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Who are your favorites and why?
As it is I think a little poetry/prose divide could be arranged even if many writers dabbled (or mastered) both. But I need to mention Pushkin and Akhmatova. Oops now I need someone who is not mainly known for his or her poetry, don't I? It's impossible. So I'll go with heart, gut and soul (rather than brain which I usually need for reading him but there) for Dostoievski.
Can't even start to go into the "why?" or "how come?" or "which works in particular made such an impression on you?". I hope you'll forgive my momentary cowardice.
Hard to say why - the obvious answer is 'because of his books', but I'm really not sure. I think it's the way he portrays the deepest abysses of the human mind so intensely well.
With only one novel to his name, some might ask why?
1. Dr. Zhivago is one of my all-time favorite books. It was a powerful influence on me at a certain time of my life. I enjoy the detail, the characters, the story, the poetry of the book... I named mone of my daughters Larissa (ok, I can explain the extra "s" - this was the early eighties and my mother-in-law was shocked that I would suggest a "communist" name for my child. Thus the extra S.)
2. I also veyr much enjoy his poetry.
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But my favorite writer is Tolstoy. Here's why Tolstoy is better than Dostoyevsky ... Dostoyevsky loves to let all kinds of characters with a variety of viewpoints get into arguments and introduce interesting viewpoints, but he NEVER lets a character he disagrees with win the argument. Karamazov is unquestionably a great novel, but Harold Bloom's criticism is correct, Dostoyevsky is terribly cruel to Dmitri and Ivan and demeans their ideas by association.
Tolstoy, on the other hand, has such great affection for all of his characters that he lets them get the better of him in arguments consistently. The only problem I have with Tolstoy is his endings. I didn't need the second postscript to War and Peace, I got the theory of history the first time, and I just don't buy Levin's semi-religious conversion at the end of Anna Karenina. But these are tiny quibbles, they are clearly two of the 10 best novels ever written. Nobody writes sorrow more joyfully than the Count.
N. Leskov is another favorite, especially for "Lady MacBeth" and "The Enchanted Wanderer"
My other favorites are Ivan Bunin, Bulgakov, Chekov, Pushkin, so many more.
I don't really care for Tolstoy at all, nor do I like Dostoyevsky very much (love the content, hate the way he writes)
I guess that list represents a failure to answer the question ...
Solzhenitsyn : a soul in exile. Avaland (#12), I named my first child Alexander because of him...handy that my father-in-law was also named Alexander.
> 28. I haven't read Faust and I thought Master and Margarita one of the top 15 novels for me ever. Amazingly good. I have not read Faust but I would say having some (I am going out on a limb here, and may draw some fire, and mean this without any implication) true but lost love, broken heart, rejection, and darkness in your life is probably an accelerant to appreciating Master and Margarita.
In a way, Oblomov is the opposite of War & Peace: it describes nothing, very elaborately. It's focused on the incredibly slow, but unavoidable, downfall of a figure.
Other favorite Tolstoy works: Sevastopol Sketches and The Kreutzer Sonata.
I'd like to add Aleksandr Zinoviev to the mix. His novel The Yawning Heights got him officially kicked out of the Soviet Union upon its publication in the West in 1978, despite his being one of Russia's most prominent philosophers for decades. Brezhnev revoked Zinoviev's Soviet citizenship for "behavior damaging to Soviet prestige". The "damaging behavior" apparently, was having the audacity to author The Yawning Heights, the hysterical, black-humored, 829-page satiric tome that skewered, no, DISEMBOWELED, Soviet politics & revered icons. How he was ever allowed to leave and not sent to Siberia is beyond me.
His lesser works, penned in exile in Germany, included The Radiant Future and Homo Sovieticus.
Not my fave Russian but he's so worth checking out.
Yes. I have read most of Boris Akunin's Fandorin strories and recently read Natan Dubovitsky's "Close to zero" (in German: "Nahe Null").
Contemporary writers... I like Sergei Lukyanenko, though I've only read one of his books. I also like Boris Akunin, but the Fandorin stories get a little dry after a while.
I tend to gravitate to Soviet/anti-Soviet satire.
I am very fond of Turgenev myself, having read a few other works, Lear of the Steppes, A Nest of Gentlefolk, Punin and Baburin it has only deepened my appreciation. He is at once both melancholy and beautiful. Readers who enjoy Chekhov might also like Turgenev as well. I find Flaubert is similar in tone but slightly more jaded. It's a shame we can't get publishers to translate more of him (I have a 10 volume set by the 19th century translator Isabel Hapgood).
Tolstoy though, if I had to pick. I read the Forged Coupon in December and even that, when you filter out the Christian dross, has it's moments. Resurrection has a fantastic final 50 pages, once he tires of the religious posture. Anyone read the Sophia Tolstoy diaries? I found them very amusing for some reason. Oh Lev!
Was someone up there looking for a Nabokov recommendation?
Gogol's short story, The Overcoat still stands heads above all else in my memory.
We performed Chekhov's The Marriage Proposal "in the round" in high school, and that was lots of fun.
Today, I purchased Great Short Works of Tolstoy. I only dipped into a few pages, so far, but the small bit I read seemed to confirm that the superior talent he displayed with Anna Karenina was not at all a fluke. What a rare ability he had to immerse himself in...to live in his characters' world, and to bring the reader into that world as well. It's as if you are there...observing the story from the inside, rather than just reading from the outside. (That's the best I an explain it.)
I've tried to get into Dosteyevsky. I have a copy of The Brothers Karamozov that I've tried to read and just haven't been able to. (The style is so different from Tolstoy.) I will definitely give Dosteyevsky another try sometime, but I think it will always be Tolstoy for me!
From the 19th century, probably Fathers and Sons, which is the only one I have read in full more than once, but I also rate highly War and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata and Crime and Punishment.
I'm listening to Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, while typing this, so perhaps this will inspire me to read some Russian literature (though not immediately as I started re-reading David Copperfield yesterday, one of my great favourites).
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