New to Russian lit --- recommendations?
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I've read lots of Alexander Solzhenitsyn too, including essays. Just about everything he wrote was terrific. A biography of him by Joseph Pearce includes prose poems he wrote near the end of his life, which are published nowhere else. I really liked those poems.
There are a large number of prominent Russian classic authors, such as Nikolai Gogol, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Anton Chekov, Lermontov, Turgenev, Maksim Gorky, and of course more recently there is the esteemed Vladimir Nabokov, who, though he had to flee Russia as a teen, was very much a Russian. I've only gotten to a few of these so far, but all I've read has been wonderful and I've every reason to believe all the rest of them are every bit as worthwhile reading.
Sadly I don't really know about present day Russian authors, aside of Sergei Lukyanenko, who writes the amazing Night Watch series. It's sci-fi-fantasy, but it's truly about "good" vs "evil," and morality, and shades of gray, and such. Wonderful stuff.
Among the "classic" authors, I like Nikolai Gogol and Anton Chekhov; I find Leo Tolstoy a bit preachy.
Two Soviet period authors worth checking out: Daniil Kharms and Mikhail Zoshchenko. And of course there's Mikhail Bulgakov (Master and Margarita).
For science fiction, try the Brothers Strugatsky.
There are some interesting authors writing in Russian from some of the Soviet Republics: Chingiz Aitmatov (Kyrgyz, best known for Jamila); Fazil Iskander (Abkhaz); Yuri Rytkheu (Chukchi).
I haven't read very many more contemporary Russian authors, but I like Ljudmila Ulitskaja and Andrei Kurkov (who is technically Ukrainian, but writes in Russian--the borders are historically not terribly clear).
Yes, that's how it is for Lukyanenko, he was born in Kazakhstan and I'm not sure if that's where he currently resides or what but I think he's not technically in Russia itself, but he writes in Russian and those countries over there all share a lot of cultural background, so...
Glas New Russian Writing has been on a mission for many years to bring the best of contemporary Russian literature to English-language readers. Here is a link to the site: http://www.glas.msk.su/
A few of Glas's books that you might want to check out from their list include Alan Cherchesov's Requiem for the Living, which received a wonderful review just the other day from Ann Morgan (from A Year of Reading the World fame), Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Seven Stories (can't find a touchstone link) and Alexander Snegirev's Petroleum Venus.
Other twentieth-century classics include everything by Vasily Grossman (e.g. Life and Fate, Everything Flows, Armenian Sketchbook, The Road: Short Fiction and Essays), as well as anything by Andrei Platonov (The Foundation Pit, Happy Moscow, Soul, etc, etc.).
You could check out some short story anthologies to acquaint yourself with some new writers: Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida comes immediately to mind.
Many of Victor Pelevin's books are available in translation, and more and more of Mikhail Shishkin's books are being translated - a couple to check out are The Light and the Dark and Maidenhair.
Yuri Buida is excellent. I adore The Zero Train, and The Prussian Bride is excellent, too. Vladimir Sharov's *Before and During* (Touchstone failing again) has also recently been brought out by the same translator (Oliver Ready).
A great place to find out about Russian books that are about to come out in translation is Lizok's Bookshelf. Once a year she does a round-up. Here's her round-up for 2014: http://lizoksbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/new-russian-to-english-translations-fo...
There's lots and lots of very good contemporary writing seeing its way into English, so you can really read to your heart's delight!
I'd also mention Teffi, a favourite of Nicholas II and Lenin alike, and one of the most popular writers in Russia before the Revolution, as well as one of the most popular in emigration, although for some reason she slipped off the literary map following her death in 1952.
Pushkin Press have recently brought out a collection called Subtly Worded which draws on her entire body of work to acquaint readers today with this lost literary celebrity. I am one of the translators, so I'm somewhat prejudiced, but I'm not the only one who thinks she's brilliant. Just read this review by Nicholas Lezard on The Guardian:
Echoing what's been said but adding a couple of my other favorites:
I personally don't care much for Tolstoy compared to his brethren. I also am in the very small minority of people who think Nabokov is overrated.
Russia also has a really fascinating branch of science fiction you may enjoy -- it's very much on the experimental, surrealist side of science fiction.
If it's any help, there are a lot of reviews on my blog which might give you an idea about some of the books:
although beware of spoilers!
Tolstoy: Anna Karenina and War and Peace
Vassily Grossman: Life and Fate, Everything Flows, An Armenian Sketchbook, The Road
Nikolai Gogol: Dead Souls
Victor Serge (Russian but wrote in French): The Case of Comrade Tulayev, Conquered City, Unforgiving Years
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita, The White Guard
Boris Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago
Andrey Platonov: The Foundation Pit, Soul and Other Stories
Vladimir Sorokin: Ice Trilogy, The Queue
Chekhov: Any collection of stories; I recently read this collection: Stories
And I have many other Russian writers on my TBR that I am eager to get to.
Edit: Oops, I see rebeccanyc already recommended Platonov!
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