The Secret History of Moscow

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The Secret History of Moscow

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1bostonbibliophile
Jan 27, 2008, 10:34am

Has anyone read this book? I think it's brand new & I was wondering if there are any opinions yet. :-)

2morwen04
Out 12, 2011, 11:04pm

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia

I read this recently and while I thought it was written alright the stories pacing was a bit off to me and I came to the conclusion that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read/knew any Russian fables/mythology. I was a bit lost when Sedia starts to introduce all these probably very well-known myths.

3UnrulySun
Nov 6, 2011, 1:35am

I recently picked this one up at a bargain store, but haven't read it yet. I'm more intrigued now!

4bostonbibliophile
Nov 6, 2011, 9:57am

I ended up enjoying it a lot. If you like light fantasy and folklore it's a good read.

5avaland
Dez 14, 2011, 9:40pm

The Sedia novel was reviewed in an early issue of Belletrista by LT member Tim Jones:

http://www.belletrista.com/2009/issue2/reviews_10.php

6sparemethecensor
Dez 20, 2015, 3:54pm

Reviving an old thread -- I just finished this and enjoyed it. It does clearly assume a level of familiarity with Russian folklore some Western readers may not have. I'm familiar with most but not all of the tales and creatures referenced, and for those I didn't know about, I found it engaging nonetheless. The atmosphere was well done, really rendered in an authentic way. I didn't love the writing but I couldn't tell if that was actually a result of translation work...

It made me want to read more about Koshchey the Deathless. I never came across this tale in my Russian studies or reading. Any recommendations?

7LolaWalser
Dez 20, 2015, 5:33pm

Oh my, it's so much part of the folk tradition and there are so many diffuse references, I never thought about a focussed exploration... would be interested in a monograph or something myself. I am sure Afanasiev would have some version of the tale--do you have it? Perhaps check contents first, as there are probably different editions and selections.

I do want to mention--not sure how much use it would be to you, sparemethecensor, but I love it so much--the fabulous, most perfect 1944 movie directed by Aleksandar Rou, with the fabulous, most perfect, inimitable Georgy Milyar as Koschei--YouTube has it, but unfortunately I couldn't find any with subtitles, this one looks like a nice clean copy though:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpzZUk1BqEo

8sparemethecensor
Dez 20, 2015, 6:22pm

Thanks. I remember Georgy Millyar in "Vasilisa Prekrasnaya" from my college Russian class days -- really stellar. I'll start with Afanasiev but I'd be interested in other suggestions, too.

Interestingly, I came across this retelling in English: Deathless. The reviews are decidedly mixed.

9languagehat
Editado: Dez 21, 2015, 5:15pm

For anyone who reads Russian, I highly recommend Alexander Veltman's 1833 novel Кощей бессмертный (Koshchei the Immortal); I wrote about it here:
http://languagehat.com/veltmans-koshchei/

10sparemethecensor
Dez 21, 2015, 6:04pm

>9 languagehat: Thank you! This was very informative and I could not agree more that Veltman needs to be translated into English. Your post thoroughly whetted my appetite.

My Russian is good enough to read older written works (for instance, Герой нашего времени), but I struggle with the "high style" literature of the 19th century that contains so many complex participles.

11spiphany
Editado: Jan 3, 2016, 6:46am

I just finished The Secret History of Moscow and was a bit underwhelmed. I like the premise of the book a lot but I found both the writing and the characterization a bit flat. I am fairly familiar with Russian folklore, so that wasn't the problem, but I think it suffered for me in comparison with Catherynne Valente's Deathless, which in some ways is based on the same idea as Sedia's novel and which I really really liked. It's very vivid and at times rather brutal, but beautifully written and quite powerful and effective at combining Russian folklore with the everyday experiences of Russians in the twentieth century. The Secret History of Moscow just didn't have the same emotional intensity.

While we're on the topic of stories in which Russian folklore intrudes into everyday life, the list would not be complete without the short story "Tenants" by Abram Tertz/Andrei Sinyavsky (written in the 1960s, so it pre-dates both novels by several decades).

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