Russian literature

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life

By D.M. Thomas

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"...Thomas tells not only the harrowing and sorrowful tale of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's life but also the painful story of Russia itself, a country perpetually at war with itself and its own diverse people. Beginning with the years of Revolution and Civil War, Solzhenitsyn's dramatic life embodies the cruelty, passion, and chaos that have characterized Russian history over the last century. Thomas's account covers extensively all the major periods of the Russian author's remarkable life, from childhood to his years in the Stalinist labor camps, his battle against censorship and his expulsion from the U.S.S.R. in 1974, and his Vermont period and return to a Russia that has shed its Communist cloak but not its dark interior."

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The Story of a Nobody

By Anton Chekhov

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With St. Petersburg awash with extravagant, dissolute bureaucrats concerned only with increasing their vast riches, a secret movement infiltrates one of its members into one such household.

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War and Peace

By Leo Tolstoy

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"A sweeping, romantic saga of two noble families and their intertwined destiny, and a panoramic portrait of Russian society at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Tolstoy's unforgettable masterpiece has inspired love and devotion in its readers for generations.

"Now read the original version of Russia's most famous novel, which never made it to publication in Tolstoy's lifetime. Undiscovered for more than a century, this edition-with its subtly different characters, dialogue, and ending-is essential reading for devotees of Tolstoy and new readers alike: it is world-class fiction in its most vivid and vital form."

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Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak

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“The best way to understand Pasternak’s achievement in Doctor Zhivago is to see it in terms of this great Russian literary tradition, as a fairy tale, not so much of good and evil as of opposing forces and needs in human destiny and history that can never be reconciled . . . [Zhivago is] a figure who embodies the principle of life itself, the principle that contradicts every abstraction of revolutionary politics.”—from the Introduction by John Bayley

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Anna Karenina

By Leo Tolstoy

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"Regarded by many as the greatest novel ever written in any language, Anna Karenina relates the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer Count Vronsky. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, Anna's tragedy unfolds with relentless force as she rejects her passionless marriage to the aging official Karenin and must endure the hypocrisies of society."

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The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read Them, by Elif Batuman

Odd, the things one finds when browsing the shelves. I found this jewel the other day, when I was looking for something, anything to read. What a great way to start summer reading: a visit to Samarkand, hi-jinks at graduate school seminars,encounters with strange yet endearing characters , dark hints about Tolstoy's death, and the link between King Kong and Isaac Babel.