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Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir…

Lectures on Russian Literature (original 1981; edition 2002)

by Vladimir Nabokov

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633726,320 (4.11)21
The author's observations on the great nineteenth-century Russian writers-Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev. "This volume... never once fails to instruct and stimulate. This is a great Russian talking of great Russians" (Anthony Burgess). Edited and with an Introduction by Fredson Bowers; illustrations.… (more)
Title:Lectures on Russian Literature
Authors:Vladimir Nabokov
Info:Mariner Books (2002), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Lectures on Russian Literature, book 1 of 2 by Vladimir Nabokov (1981)



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English (5)  Russian (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
Read this book to hear Nabokov's opinions on Dotsoevski and Gogol who he hates, and for his exact detailed analysis of Tolstoy's Anna Karenin.
This guy knows his onions but whether hating the above is neccesary to appreciate Russian Literature I think can only be borne by reading the Literature and making up ones's own mind.
I think Dotsoevski portrays the lives of those in poverty at it's frightening best; it may be one reason Nabokov doesn't like him.
This book to conclude gives food for thought as to the criteria for great Literature and therefore worthy of your consideration.
Review of top of the head. ( )
  wonderperson | Mar 30, 2013 |
This is a compilation of Vladimir Nabokov's lectures given when he was a professor at Wellesley and Cornell in the 1940s and 1950s. I would highly recommend it if you have read any of the authors he covers (Chekhov, Dostoevski, Gogol, Gorki, Tolstoy, and Turgenev). The treatment of Anna Karenina is especially thorough and delightful.

These are not lectures in the academic sense that you will be exposed to critical trends and philosophical arguments raised by the texts in question. They are extremely accessible (and typeset in a comfortably large size). Nabokov offers some interesting biographical details about the authors, but he does not even mess with their philosophies or beliefs or their sociocultural milieu. Nabokov's basic approach to literature is as a passionate reader. His recurring theme is that "literature belongs not to the department of general ideas but to the department of specific words and images," and this is what his lectures focus on. He offers floor plans of railway cars and pictures of the characters' clothing. He carefully sets forth the chronology of the characters' actions. He analyzes the way the authors write, often reading sizeable excerpts from their books. And he lavishes his own dramatic opinions upon his hearers.

Nabokov is a matchless guide through Russian literature. Not only does he know the country and the language as a native Russian, but he is a virtuoso writer in English. Here is one example of the sprightly wordplay that appears in his lectures:

One peculiar feature of Tolstoy's style is what I shall term the "groping purist." In describing a meditation, emotion, or tangible object, Tolstoy follows the contours of the thought, the emotion, or the object until he is perfectly satisfied with his re-creation, his rendering. This involves what we might call creative repetitions, a compact series of repetitive statements, coming one immediately after the other, each more expressive, each closer to Tolstoy's meaning. He gropes, he unwraps the verbal parcel for its inner sense, he peels the apple of the phrase, he tries to say it one way, then a better way, he gropes, he stalls, he toys, he Tolstoys with words.

The best professors are the ones who clearly love what they are teaching. You can check this out from the library and enjoy one of the best literature courses in history for free.

By the way, Nabokov's lectures on non-Russian literature are published in a separate volume. If you haven't read any Russian literature in recent memory, I would recommend that volume equally highly. ( )
  theonetruesteph | Mar 30, 2013 |
Yes, I am in ecstasies over Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature, which takes a look at the 19th century Russian literary canon (specifically Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekov and Gorky), but Nabokov is far from treating this literature as sacrosanct. Nabokov rates Tolstoy as the finest, Gogol as second, and Chekhov as third.

As Hero of Russian Literature Tolstoy is not spared the rod of criticism. Nabokov does find fault with Tolstoy, albeit misdemeanors rather than grand crimes, such as his characters' tendency to blush and flush, which he attributes to the nineteenth century fashion. Nabokov the great writer draws attention to the fine detail much as a master painter, noting the elements of the portrait that make it seem real. He mourns Tolstoy's loss to literature when Tolstoy renounced his the style of writing of his great literature as self indulgent and running counter to his moral beliefs. Fortunately for future generations, Tolstoy was not quite able to wholly abstain and so still gave us some more of his finest, if not on such a grand scale as before. Gogol, Turgenev, Chekhov and Gorky are treated in similar fashion, if not in such great depth (the section on Tolstoy accounts for perhaps a third of the book).

