Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mostly Russian literature.

The Easter holidays are coming to an end :-( I never manage to read as much as I want to doing any holidays, but I do have the impression that I have done something - besides playing Bejeweled - this week. I haven't been able to finish a book, but that's because I've been reading half of the Fountainhead. It's equally inspiring this time, so I consider it time well spent.

In relation to this, I wanted to mention books on literature and biographies. Since we are reading Three Sisters (in Russian) by Chekhov in class, I thought I should 1) Reread Three Sisters and pay more attention to it this time around, and 2) Read up on Chekhov. I have found that I actually enjoy reading about authors; usually it creates something of a stronger bond to them. Reading about Tolstoy (Married to Tolstoy) had the opposite effect since he turned out to be rather unsympathetic. Reading about Chekhov, on the other hand, greatly encouraged me to read more of his works. When I started studying Russian I read 10 of his novellas in simplified form and was not very impressed. Yeees, simplified literature usually isn't all that good, but the simplified Idiot by Dostoyevsky that I read was actually excellent, so never say never. Then I also read Three Sisters in full, and honestly found it quiiite boring... but that's the point of reading about authors and about works of literature; it usually adds many perspectives and makes you see things you hadn't noticed before.

After reading Walter G. Moss' essay The Wisdom of Anton Chekhov I find myself intrigued by him, and my respect for him as an author has greatly increased. Sadly, the essay by Moss seems a bit... rushed. Like it was thrown together last-minute. This kind of disappointed me since I'm a fan of his historical books.

Delightful reading, I tell you.

But I also wanted to talk about another book, The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature. I found it while looking for something on Russian literature, and then our teacher recommended it to us, so that pushed me even further into its welcoming arms. Or pages. I have now read a fourth of the book, and it's very good. However, I'm not really sure it's an introduction... I don't think you get all that much out of it unless you have read a great deal of the classics that are mentioned. I would say the level of this book is rather high, it can be quite abstract and... not really all that straightforward. It's organized around themes - some more understandable than others - but I am of the opinion that you should know both some Russian and some Russian literature before you read this book. But when you do, it's most likely going to be great.

Many years ago I found a book in my mother's collection. I have had a tendency to take books from her bookshelves and put them in mine, and now a lot of those books are residing with me in Oslo. This particular book, Pushkin, Balzac and Heine by Kurt Friedlaender (from 1949, originally written in German), I picked out because I was reading a lot of French literature at the time, but my mother just said "but that's ABOUT the authors, and it's boring". I guess this kind of stuck with me because I actually never opened the book. Now, 10 years later, I opened it and realized it's very easy to read and very interesting! I'm reading about Pushkin of course, and I plan on continuing with Balzac later on. Does anyone have anything to say about Heine? I'm now close to nothing about German (or Germanophone) literature. I know I should read Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday, but I haven't been able to find it yet.

And as a closing note, is this a horrible failure at a classy multilingual design, or is that Slavic thing there actually correct in some other Slavic language? I wouldn't know since I only know Russian. As far as I can tell the Hungarian should be Levelezőlap.


  1. it doesn't seem like a correct phrase in any other Slavic language. it most other Slavic languages открытый has root of the verb отворять. I think that the postguys just didn't have proper Russian keyboayd so Ы became bi (in upper case BI), п was totally misspeled using h (H), и (И) was written using n (N) (looks alike, I bet :D) and yet again ь (Ь) was depicted using small b (B).