What are some good shorter works to include in a Russian Literature unit?

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What are some good shorter works to include in a Russian Literature unit?

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1Magadri
Fev 24, 2009, 11:33pm

I am preparing a Russian literature unit for junior or senior level high school students. I have already decided to include Ivan Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" for the longer work.

Now, I need shorter works (such as essays, poems, or short stories) to include with the unit. I'm thinking maybe some Chekhov stories or Pasternak poems...but the question is which ones? Or is there something better out there that is appropriate for high school students?

Please let all of your suggestions have English translations readily available.

Thank You.

2tomcatMurr
Fev 25, 2009, 12:04am

You did not specify a period, Albino Rhino, so I'll take it that you are not fussy about that.

I would recommend the following: ( I do not have much experience with that age group, so take what i say under advisement)

Gogol: The Nose
Pushkin: The Bronze Horseman
Solzhenitsyn: A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch
Akhmatova: Requiem (or selections from it: it's quite long)
Pasternak (anything, but maybe the Zhivago poems are a god introduction)
mm
let me know if you need anymore help.

3Steven_VI
Fev 25, 2009, 12:23pm

Try to include some poems by Daniil Charms! He wrote political criticism that he disguised as abstract childrens' stories and poems. They're absolutely fun to read.

4Rubbah
Editado: Fev 25, 2009, 12:29pm

here are some of Chekhov's short stories that stick in my mind:
The grasshopper, Agafya, the lady with a lapdog, ward no.6. there are loads more.

Also, 'The overcoat' and ' diary of a madman' by Gogol are good.

5timjones
Editado: Fev 26, 2009, 6:51am

Here are a few more suggestions:

Short stories

Taman' by Mikhail Lermontov (from A Hero of Our Time)
Okkervil River or Peters by Tatiana Tolstaya (from On the Golden Porch)

Poetry

Three twentieth-century poets who might appeal:

Vladimir Mayakovsky - very self-aggrandising, but that might appeal to students of that age!
Marina Tsvetaeva
Andrei Voznesensky - for example, "I am Goya"

Hope these suggestions help,

Regards
Tim

6Magadri
Fev 28, 2009, 6:04pm

Thank you everyone! I will definitely look into some of these. The Charms stuff sounded especially fun, as well as Mayakovsky. I cannot believe I forgot Gogol. What was going through my mind?!

7rocketjk
Mar 3, 2009, 2:16pm

Last year I read a collection by an excellent Russian writer named Nikolia Leskov. Some of the works of his I'd recommend are:

The Enchanted Wanderer
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
The Steel Flea

8Sandydog1
Mar 15, 2009, 11:57am

I really enjoyed both of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Master and Man. If that's a bit too much mortality/morbidity, maybe you could consider choosing just one.

9Magadri
Mar 16, 2009, 12:41am

I appreciate everyone's help. Just in case anyone is curious, here's what I decided on:

Fathers and Sons- Ivan Turgenev
The Queen of Spades- Alexander Pushkin
The Overcoat- Nikolai Gogol
The Red-Haired Man- Daniil Kharms
Past One O'Clock- Vladimir Mayakovsky
I Know the Truth- Marina Tsvetaeva
March- Boris Pasternak

-Amanda

10tomcatMurr
Mar 16, 2009, 1:01am

sounds like it's going to be a really great course for your students. Good luck!

btw, I just posted a review of Fathers and Sons, here, amanda, if you are interested.

http://thelectern.blogspot.com/2009/03/fathers-and-sons-turgenev.html

11Sandydog1
Mar 19, 2009, 4:55pm

I loved Fathers and Sons, especially the passage about the duel.

12Ortolan
Abr 27, 2009, 1:55pm

I like your final list, Amanda.

I just wanted to add that in Freshman year of high school I had a teacher who assigned me to do a research paper on Mayakovsky, and yes, his pompous and surreal poetry was like catnip to me at the time.

13garyfit
Fev 17, 2010, 12:47pm

I recommed a new book, A Mountain of Crumbs. It's a wonderful memoir by a woman who lived in Leningrad up to about 1979. Part history/part memoir, reads like a novel.

