Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reading the Russians

The five big boys of Russian literature.

I consider myself pretty well read. But I've never read the Russians.

I tried to read Brothers Karamazov quite a few years ago, and no doubt I picked up my mother's copy of War and Peace a few times after one of her rants on how much she loved it, and oh Pierre, Pierre, sort of thing.

As you know I've just finished Lolita, and while Nabokov doesn't really count as one of the Russians when you talk about reading the classics (ok, he doesn't at all) I feel I've started on the Russians, and I am determined to read them.

I've read some of the English, and some of the Americans. I haven't read the French and don't really feel compelled to. But I am feeling compelled to read the Russians.

This is my list (after asking for advice elsewhere):

Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Anna Karenin - Leo Tolstoy. (NOT KareninA. D'oh.)

Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev

War and Peace - Tolstoy.

And Anton Chekhov's short stories.

I just went down to the second-hand book store of Fitzroy Street where I never get anything off a list, and managed to get Anna K and Crime and Punishment. I also picked up a copy of Edward Said's Orientalism. I read Said when I was doing my lit. review for my thesis.

Recently, I just finished (after Lolita) a quick Helen Garner (The Children's Bach, and with it completed my reading and purchase of all her books - I think) and have started Murray Bail's The Pages, a slender book which I fear will accompany me only so far on my Russian journey. I might need to dip into other bits and pieces, or I might be able to read them solidly. We shall see. Wish me luck.

PS Managed to farm out the kids and spent the weekend at Werribee Mansion at the hotel there. Joseph's restaurant has a new chef and the food at dinner last night was amazing. We tootled around the place for 2 nights and a day; saw the animals, played pool, had a swim in the pool, wandered the mansion, watched Bruno on the in-house movie service, drank champagne that we took in, and on the Friday night, had a picnic on the floor of our room - it should be a new trend and I'm starting it now. Picnics on the floor of classy hotel rooms. Believe me, too much fun. Cheaper than room service.


I'm not Craig said...

I read some Checkov once. I think it may have been "The Bear". Around 15 years later, I cannot recall a single detail, but I think it was good.

Hopefully some rather better educated types will comment shortly

squib said...

I just want to say, don't overlook the French. I read a big bunch in a row and I'd give them all 4 or 5 stars each. Very enjoyable

Are you on Shelfari?

My aim, once I finish 'Don Quixote' (which is going to take 100 years), and a few other books by my bed, is to read a stack of Australian books because I've read very few and it's starting to get embarrassing

On the Russian front, I recommend 'The Master and Margarita'. You've prolly read it. Persey hates it

I might read Anna K too sometime. It's on my shelf

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

An admirable undertaking, Melba old stick.

See you in a couple of years.

squib said...

PS. why not KareninA? I thought that was the correct way?

Melba said...

I don't know why not KareninA squib. I'll leave that to Ramon to explain. Can you give me 3 or 4 as a starter kit?

Also my 13-year-old daughter picked up Anna K off the table and has started reading. We have a bookmark each in it.

Melba said...

What's Shelfari squib? I have never ever seen that word before.

squib said...

'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas 5 stars (BigSquib is still reading it - I got her another copy as I don't what chocolate and shit on mine)

'Therese Raquin' by Emile Zola 5 stars

'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' by Jules Verne 4 stars

'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert 4 stars

(Almost French) 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' by Baroness Emma Orczy 4 stars

Shelfari is a virtual bookshelf where you put the books you are reading/have read. You can rate them and/or review them. It's a good way of seeing what your friends are reading/what they hate/what they love etc

Melba said...

Ooooh thank you squib. Will investigate it all.

Pepsi said...

I recently read Crime and Punishment for the first time in 20 years last month, I was very very young the first time and remember nothing from it.

It was one of the most amazing read I've ever read, so much so that I limited myself to 30 pages per night just to make it last as long as I could. I developed quite an unhealthy character crush on young Roddy.

Fyodor is the business Melbs.

BookMoth said...

He is not quite as old-school as the old masters, but Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is great.

Also, I agree with squib. The Russians are more my flavour, but the French are pretty cool too. 'Sentimental Education' by Flaubert is one of my favourite books of all time. Couldn't put it down.

Perseus said...

I'm with Pepsi. Crime & Punishment is da shiz.

Melba said...




Gimme more.


Lewd Bob said...

I think whether it's Karenin or Karenina depends on the translation. I think you'll find both on the bookshelves - something to do with the gender thing.

A bit like Dostoyevsky v Dostoevsky, although this is nothing to do with gender.

eat my shorts said...

I had an idea somewhere in the back of my mind that I'd read Anna Karenin, but it doesn't appear on my bookshelf. Maybe I read a library copy? I should keep a list of these things really.

Otherwise, I've read some of Tolstoy's short stories for uni years ago.

Had a stab at Madame Bovary back in the day, but only got around to finishing it a little while back.

I first started reading The Scarlet Pimpernel when I was twelve - haven't gotten around to finishing that one yet. Oopsie.

I've read quite a bit of Australian literature for uni as an undergrad & the same with Shakespeare, but then I became an English teacher & didn't feel like reading. (Which for me is like not feeling like breathing.) The only stuff I read was the stuff I taught, which was mostly teenage fiction.

Then I resigned and now I'm reading again. I've got a few oldies that I'm trying to knock over. I read Emma for the first time a couple of years ago on holidays. I'd never read Persuasion, & I'm just about finished with that one now. I'm not sure where I want to go next. Part of me wants to challenge myself & part of me is very very lazy. I think I know which part will win.

Also, I'm very sad that I can't buy books for the next few months, because I'm just going to have more boxes to pack before the move overseas.