In addition to examining texts and writing style, Nabokov also looks at the personal histories of the writers, fashioning a rounded picture not just of great works but of great writers in union with their works. I understand that Nabokov's Lectures on Literature focus exclusively on the writing, so while I intend to read this at some point (not on my shelves yet), and while I expect to fully enjoy reading it, it will be a different kind of read.

Finally, Nabokov is often scathing in his treatment of the translators whose translations he teaches from. We are privileged in Lectures to read Nabokov's own translations of sections of many of the works under review.

After reading Lectures, I found myself dying to plunge into the works themselves. In fact, I could not resist gathering up my own books and flipping through them along with Nabokov. Promptly after finishing the Lectures, I started Anna Karenin and read it with more enjoyment than ever before, and will try to fit in as many of the others as I can in the coming year along with my books off the self challenge. What an excellent companion piece the Lectures have been so far!

(Having written this I'm not entirely sure Gogol was Nabokov's "second" greatest but, based on the criticism he heaped upon Turgenev, I can't imagine Turgenev in second place!) ( )
1 vote anisoara | Feb 10, 2010 |
This was a perfect way to round out a recent series of Russian lit. Taken from Nabokov's lecture notes, this addresses the biography, style, and messages of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorki, Tolstoy, and Turgenev. Nabokov regarded Chekhov, Tolstoy and Turgenev highly. He was very critical of Dostoevsky, claiming that his work was cheap sentimentality, unbalanced, but successfully obscured with a complex plot that serves to capture the reader the first time. ( )
  jpsnow | May 25, 2008 |
I can never get enough of this book. ( )
  lvwoolf | Nov 6, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
The lectures that Nabokov gave during his American exile were on the two halves of his literary endowment - first, the English and Arneri-cans; now the Russians, specifically Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorki, Tolstoy and Turgenev. His attitude to them will not please those progressive souls who believe that literature should found revolutions or speak out for an existing stability. Literature, according to Nabokov, is not a matter of the collective or even the individual soul. It is a matter of the exact notation of the physical world. It is a matter of grace, wit, ingenuity, dandyism. It is, in fact, the kind of thing we find in Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada. The permanencies are not political nor even religious. They are the taste of food, the smell of newly washed muslin, the dark hair curling on Anna Karenin's white neck.
added by SnootyBaronet | editObserver, Anthony Burgess
Nabokov of course made up his own class notes on Gogol into a brilliant short book, and a sizable chunk of this is included. His comments on the style of Dead Souls and the plot of "The Overcoat" are the most illuminating written in English on those great works... And he gives Tolstoy the same loving treatment he gave Pushkin in his great commentary on Evgeny Onegin; not so exhaustively, for these are only lecture notes, but with the same recognition that this is the only way we can give such a master his due.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew York Review of Books, John Bayley
En esta nueva selección de los famosos cursos que dictó en las universidades de Wellesley y Cornell, Vladimir Nabokov estudia las principales obras de los grandes escritores de su país natal, tan intimamente ligados a su propia sensibilidad: Gógol, Turgu´éniev, Dostoyevski, Tolstoi, Chéjov y Gorki.
Inteligente y sincero, Nabokov habla con pasión de su patria perdida, una Rusia secular que ya no existe. En realidad, habla pudorosamente de sí mismo, de sus sentimientos y nostalgias, de sus ideas estéticas, sus entusiasmos y sus rechazos. Guiando a los alumnos por los vericuetos de las tramas y los caracteres de las obras maestras, demuestra, una vez más, su notable profundidad pedagógica y su extraordinaria capacidad de deleitar y entretener al lector.
Lecciones de literatura rusa es un libro instructivo y fascinante. Como bien dijo Anthony Burgess, es la voz "de un gran ruso hablando de los grandes rusos".
added by MariaInes | editContra tapa del libro

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vladimir Nabokovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bowers, FredsonEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
豊樹, 小笠原Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
豊樹, 小笠原Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The author's observations on the great nineteenth-century Russian writers-Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev. "This volume... never once fails to instruct and stimulate. This is a great Russian talking of great Russians" (Anthony Burgess). Edited and with an Introduction by Fredson Bowers; illustrations.

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