14DanMat
Editado: Set 10, 2010, 12:11pm

You should go off the beaten path. I'm not a teacher so I don't know how well these would fly, but look them over if you think of revising:

Taras Bulba/The Carriage-Gogol

How Much Land Does a Man Need?/25144::Hadji Murat-Tolstoy

The Diary of a Superfluous Man/A Lear of the Steppes-Turgenev

The Steppe/In the Ravine-Chekhov

15prairiemeetsthepines
Set 9, 2010, 9:26pm

I would recommend a short story from Sergei Dovlatov, perhaps something from 'Suitcase'

16LisaStens
Set 10, 2010, 4:52pm

>DanMat, LOVED Taras Bulba. It's actually one of my favorite of Gogol's short stories.

The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy is a great short story as is The Gambler by Dostoevsky.

I just read a collection of Soviet satires called The Fatal Eggs and Other Soviet Satire, it is a collection of short stories, satirizing various aspects of the government of the time. It really is an amazing collection, the title story The Fatal Eggs is by Mikhail Bulgakov but there are a lot of great Soviet era authors featured. It would be an interesting thing for students to read, to see that the great tradition of Russian literature continued through some very difficult times. And the great thing about this collection is, is that it goes into the fates of some of these authors, the struggles they had with the censors and other officials, how some of them were jailed, others kicked out of the country, some killed themselves and some bowed to the pressure and sold their creative souls to the State. Really, a fascinating read.

17DanMat
Set 11, 2010, 5:39pm

Taras Bulba is like something Christopher Marlowe might have written if he was a Russian. And for the sort of thing it is, it's extremely well done. What a body of work! The Inspector General. Dead Souls. Evenings on a Farm...

18dabbdc
Set 13, 2010, 3:36am

Better than Fathers and Sons, why not his coming of age novella First Love, or his collection of tales, Sketches From a Hunters Album (sometimes Sportsman's Notebook), the latter in its magnificent portraits of serfs as vibrant, human souls, helped win their emancipation.

19dabbdc
Set 13, 2010, 3:38am

Garshin's Reminiscences of Private Ivanov

20rebeccanyc
Set 13, 2010, 9:19am

I am a fan of Hadji Murat by Tolstoy. It may not rank among his greatest works, but it certainly shows why -- or partly why -- Russia still has problems in Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus. I also enjoyed many but not all of the short stories in the recent collection/translation, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonksy.

21Svartalf
Jan 29, 2011, 5:20pm

Personally I remember reading Fathers and Sons as part of my class and I didn't really like it given the fact that there were many better novels that you could read instead of it. I mean Fathers and Sons is such a cliche when it comes to school assignments. Its basically what you would assign if you had no imagination because really, its what ever teacher assigns in RusLit classes. That and dissident books....you know - by those guys who made noble prize by trashing USSR in their work. (I'm sure you know who i'm talking about)

Not to say they are bad book - but come on, is there nothing better than them?
How about;

Pushkin: The Captain's Daughter - a wonderful story especially if it is read in Russian.
Or how about anything by Anatoly Naumovich Rybakov- like Dirk or Bronze Bird.
There are also great science fiction stories by Sergei Lukyanenko and Ivan Antonovich Yefremov.

Well that's my opinion...

22timjones
Jan 29, 2011, 6:31pm

>21 Svartalf:, Svartalf: I have Andromeda by Ivan Yefremov - which of his short stories do you recommend?

23tros
Jan 29, 2011, 6:38pm

The Seven That Were Hanged is an old fav.
Also second Nikolai Leskov.

24Svartalf
Jan 29, 2011, 7:01pm

>22 timjones: timjones, this is a wonderful story that you have, if you want to read further - the sequel to 'Andromeda' it is called 'The Bull's Hour'.
Also if you like these books, I highly recommend works by Kir Bulychev specifically One Hundred Years Ahead.
There was a film made from it that became a cult phenomenon in late 80s
If you can get your hands on a subbed or better yet, dubbed copy it will defiantly be worth your time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guest_from_the_Future

25tomcatMurr
Jan 29, 2011, 7:21pm

a dubbed copy? are you serious? Outrage! Sacrilege!

