jueves, 3 de enero de 2013

2013 Russian Reading


First of all, belated Happy New Year and ¡feliz año nuevo!  to all Caravana de recuerdos regulars, new visitors, lurkers, and anonymous spammers in that order.  Although I was just patting myself on the back for my lack of reading obligations this year (I'm kind of pro-apathy these days), it suddenly occurred to me that it might be nice to have some reading/writing company for the following six BIG DEAL ICONIC RUSSIAN NOVELS I have lined up for the year.  For the record, the list is comprised of two rereads of books (Dead Souls and The Master and Margarita) I last read eons ago and four crucial de-Humiliations in waiting.  In any event, anybody interested in joining me for a group read of one or more of the titles?  If so, please note that I plan on posting about each work during the last three days of the months listed and will link to others' posts at that time.  Whether you intend to read along or not, it'd be great to have you join me for the discussions or suggest alternate novels that I should have picked instead.*  I, embarrassingly, have almost no grounding in Russian literature whatsoever.

*Given that almost all of these are obvious titles even for Russian lit beginners, I encourage those who would prefer to read something different to challenge me to a) read any other comparably complex Russian work of your choice with you (note: Dostoevsky's 1880 The Brothers Karamazov and Bely's 1913 Petersburg are just two among many that are calling my name), or b) watch any Russian movie of your choice with you in one of the non-group read months during 2013.  We can work out the details later, natch.  Also, extra special thanks to Dwight from A Common Reader for lending me his copy of the BBC's audio adaptation of the Grossman novel.  That, in addition to Dwight's nine posts on Life and Fate, should come in real handy next month.

1.  Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate (c. 1960)
end of February

2.  Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls (1842)
end of April

3.  Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov (1859)
end of June

4.  Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1877)
end of August


5.  Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (c. 1940)
end of October

6.  Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955)
end of December

54 comentarios:

  1. It is my wish that my fiction reading this year will tilt towards Russo-Literature. However, for the lack of these books, I find myself not being able to address this. Both the new books bookshops and the used-books bookshops have mostly British and American writers. And since I don't own an e-reader, I find it difficult to use that medium. However, I will let you know the moment I get some of the books.

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    1. Nana, it'd be great to have you join us if you're able to find any of these titles. Does Book Depository deliver to Ghana by any chance? I've never used them, but I understand they offer free shipping worldwide. Also, I believe all of the three 19th century books from this list are available free online. www.literature.org, for example, has Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina although those are awfully long texts to read off a computer screen. In any event, good luck with your search!

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  2. There are a few there I like the look of, so I'll have to join you at some point...

    ...if you read some J-Lit too ;)

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    1. Tony, I have a top secret J-Lit title for your event that I just checked out of the library today. Deal? Of course, I hope the book's not as big a dud as the last Murakami I read (I'm guessing that would be statistically improbable, though). I couldn't even bring myself to review Kafka on the Shore.

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  3. Hi Richard - I think you're betraying your pro-apathy stance! I like the look of a few of these and may join for a few - I've yet to read Life and Fate, Dead Souls and Oblomov. The Master & Margarita is calling out for a re-read.

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    1. Séamus, ha, I guess I did throw my pro-apathy side under the bus--good thing nobody's challenged me to a non-list read just yet! By the way, I hope it goes without saying that it'd be awesome to have your company for any of the books you mentioned. I don't really expect to have all that much company for Grossman's Life and Fate given its 871-page length, but I'll try to stay optimistic all the same (just so you know, it's a brisk-reading 871 pages judging by the couple of hundred pages I dipped into last year).

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  4. A couple of these are in my tbr stacks for the year. I can't promise anything on timing, though.

    I've read a few Russian books lately and recommend them, but I'll specifically point out Michael Stein's post mentioning a reissue of two novels by Anatoly Mariengof this year in e-book format. Cynics was great and I have A Novel Without Lies staring at me, wanting to be read.

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    1. I understand the timing thing, Dwight, especially after having let you down with Galdós last year. That being said, it'd be cool if we could sync up this time around. Thanks for the link to the Stein post--look forward to reading that this weekend.

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  5. I'm feeling mighty pleased with my own lack of reading obligations this year, but all the same I might join in with Oblomov. Maybe Lolita too, if, indeed, it is, as you say, Russian.

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    1. Having you along for Oblomov and/or Lolita would be pretty snazzy, Mr. Obooki. I think the latter easily qualifies for dual nationality status, by the way, unless you're going to argue that all those Cortázar and Saer novels are French and not Argentinean just because of where they were written. Tsk, tsk.

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  6. If there were rules, Lolita would be cheating.

    I might join you for Oblomov. I should join you etc. Humiliation etc.

    Petersburg is, indeed, awesome, but it is a crowded field.

    I do have a substitution to recommend, based on the covers you have up: if the P&V Dead Souls does not seem extraordinary within a couple of pages, dump it for Guerney. If you read the book eons ago it must not have been via P&V.

