Russian Literature Challenge 2014

I thought I had pretty much decided on all my challenges for 2014, and that I was going to be pretty minimal about them (by my standards anyway).  BUT THEN o went and started a Russian Literature Challenge at her new blog.  AND Tom the Amateur Reader has been talking about Turgenev and literary debates in 19th century Russia and it all sounds so fascinating that I have to find out about it.  Not to mention the Eugene Onegin readalong in January that I am so tempted to join, even though my January is now ludicrously stuffed with reading events (I would like to try out the Falen translation instead of the Deutsch I read before, but that will require either a purchase or an ILL).  So here I am, signing up for just one more challenge.

o says:

Because this is a classics blog, I would limit it to classic literature. It can be a novel by a Russian author or a novel set in Russia, and how you choose to define "classic" is up to you. And, of course, you can use books from any other challenge you've set yourself. Finally, you can list list your books before you start, or, like me, you can just explore and read whatever comes your way.
There are four levels:

  • Level one: 1 - 3 books
  • Level two: 4 - 6 books
  • Level three: 7 - 12 books
  • Level four: 12 + books

If there's enough interest, I'll put a post up each quarter for people to link any posts may have written.

I have many Russian books on my mental list of Things To Read, but here is a rough list/schedule of books I would like to read for the challenge.  The more I look around, the more tempting books I find, plus there's my tendency to want to do the highest level of any challenge, but for now I will officially sign up for level two (4-6 books) and see how it goes.

  1. Eugene Onegin, by Alexandr Pushkin (Falen translation) in January
  2. War and Peace, by Lev Tolstoy -- the P/V translation made its way onto my TBR pile this year after I loved AK
  3. Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol -- also a TBR item, which for some reason I haven't gotten to yet.  I think it's one of those books that is scary just because it's been sitting there for a while.
  4. Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev -- I think I have this as an ebook actually...wonder if it's a decent translation...anyway, I'd also like to follow the trail of literary argumentation that sprang from this novel.  That would take a while, so we shall see.
  5. Something by Dostoevsky, probably The Brothers Karamazov because I have it in a lovely new translation, but maybe Notes From the Underground since that extends the argument.  Both would be re-reads that I've forgotten.
  6. Maidenhair, by Mikhail Shishkin -- this is a pretty new book, but I think it qualifies as a 'modern classic'--it's Serious Literature anyway.
But there are so many others, like Chekhov's plays, Tolstoy's short stories, Solzhenitsyn's works (August 1914 is tempting for WWI's 100th anniversary!), and who knows what else!  Plus there are two works of criticism I'd like to read: Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature has been on my list for a long time, but I figured I'd better actually read most of the works he speaks about first, and now I've had Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers recommended to me too.  I wouldn't count those for the challenge, but I would sure like to squeeze them in.


  1. Babette Deutsch, huh? This time it will seem like an entirely different poem.

    The Charles Johnston version is excellent. I do not know the two you mention. As long as the translation is post-Nabokov, it ought to be fine. Standards were raised by his scholarship.

    Lectures on Russian Literature is wonderful, and you are right, there is something to be said for reading ahead of the lecture rather than behind it. But you can hop around, too.

  2. Great plans! I also have Nabokov's lectures downloaded, so thanks for reminding me to actually read them :)

  3. Ooh, new translation of Brothers Karamazov? I'm going to check that out...

    Again, I'm glad you're joining in :)

  4. I'll be really interested to see what you think of Fathers and Sons and Notes From Underground, both of which I read in school and cannot for the life of me remember anything about. Also, Eugene Onegin is on my TBR list, so maybe I'll join that readalong.


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