Tag: Books: Soviet Literature


Review: The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Posted 25 January, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Case of Comrade Tulayev
By: Victor Serge
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

One cold Moscow night, Comrade Tulayev, a high government official, is shot dead on the street, and the search for the killer begins. In this panoramic vision of the Soviet Great Terror, the investigation leads all over the world, netting a whole series of suspects whose only connection is their innocence—at least of the crime of which they stand accused. But The Case of Comrade Tulayev, unquestionably the finest work of fiction ever written about the Stalinist purges, is not just a story of a totalitarian state. Marked by the deep humanity and generous spirit of its author, the legendary anarchist and exile Victor Serge, it is also a classic twentieth-century tale of risk, adventure, and unexpected nobility to set beside Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and André Malraux’s Man’s Fate.

This book has been sitting on my TBR pile for a few years now. It has elements that I like in a novel: set during a period of history that I had studied extensively, a mystery with many implicated elements to it, never really heard of it but hailed as a great novel (okay, not a necessity when I pick up a book but it’s enough to pique my interest, lol.

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Review: 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution

Posted 11 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution is a collection of literary responses to one of the most cataclysmic events in modern world history, which exposes the immense conflictedness and doubt, conviction and hope, pessimism and optimism which political events provoked among contemporary writers – sometimes at the same time, even in the same person. This dazzling panorama of thought, language and form includes work by authors who are already well known to the English-speaking world (Bulgakov, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Mayakovsky), as well as others, whose work we have the pleasure of encountering here for the very first time in English. Edited by Boris Dralyuk, the acclaimed translator of Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (also published by Pushkin Press), 1917 includes works by some of the best Russian writers – some already famous in the English-speaking world, some published here for the very first time. It is an anthology for everyone: those who are coming to Russian literature for the first time, those who are already experienced students of it, and those who simply want to know how it felt to live through this extreme period in history.

I snatched this book up a few months ago whilst parusing at Book City with friends. Of course anything written by Russian authors would catch my attention, and I thought this was an interesting collection because the works featured here are specifically from the time of the Revolution so there’s that first-hand reaction and creativity stemming from that period. What is also pretty cool about this collection is that it includes works from writers who are not well-known to the English-speaking world: Alexey Kraysky, Zinaida Gippius, Yefim Zozulya. Some authors ring faint bells in my head from my days in grad school and was researching Soviet Russian authors for my own research, but thankfully this collection includes a brief biography about the author prior to their work.

Having said that, I wouldn’t personally recommend this book for those readers approaching Russian literature for the first time (see this post if you’re looking for recommendations there). Unless you’re interested this period of Soviet/Russian history, the works featured here tend to be on the dry side. Again, a personal preference, but it talks a lot about the engineering of a new society, the engineering of a new man, the mechanics of life, the march onward with progress (and trust me, the early years of the Revolution really focused on machines, it feels a bit devoid after a bit, but hey, they loved it). From a historian’s standpoint it’s intriguing because it definitely reflects the ideas that they’re pursuing at the time and the abolition of the old order, but if you’re picking this up for leisurely reading, you may want to consider starting somewhere else instead.

Nonetheless I like the idea of this book being available, the concept is great and is a valuable resource especially for students of Soviet/Russian history and literature.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Review: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn

Posted 3 August, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn
By: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

When Inspector Peter Glebsky arrives at a remote ski chalet, he intends to ski, drink brandy, and loaf around in blissful solitude. But the chalet’s other vacationers — a famous hypnotist, a physicist with a penchant for gymnastic feats, and a large handful of others — are a nuisance, and so is the avalanche that soon cuts the inn off from civilization. And then there’s the dead body, which may not even be human…

I came across this book during one of my many browsings on GoodReads and Melville House website. I haven’t read much Soviet literature to date (despite studying it for a bit) and to come across a quirky book written during the Soviet period that’s a mash-up of the mystery crime drama and the crazy sci-fi slant (along with being just a quirky read with a slew of characters with strange quirks), well, I was totally sold to check out this novel 😛

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Review: We

Posted 12 August, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

We
By: Yevgeny Zamyatin
Format/Source: Paperback; borrowed

The citizens of the One State live in a condition of ‘mathematically infallible happiness’. D-503 decides to keep a diary of his days working for the collective good in this clean, blue city state where nature, privacy and individual liberty have been eradicated. But over the course of his journal D-503 suddenly finds himself caught up in unthinkable and illegal activities – love and rebellion.

Banned on its publication in Russia in 1921, We is the first modern dystopian novel and a satire on state control that has once again become chillingly relevant.

Despite having studied Soviet history and specialising in it for my MA thesis, I actually haven’t read many novels from Soviet lit, maybe just a few (Mikhail Bulgakov, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn). The premise for We was very interesting so I decided this might be the best place to start.

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Review: The Master and Margarita

Posted 1 July, 2007 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

The Master and Margarita
By: Mikhail Bulgakov

I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about this review because this is a fairly complex novel. Why? Simply because it’s crazy, it’s insane, there’s a lot going on, at times it’s chaotic and there’s obviously a lot of social commentary underpinning the entire plot. My understanding of Soviet society during the Stalinist period (in which this novel was written) is minimal at best (I’m only studying it in-depth this coming school year) so I can’t really comment on that portion of the novel, but the fact that he was able to do it amidst such an intricate storyline is astounding. There are perhaps, from my understanding, three different plots going on throughout the novel: the first one, which becomes evident a few pages into the novel is the backdrop of Moscow and the Soviet people and their experiences with the devil lurking all over town. All these characters weave in and out that it’s hard to keep track at times but they all are affected somehow by the devil’s presence. The second plot has to do with the story of Pontius Pilate and his role in the death of a rabbi, Yeshua in the novel. This story is closely linked to the final plot that is tied to the title of the novel, the Master and Margarita, and their relationship amidst the chaos initiated by the devil’s presence and their struggle to remain together. I wondered throughout Book Two was whether or not the writer, Bulgakov, had infused some parts of his personality as a writer observing the tyranny of the Stalinist period, into their the poet, Ivan Homeless, or in the Master. The Master would make more sense, burdened by his novel that he believes brought him into his current state, wanting to burn the manuscript and all. Nonetheless, it is an interesting novel so long as you keep up…I was terribly amused by the devil’s tom cat, Behemoth. I will have to revist this novel sometime next year after I gain more understanding of the period to draw whatever criticisms or observations Bulgakov inserted into this novel.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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