Do The Talking, Russian books

DO THE TALKING: Russian Classics

Hola again!

Here comes the scheduled Tuesday post, and, since I’m still trying hard to finish two books at the same time (probably all reviews will come in the beginning of March), let’s have a intellectual talk.

You know that I plan to use this blog to recommend you good Russian books, and I’m 110% sure you mostly heard of only Russian classics, so I’ll rant about them first.

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Every Russian is as familiar with their classics as any other countries are with theirs. From Pushkin to Bulgakov, we grew up holding these books on our way to school because this also was our mandatory literature school course. Some loved classics, some hated, but still, want it or not, but Russian tend to have some memories of what they were forced to learn.

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War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

From my own experience (for those unaware of my background – I attended and graduated a Russian school), Literature was a subject that I both liked and disliked. There were some books I passionately analyzed in classes, some were a mere nightmare for me. I think it really depends on each personality and each book. And I have to admit that, some of the mandatory school literature are completely non-suitable for young minds. I mean, try spending the whole semester reading War & Peace without cussing at it for its length and all that French on every single page (I’m not hating on French language, no, don’t misuderstand me!). I personally didn’t even bother much reading the whole book (because I basically had zero time for that because of extra classes I had to attend in order to prepare for my university entrance exams), so the quick solution for everyone hating on spending hours reading something not attractive is a short retelling. Russian bookstores actually sell those kind of books, full of short retellings of the whole mandatory school program for students to save time preparing homework and reading. I must say, it helped me quite a lot during my school days. Cause I still hate War & Peace, and I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to properly read it as an adult.

Of course, there would be lots and lots of gems in Russian literature that will find love from all students. The most striking example is Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I barely know anyone who doesn’t love this book. Not joking at all. Ask anyone about their favourite classic book, and 90% of the answers would be this one.

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

 I could write a whole separate post dedicated to this book, and I probably will do so in the future – maybe with a #readalong challenge, if anybody interested – but I’ll try to be short with this now.
If you already read this book, then you probably would guess correctly the secret behind its popularity. For those unfamiliar, I’ll say briefly that the topics arised in this book are the secrets. It’s not just a typical love story, moreover, the love story is not even the main theme, despite the title! People usually fall for books that expose all the bad sides of humanity, and TMAM is the best example of how-to-write it. Exposing greed? Check. Make fun of silly material values? Check. Turn the characters of the book into complete fools? Check. Love story? Also check!

I’ve been rereading this book for years, and I’ll probably reread that again this year, if time allows me, and I can tell for sure that, the older I become and the more I read this, the more I deeply understand all the topics Bulgakov touches on.

Russian classic poetry is also full of different topics, from love to life and death. You probably know couple of poems by the same Pushkin, and I must add FYI – Pushkin was the one to set all standards for both Russian prose and poetry. I’m pretty sure that Russian poetry is not as exposed to international public as prose is, but I can assure you that there is something to look at in the Russian poetry, both from 19th and 20th centuries. Lots of those poems were put onto songs. Russian poetry is so diverse so anyone can find their own preference.

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Surely, there’s a whole list of most notable Russian classics to talk about more, but it would take too many words for me to write, and too much time to actually read all Russian classics to share. So let me wrap it here, and ask you to comment if you’re still interested in Russian books recommendations, as I will surely go into talking about that even more.

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7 thoughts on “DO THE TALKING: Russian Classics”

  1. I know teachers in the U.S. are very frustrated by things like Spark Notes because they think it allows students to “get away” with not reading the books. It also presents books as things that can be taken apart and made into nice bullet points so you take a standardized test about the book and call it a day. Of course, these types of study guides are defended by their makers as meant to be just that–study guides–and not replacements for the books. But students are busy or maybe just don’t want to read the books, so not everyone uses them that way, obviously. I don’t know if anyone sells short retellings as a studying shortcut, though.

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    1. My literature teacher also hated much when her students didn’t even make an effort in reading books she requires for her classes, and, I mean, yes, I understand – we have lots of homework to do aside her essays, and I clearly can relate to the “not having enough time to read” thingy as well, but when you consciously just read the short retelling so you won’t have to get the whole book – this is what I don’t understand. You can have that retelling the day before the classes, if somehow you didn’t manage to read the whole thing, but you should spend some time on weekends to fill the gap, at least out of respect. I guess it’s just the matter of how students think of literature as a subject. Some books can be just way too hard to understand by such young minds as students.

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      1. I think it’s difficult for many students to see the value of reading. Students are motivated to do things when they perceive those things as useful to them. Reading is something many find neither pleasurable nor useful (even though increased reading has consistently been linked to better performance in school), so they’re not going to spend time on it.

        Students often also have a skewed sense of “not having time.” Sometimes what they mean is, well after I did sports and hung out with my friends and watched a movie and played video games and practiced piano, I had “no time!” 😉

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      2. I knew some of the classmates who liked reading but completely disapproved of even looking at classics, saying that we don’t need it at all, or that classics are boring and out of time. Fun fact: those people tend to be the fans of low-quality literature, I won’t be listing the exact titles of those books.

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      3. I always find it sad when people dismiss classics all at once. There are classics from every time period and every genre! Just because you don’t like Charles Dickens doesn’t mean you won’t like C. S. Lewis or Virginia Woolf or Jane Austen!

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      4. Totally agree! If I hate Dostoyevsky, for instance (but that’s partially true lol), it doesn’t mean I won’t like Bulgakov or Lermontov! And if you don’t read more classics, how would you even know if there’s someone right for your reading taste?

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