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    1. Thanks for the translation recommendation, Tom, but I'll be sticking with the P&V version of Dead Souls this time around since that's the very last book I purchased in 2012. My previous reading of the novel was in the early '80s, though--crikey! Good to hear you considering Oblomov and vouching for Petersburg, but what's with you and Obooki going all nationalist on Lolita?!? Did Nabokov deny his Russian birth/heritage/upbringing after he fled? Aw, well, I could always slap an asterisk on the "American" and "Russian" novel written in English, I guess!

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    2. Hey, if P&V works (e.g., is funny), great! But if not, it is their fault, not Gogol's.

      Of the major English-language Nabokov books, Lolita is easily the least Russian, so that is why it kinda jumps out. This is just going by subject and characters. Without the name you would likely guess the immigrant author was French.

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    3. Thanks for the additional info on Lolita. I thought maybe N had declared a break with his past once he started writing in English or something like that, but what little I know about his bio is severely limited. Anyway, good to know. Will drop by your blog before or during Gogol month to reread your Gogol posts and check out which translation you read. I remember laughing a lot the first time I read the book but not much more than that. The translation I read back then is long forgotten by me, of course, but maybe a little research will provide the answer.

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  7. I have been collecting and wanting to read Russian lit for a long time. I may join you on April for Gogol - Dead Souls. Great idea to have this challenge.

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    1. It would be wonderful if you could join us, JoV, and I remember loving Dead Souls the first time I read it. Only problem is that was so long ago that I can hardly remember it now. Cheers!

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  8. i'm thinking #4 or 5 or both. they should be fun.

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    1. Stellar news, Rise. Am really looking forward to #4 after my recent experience with War and Peace.

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  9. Come to think of it, I should join you for the Grossman and Bulgakov, too, but I am trying to be realistic.

    They all look like fun! Fun is a malleable concept.

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    1. Tom, "realistic" is for the other guy but "fun" is for one and all. Naturally, I'd love to have you along for whatever you're able to make time for. P.S. I need to--no, will--get around to those Nabokov lectures you and Nicole are always referencing and maybe his book on Gogol as well. Feeling ambitious all of a sudden!

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    2. It seems wrong somehow to call that Grossman novel "fun," that's all.

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    3. I agree, but nobody actually called the Grossman novel "fun." Now the devil in Moscow novel, #5: that might actually qualify as fun, comrade!

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    4. Ah, I thought you were teasing somebody else (my bad)...

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  10. The Master and Margarita is one of the best novels ever written. I'd be willing to re-read it.

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    1. Miguel, your reread sign-up form is on its way! I have a feeling I'll get a lot more out of the novel this time around, but I really can't remember what I made of it the first time. Pretty strange for such a wild novel, no?!?

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  11. great selection richard I loved the bbc version of life and fate so well done I'm hoping to read a few russian books this year as well as only read one last year I think ,all the best stu

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    1. Stu, Dwight's also raved about the usefulness of the BBC adaptation as a complement to Grossman's novel. Very encouraged by both of your reactions! Look forward to seeing which Russian novels make your own reading list this year. Cheers!

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  12. I'm in for The Master and Margarita -- I've been wanting to reread that one for a couple years now.

    The BBC Life and Fate was fantastic. I bet the book must be pretty good too.

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    1. Yet another BBC Life and Fate testimonial, Isabella? Wow! Naturally, I'm psyched to have you rereading The Master and Margarita with the gang--hopefully, it'll be as fun as the Perec Life A User's Manual one way back when. À bientôt!

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  13. I don't think I've read a single work--novel, novella, short story--by a Russian writer, so you're already ahead of me! Considering that Anna Karenina has been taking up shelf space for years while I've done nothing more than dust it, I perhaps should join you for that one, although I make no promises! (Given my history and reading rate, if I start now, I might be done by the end of the year...) Happy New Year and happy reading!

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    1. Thanks so much, Amanda, and happy reading in 2013 to you, too, of course! Although it'd be awesome to have you join us for Anna Karenina, no pressure since I know you don't enjoy the group read timeline thing all that much. I've overlooked the Russians for years due to various factors which, in retrospect, don't make a whole lot of sense, but I figured it was time to rectify that this year. Anyway, hope you get to do the same for yourself at a time of your own choosing. Cheers!

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    2. It's not that I don't enjoy a group read timeline, just that I'm terrible at meeting book-related deadlines. I have the library fines to prove it!

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    3. Library fines can easily be avoided with a little thing called a year-round book-buying binge. That's always been my strategy at least. :D

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  14. Richard - a very happy new year! I was a bit startled by this post as I'd been considering finally tackling some fat Russian books this year including the Bulgakov, Tolstoy, and Grossman (which is currently sitting right next to me). I agree with Tom - Lolita is a bit of a stretch to include as Russian lit, but read it anyway (I recommend the annotated version - a hoot!). I greatly look forward to your 2013 posts (and catching up on what I've missed the end part of 2012!).

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    1. Scott, Happy New Year to you as well--how nice to hear from you! Our Russian synchronicity must be yet more proof of great minds thinking alike (cough), but whatever, it'd be nice to get together for a Russian group read or two should things work out. P.S. Will have to check out that annotated Lolita--I believe Dwight used that one before if I'm not mistaken.

