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Poll
Question: Who was your favorite Russian author?
Pushkin - 0 (0%)
Gogol - 0 (0%)
Dostoevsky - 8 (53.3%)
Tolstoy - 2 (13.3%)
Chekhov - 1 (6.7%)
Solzhenitsyn - 1 (6.7%)
Other - 3 (20%)
Total Voters: 15

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Author Topic: Favorite Russian Author?  (Read 1114 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: November 01, 2009, 03:01:59 AM »

Who was your favorite Russian author? I apologize if I left the name of your favorite off the list. There were a lot to choose from, so I just picked the names that really jumped out at me.

As for me, I chose Dostoevsky. While I couldn't get into The Brother Karamazov, and I thought The Idiot was just so-so, Crime and Punishment and Notes From Underground are two of my favorite books. Solzhenitsyn would come in a close second for me, mostly because of The Gulag Archipelago.
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2009, 03:29:21 AM »

I voted for Dostoevsky, although I gotta admit that he's the only Russian author I've read.  With that said, his style of writing reminds me of a Greek dance; it starts out slow and sort of boring, but then begins to build momentum until (at last), I couldn't put it down (it being The Brothers Karamazov).  I've marked December as the third attempt at Crime and Punishment...
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2009, 03:45:12 AM »

Dostoevsky, though apart from him I've only read Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy and Bulgakhov.

The Brothers Karamazov is my all-time favourite books and is one of the most influential texts on my life and my Christian faith. The issues of faith Dostoevsky's raises and his examination of deep issues of the Christian soul are simply profound, and despite being a thoroughly anti-Christian atheist, I couldn't ignore them at all. Crime and Punishment and The Devils are other favourite books of mine, and I enjoyed Notes From the Underground thoroughly.

In Karamazov, The chapter 'Rebellion' had an enormous impact on me, as it examines the dillema which we ultimately must face if we accept that God created the universe. Ivan's conversation with the devil, in which the devil discusses faith, redemption, the importance of suffering, and apocatostasis was also very influential on me. Zossima's ideals of mutual responsibility amongst the human race for each other's happiness and welfare is also beautiful, as is the character of Alyosha whose crisis of faith was beautifully written. Aside from the issues dealing with faith and Christianity, it's also an incredible story that examines the dark tragedy of the human condition.

This is my favourite section from the entire book, and I consider this passage to be one of the most important pieces of writing in human history:

Quote
"Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level- but that's only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and directly, and that I know it?- I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair.

Surely I haven't suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the lamb lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That's a question I can't answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I've only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future?

I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers' crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures.

You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."

"That's rebellion," murmered Alyosha, looking down.

"Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that," said Ivan earnestly. "One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly.

"And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?"

"No, I can't admit it. Brother," said Alyosha.

I shake every time I read this.
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2009, 03:59:36 AM »

Yevgeny Zamyatin would have to get my vote.
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2009, 04:02:52 AM »

Cehov
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2009, 08:21:11 AM »

Dostoyevsky for me, although Bulgakov comes in a close second based on one book: "The Master & Margarita".   Zamyatin's "We" was a brilliant antiutopia, but isn't in the same class, IMHO.
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2009, 11:15:37 AM »

Oh, what a topic. I have a lot, being blessed to be able to read them in their original Russian. Here are just a few.

Lev Tolstoy, but NOT his "religious" writings - rather, his two monumental novels, "War and Peace" and Anna Karenina" (and of those two, "Karenina" comes as a very distant second).

Andrey Mel'nikov-Pechersky ("In the Woods," "On the Hills").

Chekhov - of course, everything.

Ivan Bunin, many novels, including both early and late. Incredible mastery of the language, astonishing prose.

Alexander Kuprin, esp. "Yama" ("The Hole"), "Duel," "Olesya."

Dostoyevsky: a great master of tragedy, incredible power of writing, but sometimes a tad more epileptic than I can bear.Smiley Sticky, overly sweet (that part is fortunately lost in translations).

Ivan Shmelev.

Of more contemporary authors - Andrei Platonov ("Kotlovan" - don't even know how to translate...), "Chevengur"); of course Mikhail Bulgakov ("The Heart of a Dog," "White Guards," "Master and Margarita");  Vasiliy Aksenov (esp. "The Island of Crimea").

One favorite non-fiction author - Fr. Alexander Schmemann ("Journals").
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2009, 08:56:11 AM »

Andrei Platonov ("Kotlovan" - don't even know how to translate...)

The Foundation Pit is normally the title given to Котлован in English.  I agree re: Platonov and think he is one of the most underrated Russian writers in the West.  I'd also add Olesha to the list. 

And if the list is to include russophone authors and not merely Russians, Chingiz Aitmatov definitely deserves to be on the list. 
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2009, 01:02:37 PM »

My favourite Russian author is Gorky.  I find such hope in his work.  In all the difficulties of his hereos there is still a sense of hope and a sense of choosing life over death.
I am currently unemployed and depressed but when I read Gorky I see how noble his hereos are and in contrast how unappreciative I am of my life and my family and support network.
Recently while waiting for a plane at the airport I bought an Engliah translation of Mikhail Bulgakov  "White Guards".  I can't put it down.  It is good literature and well written.  Also as a former graduate history student it is interesting to see how he portrays the Ukrainian fight for independence and just existence as a bona fide cultural group in this book set in 1918 in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2009, 01:46:49 PM »

I chose other referring to the man who wrote "The Way of the Pilgrim" which remains very much in my heart.
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