Tag: Books: Translated Texts

Review: Fathers and Sons

Posted 1 February, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

Fathers and Sons
By: Ivan Turgenev

Despite of the fact that I am specializing in Russian history, I have not read a lot of Russian literature to date. So the fact that my 19c Imperial Russia professor assigned Fathers and Sons was welcoming in that sense. Of course, whenever a professor or teacher assigns a books, one gets a little wary of the book itself—after all, you have the deadline when the book has to be read by, the comments you have to make of them, the sorts of things you should be picking up as you read the book, etc, etc. Suddenly the book’s not fun anymore and you don’t get to appreciate the book as much. But Fathers and Sons falls under one of those exceptions where you find yourself completely immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. Each character in this novel represents a strand present in Russian society and yet they all have their own individual voices, they all have their own personalities that marks them as unique, as human. The story itself follows a young son, Arkady Petrovitch, who comes home from university with his nihilist mentor/friend named Bazarov, and finds himself in a totally different mindset and perspective from his father and uncle. It’s really a novel of perspectives, of how they view everyday life and how they come to terms with these realities. But the personal dynamics nad interactions were really what drew me in to the storyline. Unlike many readers who had read this book, I found myself more inclined to Arkady, his father and his family’s position and opinions moreso than Bazarov’s, who I found rather irritating with his blunt assessment of the world; he seemed to me a person without any sort of passion, who is incapable to ever reconciling with the fact that as humans we have passions and we do have emotions and that we bring meaning to the things we have. Like the movement he represents, he breaks things down, he questions everything and nothing is spared from his criticism and yet he is incapable of presenting a viable alternative to the things he just broke down. The reflections and dynamics that are represented in this novel are quite addicting to say the least; I personally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Easily one of my favourite Russian novels, a must-read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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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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