26Svartalf
Jan 29, 2011, 7:28pm

I said 'IF' and its a big one :)
I don't think something like that actually exists....but then there is alot of things I don't know about in this world :P

27LisaStens
Jan 29, 2011, 9:50pm

#23 ~ I read The Seven That Were Hanged a few months ago and I thought it was incredible. I also read a collection of Andreyev's short stories called The Little Angel that had some wonderful stories in it.

28Svartalf
Jan 29, 2011, 10:19pm

Just wondering has anyone here read - The Rose of the World by Daniil Andreyev.
I heard that its a very strange book. Does anyone have any opinions on it?

29timjones
Jan 30, 2011, 6:14am

>28 Svartalf:, Svartalf - no, but I'd like to know more - and thanks for the further info re Yefremov and Bulychev.

Two Russian short story writers I hadn't read when I first commented on this post are Viktor Pelevin and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, both of whose work would fit well in such a unit. I really enjoyed the latter's collection There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, which I reviewed (in translation) here:

http://www.belletrista.com/2010/issue8/reviews_1.php

30Svartalf
Jan 30, 2011, 9:27pm

Well the truth is I know very little about Daniil Andreyev. Only that which has been told to my by my friends and what I could find on him.
I know that his novel - 'Rose of the World' deals with mystic subjects like the devil, demons and the church - a very un-common theme for Soviet literature of the time. I know that he had written in while living in prison and I believe he considered the work to be a 'gift'. In other words it was conveyed to him from above, but not in a religious sense more in a world beyond visible world type of a motif.
Now there is something else that is very interesting about this individual.
His father was Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev. Who was also a writer and whose work had influence on an American author named H.P. Lovecraft.
Andreyev's work was found in Lovecraft's library when he died.
Now for anyone who doesn't know Lovecraft, he was the author whose tales were printed in Weird Tales magazine. He is the one who developed the Cthulhu Mythos - Elder Gods, etc.
Now Lovecraft work directly influenced many of today's horror and mystery writers primarily Stephen King. You can actually see Lovecraft's ideas being developed in such works as Jerusalem's Lot - (the short story, not Salom's Lot) and in IT and in Dark Tower.
Not sure where I'm going with all this, but I find this to be very interesting and I do love King's work. :)
As for the book 'Rose of the World' - i have gotten a copy, but didn't have a chance to read it. I will as soon as I finish Herodotus. I will perhaps make a thread here after and maybe write my opinion on the work.... that is if anyone is interested...
Anywho, that is my 50 cents for now. :)

31timjones
Jan 31, 2011, 4:09am

Thanks, Svartalf - that's very interesting, especially the H.P. Lovecraft connection.

A friend of mine has recently set up an e-publishing company called Rosa Mira Books - I checked here:

http://rosamirabooks.com/why/index.html

and the name is indeed inspired by Daniil Andreyev's book! So I shall ask her what in particular about it inspired her to choose this name.

32languagehat
Ago 31, 2016, 8:47pm

I just read this old thread and was horrified by all the raves for Taras Bulba. I thought it was horrible and would never in a million years assign it to students; my review is here:
http://languagehat.com/taras-bulba/

Summary: "The glorifying of violence for its own sake, the contempt for women, the anti-Semitism, and the bloody nationalism make for about as repellent a stew as I can imagine."

33kaggsy
Set 2, 2016, 3:23pm

Taras Bulba is probably the only Gogol in English I haven't read. I never felt drawn to it, and I feel even less so after reading your piece....

34languagehat
Set 2, 2016, 6:21pm

At least I've saved one person from it!

35DanMat
Set 12, 2016, 2:06pm

Then you must be horrified by a great many things!

36languagehat
Set 12, 2016, 3:24pm

I suppose I am, since there are a great many horrifying things in this fallen world. But I suspect your implication is that I am some sort of sensitive plant for being horrified by such a nice story, in which case I submit that you have never actually read the whole thing (I gather lots of people read abridged versions).

