“Day of the Oprichnik” has been hailed as one of the classics of post-Soviet fiction, and for good reason. It’s a brilliant satire of Russian society past and present. It’s also deeply disturbing and difficult to read for that reason. But first, the title. Since Russian doesn’t have articles, the literal translation of the original […]Read more "#TranslationThursday: “Day of the Oprichnik” by Vladimir Sorokin, Translated by Jamey Gambrell"
In “The Dead Wander in the Desert,” we see the final, painful days of the Soviet Union, juxtaposed with the final, painful days of the Aral Sea, as a once-bountiful land dries up and turns to a poisonous, salt-filled desert. The characters in the book fight to preserve the sea, but in vain: the central […]Read more "#TranslationThursday: “The Dead Wander in the Desert” by Rollan Seisenbayev"
“The Slynx” is one of those works that kept circulating on the edge of my reading consciousness. People were always bringing it up in conversation as something that, of course, we’d all read. Except that I hadn’t. So I finally decided to rectify this error and fill this lacuna in my reading knowledge. Let’s get […]Read more "#TranslationThursday “The Slynx” by Tatyana Tolstaya"
What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven’t already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike “A Dirty War,” which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as “A Russian Diary,” which are […]Read more "“Putin’s Russia” by Anna Politkovskaya"
A historical overview of the first Chechen war, and the first couple of years of the second, with comparisons of the Chechen situation with that of other autonomous republics of the RF such as Tatarstan, and discussions of possible outcomes. This is a detailed and informative book on post-Soviet Chechnya. While well-written, it is unquestionably […]Read more "“The Chechen Wars” by Matthew Evangelista"
An account of the first Chechen war written by two journalists who were on the ground when it happened, interviewing the leaders and even spending time embedded amongst Chechen units, “Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus” is both a thorough overview and a riveting story of the first war. Although it is distinctly dated by being […]Read more "“Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus” by Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal"
Reading Politkovskaya is always a draining experience, and this, the last complete book of her writings and released after her death, is particularly challenging. It is organized in the form of a diary, with daily entries compiled of Politkovskaya’s notes, many of which later became articles–it includes, for example, the infamous interview with Ramzan Kadyrov, […]Read more "“A Russian Diary” by Anna Politkovskaya"
Asne Seierstad was a freelance journalist in Moscow when the first Chechen war broke out. Acting under a poorly-understood compulsion to find out what was really going on there, she sweet-talked her way onto a military transport plane and ended up in Grozny. She spent several months during the first war, and again during the […]Read more "“The Angel of Grozny” by Åsne Seierstad"
When teaching a survey class of Russian literature, one of the more vexing questions is which text to pick. You want to give students an idea of the breadth and richness of Russian literature, but not overwhelm them with impossible page counts. Of course they SHOULD read “And Quiet Flows the Don,” “Life and Fate,” […]Read more "“50 Writers: An Anthology of 20th-Century Russian Short Stories”"
Monumental Propaganda Aglaya (“The Shining One”) Revkina (“The Zealous One”) may have never had an orgasm, but she does know what love is. All the passion her skinny body is capable of has been dedicated her entire life to Comrade Stalin. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the world is incapable of matching her ardor. […]Read more "“Monumental Propaganda” by Vladimir Voinovich"