Must-read books by Russian authors

11 March, 2015

Today I decided to suggest three books by Russian authors that can help you better understand the culture and the people of this country, as I assume it’s something you are all interested in knowing more about! I am sure many of you have read at least one of these books, so do consider trying out another one. English translations of all three can be easily found, and the first two are also translated to some other languages.

Братья Карамазовы – The Brothers Karamazov (1880) – by Фёдор Достоевский (Fyodor Dostoyevsky). The novel creates a broad picture of provincial Russian life in the second half of the XIX century and involves a range of complex and conflicting characters. The dramatic events that unfold are marked with tension, psychological truth and artistic power. The story of the Karamazov family exposes the sometimes very short path between the abyss of virtue and the abyss of vice that a Russian soul keeps deep inside. As the last work of Dostoyevsky, this novel reflects many of the motives and issues present in other novels of the author. Since the early 1900s there have been multiple theatre, opera, ballet, musical and cinematic interpretations of the novel. The most recent theatre production of The Brothers Karamazov came out in St. Petersburg in January 2015.

Мастер и Маргарита The Master and Margarita (written between 1928 and 1940, unpublished until 1966) –– by Михаил Булгаков (Mikhail Bulgakov). The novel alternates between two settings: one is in Moscow in the 1930’s, where Satan appears with a retinue of servants that steadily bring chaos to the city, and where the strange but beautiful love story of Master and Margarita occurs, and the second is in Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, 2000 years ago, where the trial of Yeshua Ha-Notsri takes place. The author reflects on confrontation between a person and the world, an artist and the authorities, and amazingly intertwines caustic satire, subtle psychological analysis and philosophical generalization. Like many novels by Булгаков, The Master and Margarita aims to comprehend the foundations of Soviet society in the 1930s while gloatingly mocking the suffocating bureaucracy of the regime. Many critics have considered this novel to be one of the best in the XX century. The Master and Margarita has been adapted for theatre, cinema, TV and animated series all over the world.

Generation “П”Homo Zapiens (1999) by Виктор Пелевин (Viktor Pelevin). This novel talks about the generation of Russian people that grew up and matured during the time of political and economical reforms in 1990s after the dissolution of USSR. The story follows a young Russian man Babylen Tatarsky who suddenly finds himself socially unfit for the new non-Soviet Russia, but then accidentally discovers his talent for writing advertisement slogans. Along Babylen’s career path, one can observe the formation of consumerism and of advertisement industry in post-Soviet Russia: the character’s job is to adapt advertisements of western brands to Russian mentality. Through hilarious allegories and almost mystical theories the author exposes the mendacity of mind-controlling advertisement industry and politics alike. A Russian movie Generation “П” was released in 2011, and you can find it with English subtitles, which I absolutely recommend you to do – it’s awesome.

If you have read any of these books, be sure to share your opinion with us. And if you like our suggestions, let us know! We might be able to make it a regular topic!

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