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"
Fasten your seatbelts, Russianists: it’s about to get weird. Well, maybe no weirder than usual for literature of this period. Russian literature of the early 20th century was gloriously, insanely bizarre. Writers were flying their freak flag high, and reveling in it. “Beyond Tula” is a case in point. Although in fact, it’s no weirder […]Read more "“Beyond Tula: A Soviet Pastoral” by Andrei Egunov-Nikolev"
The Monastery Zakhar Prilepin “Humanity is dark and terrifying, but the world is human and warm.” So ends Zakhar Prilepin’s massive historical novel “The Monastery” (Обитель), about the Solovki monastery-turned-prison-camp, the seed of the GULAG system. Following the fortunes of Artyom Goryainov, a prisoner in the camp, the novel charts all the aspects of prison […]Read more "“The Monastery” (Обитель) by Zakhar Prilepin"
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”"
In “Wolf Hunt,” the threads of village passions come together as a group sets off on a wolf hunt that serves as a pretext for something even more murderous. Living side-by-side for decades, right through the upheavals of WWII and forced collectivization, has inflamed resentments rather than drawing people together, leading to a violent denouement. […]Read more "“Wolf Hunt” by Ivailo Petrov"
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"
This is something I just found out about, started by Tynga’s Reviews. You get to list books you’ve acquired with the intention of reading. Gulp! I try not to think too hard about my TBR list, but actually at the moment it’s not too bad. So here are some books I’m planning to read soon, or […]Read more "Stacking the Shelves!"
In “Zinky Boys,” Alexievich weaves together interviews with those who have been affected by the Soviet war in Afghanistan–soldiers, yes, but also doctors and nurses, civilian contractors, and, most tragically of all, the mothers and widows left behind–to create a document that is heartbreaking, harrowing, and utterly damning. Those who ended up in Afghanistan did […]Read more "“Zinky Boys” by Svetlana Alexievich"