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  15. A Happy New Year to you, Richard.
    I have one of Grossmann's novels in my Literature and War Readalong. Not sure you've seen it.
    As for the others, I've read the chunky ones which means I might be able to join for either Bulgakov, Oblomov or Lolita. This is the year of non-commitment for me...but one book may be possible. At least that's what I hope now.

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    1. Caroline, Happy New Year to you as well! I did happen to see that shorter Grossman in your Lit & War readalong list, but I'll have to go back and revisit that post to check out all the readalong dates. I'll be joining you for at least a title or two again, and it'd be nice if you could join this for a title or two but no pressure at all. "The year of non-commitment" sounds quite lovely to the pro-apathy side of me. Cheers!

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  16. These look like excellent choices to me. There is a lot of variety: in style, period, outlook, etc. For a short list of "Russian" Lit. this could hardly be better. While this will be a busy year for me and I won't have a lot of free reading time. I'll try to read along and join the discussion for as many as I can.

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    1. Thanks so much for visiting, severalfourmany, and welcome to the blog! I naturally look forward to having you join us for a discussion or two if time allows. In terms of the choices, I just wanted to have an even split between 19th century and 20th century titles and these were the four (+ the two rereads) I thought I should read first. Very happy to discover your blog, by the way--am excited about exploring over there some more later in the week when I have more time!

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  17. Tempted to join you for 4 and/or 5. Though timing may be tricky .... We'll see how things look nearer the time.

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    1. Lizzy, I'd love to have you join us for either or both if the timing works out. Am also hoping that you and Caroline will host German Lit Month III later in the year, so please get plenty of rest before then!

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  18. I few days ago I remembered I have Oblomov at home, tucked in the corner of a shelf I seldom glance at, making it so easy to forget I own it. So that's another I'll join you in.

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    1. Miguel, wonderful news! Oblomov was one of my recent holiday gift card pick-ups, so I'm pretty eager to read that one in particular. Grossman's Life and Fate is the title I built the rest of the list around, but it's been fun seeing which books other people are zeroing in on in their comments.

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  19. I'm a fan of Russian lit so will be watching what you make of it all with interest. I'd recommend the Burgin/O'Connor for The Master and Margarita, the notes at the back are pretty useful and it flows well. :)

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    1. Alex, welcome to the blog and thanks so much for leaving that translation recommendation. I'm kind of wedded to the version of The Master and Margarita pictured since I've already paid for it, but I'll certainly keep your choice in mind if mine proves to be a dud. In any event, I invite you to join in on the discussions if any of them catch your interest and I look forward to checking out your own blog in the next day or two. Cheers!

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  20. Arghh..I have the Grossman sitting on my TBR stack but probably won't get to it by post time. Look forward to all the posts and will try and join in for The Master and the Margarita.

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    1. Great to hear from you, Gavin, and I hope you're able to join the group for The Master and Margarita even if you don't think you have time for the Grossman novel. It'd be nice to read a novel with you again!

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  21. How nice to see how many of my friends here on my first visit!
    I've read all but one of your selections(see 'Russia' in categories on my blog, or Year of Russian Reading in the tags) and can definitely vouch for all your choices. Petersburg was my favourite even before I visited the city last year, and it was in my head the whole time I was there:)
    I will aim to join you for Oblomov in June. PS BTW what a ridiculous inappropriate photo for the Anna Karenina bookcover!

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    1. Welcome to the blog, Lisa, and glad you found mutual friends here during your visit! Delighted to have you join us for Oblomov if things work out and excited to hear more good things about the other choices and Petersburg (especially as Bely's novel just came up unexpectedly in another book I just finished--will have to make time for it this year, I guess). I'll try and visit some of your Russian reviews this weekend, but in the meantime, I've seen a couple of other Anna Karenina fans also complain about that cover elsewhere. It would appear that you're not alone on that count. Cheers!

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  22. Hello, Richard...now I'm wondering if I can fit in Dead Souls as well! We'll see. Anyway, I'm joining you for Oblomov, and I love love love Lolita, Master and Margarita, and of course Anna Karenina which I've read at least five times in my life. I even wrote a paper on it in college which did nothing for my professor, but I was impressed with myself.
    "The Plight of The Russian Noblewoman"...I still recall the title, to which she replied that Anna was nothing like most Russian noblewomen. To which I now concur; she's like many women everywhere! For those who love too deeply, there's never enough.

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  23. Hello again, Richard,
    As promised, I've read Oblomov and my review is here http://anzlitlovers.com/2013/06/01/oblomov-by-ivan-goncharov-translated-by-c-j-hogarth/
    Cheers
    Lisa, ANZ LitLovers

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  24. Hello again, Richard,
    As promised, I've read Oblomov and my review is here http://anzlitlovers.com/2013/06/01/oblomov-by-ivan-goncharov-translated-by-c-j-hogarth/
    Cheers
    Lisa, ANZ LitLovers

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