37DanMat
Set 12, 2016, 4:53pm

Have you read The Nibelungenlied, The Iliad, Oliver Twist, The Merchant of Venice, Tamburlaine , Blood Meridian, Saint Julian the Hospitaller, Huckleberry Finn or other stories that have unpleasant subject matter?

I never called it nice. I hope you don't only read the nice stuff. And if you did what corner of the world would you isolated yourself to in order to maintain the niceness of it. The world is as it has always been.

But I see this is recommendations for a high school curriculum. Probably not appropriate. Yet, heaven forbid a piece of writing engages a person to try and understand ways people did and even still act, not just some cookie-cutter parable for easy teaching and test-taking.

I read it from The Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol that was edited by Leonard Kent, so...not sure that's abridged or not.

38spiphany
Set 13, 2016, 3:36am

I think there's a difference between subject matter that is unpleasant because the author is taking on big issues or societal problems (without necessarily espousing them), and ideological attitudes that are repellant (because the text portrays intolerant, hateful attitudes such as misogynism or anti-Semitism uncritically, without humanizing those whom the prejudice is directed against). Languagehat is talking about the latter, I think.

It doesn't invalidate Gogol's achievements as a writer, but the world has changed since his day -- at least I hope so -- so as readers each of us has to decide what amount of poisonous attitudes we find palatable. Gogol has written other splendid stories which are less ideologically problematic, so I can understand Hat's inclination to recommend skipping this particular one.

39DanMat
Editado: Set 13, 2016, 4:01pm

Sure there's a difference. Why not read both? Don't you trust a reader's instinct. Don't you want to let a reader create their own dialog with a text. Do writers evolve? Aren't they products of their times?

But like I said before not much has changed. I know in my country there's a belief that we are better than previous generations but religious intolerance, racial hatred seems as strong as it's ever been.

40languagehat
Set 13, 2016, 12:04pm

"Have you read The Nibelungenlied, The Iliad, Oliver Twist, The Merchant of Venice, Tamburlaine , Blood Meridian, Saint Julian the Hospitaller, Huckleberry Finn or other stories that have unpleasant subject matter?"

Yes, as a matter of fact I have read most of those things, and as a fan of Russian literature I obviously don't mind "unpleasant subject matter"; the way you ask the question is, frankly, insulting and confirms my impression of your general attitude. What spiphany surmises about my own position is quite correct. Let me ask you a question in return: have you read Mein Kampf? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to high school students? You're going to tell me that's quite a leap, but I don't think it's as much of one as all that. The attitude of the narrator in Taras Bulba is frankly genocidal, and there's no indication that Gogol is ironizing it or distancing himself from it in the least. I'm not telling you what to read or enjoy, and I'll thank you to extend me the same courtesy.

41DanMat
Editado: Set 13, 2016, 4:38pm

Has Godwin's law been achieved?

Anyway, I was just questioning the somewhat histrionic nature of your statement: "I just read this old thread and was horrified by all the raves for Taras Bulba."

Here's some interesting reading on this work:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1770001

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Ray_Proffer

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20058302

http://www.jstor.org/stable/40922266

https://books.google.com/books?id=yHB87x3sZq0C&lpg=PA352&dq=Thirteen%20W...

42languagehat
Set 14, 2016, 10:19am

Please don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs. I have no interest in taking your Gogol course; I've read all of him in Russian, and a great deal of criticism besides. He's one of my favorite writers. If you want to champion Taras Bulba, one of the worst novels ever to stink up a required-reading list, be my guest. I am assured by Russians who read him in school that the version they got was pretty seriously abridged, and I can see by comparing the page counts of the edited-Garnett version you read with the original that it too is abridged, so I assure you, in the most constructive fashion possible, that you don't actually know what you're talking about. But don't let that stop you!

43john257hopper
Editado: Set 14, 2016, 3:46pm

I also thought that Taras Bulba was a very unpleasant read, not just because of the subject matter (we're all readers of Russian literature here, so almost by definition we're very used to unpleasant subject matter), but the author's attitude to that matter. I've read most of Gogol's other stuff - he is one of my favourite Russian authors - and none of it is like Taras Bulba.

44languagehat
Set 14, 2016, 3:47pm

Exactly!

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