I also read about half of A Hunter's Sketches

4/ Lev Tolstoy's Short Fiction- Norton Critical edition, which includes The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Family Happiness

5/ War and Peace (Lev Tolstoy)

6/ Memoirs from the House of the Dead (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

7/ Nikolai Leskov: Selected Tales

8/ Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)

9/ The Overcoat and Other Short Stories (Nikolai Gogol)- Dover Thrift edition, including "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich", "The Nose" and "The Overcoat"

10/ A Hero of Our Time (Mikhail Lermontov)

11/ Rudin (Ivan Turgenev)

12/ Pnin (Vladimir Nabokov)- if it counts

I also read the correspondence between Flaubert and Turgenev:
Articles and essays I've read about Russian literature, such as those by Virginia Woolf, Nabokov, James Wood... are not included here. 

The Russian giants not only have vision, depth, complexity and genius but are also revolutionary and ahead of their time. Take Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground is 1 of the 1st existentialist works. Tolstoy's War and Peace is not seen as a novel but many postmodern novels, in the same way, also transcend genres such as The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Book of Daniel, etc. Gogol is absurd and modernist long before modernism, paving the way for authors such as Kafka. Chekhov's against conventions, against unrealistic conclusive endings. Lermontov successfully creates a mingling of voices and perspectives (whereas years later in England, Anne Bronte aims for the same effect in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall but goes for a poor method and structure- making the whole novel a letter and placing a diary in it). 
Overall, it has been a good year. None of these books disappointed. If I have to choose only 5 favourites among these, they are War and Peace, Dead Souls, Notes from Underground, A Hero of Our Time and Fathers and Sons (chosen with difficulty and lots of wavering- Pnin is left out because it's originally written in English). 
I'm also glad that after Nabokov, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, I've discovered some other great writers of Russian literature. Especially grateful for Gogol and Lermontov. 
Looking forward to an interesting year with Norwegian literature*.

*: I don't have high expectations, but we'll see. Amaze me.