Suggestions for Russian language learners?

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Suggestions for Russian language learners?

1gcthomas
Maio 17, 2021, 3:42 pm

I've been studying Russian for a few years and would like to try reading something in Russian besides textbook exercises.

Any recommendations for Russian-language works/authors with relatively simple and straightforward use of language?

It would be especially helpful if anyone can recommend books with resources for language students. I read Short Stories in Russian: New Penguin Parallel Text mostly using the Russian text, and really enjoyed it.

2spiphany
Maio 17, 2021, 4:51 pm

I worked through a number of annotated readers from the university library back when I was self-studying Russian. I don't remember most of the exact titles, except for the following:
New Voices: Contemporary Soviet Short Stories
Nedelya kak nedelya by Natalya Baranskaya

I think there were also a couple of annotated editions of Mikhail Zoshchenko's stories. The language and style aren't extremely challenging overall, but he uses skaz and colloquial language and malapropisms, so it is helpful to have an edition which explains the oddities in order to avoid frustrated dictionary searching for words that don't exist.

I would consider Daniil Kharms and Fazil Iskander on the easier end of the spectrum in terms of language/vocabulary. (Kharms' stories defy the normal rules of logic, however, which means you often can't rely on contextual clues to guess unfamiliar vocabulary.)

Of the "classic" writers, Chekhov is probably the one I've struggled with the least, but there's still a lot of vocabulary that is likely to be unfamiliar, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend his stories as the first unadapted literature you read.

3LolaWalser
Maio 17, 2021, 7:15 pm

>1 gcthomas:

If you aren't against reading children's literature, there's a prodigious amount of high quality literature for youth in Russian.

My favourites were books by Yuri Olesha (The three fat men) and Arkady Gaidar (Тимур и его команда).

4languagehat
Maio 18, 2021, 8:58 am

I second the recommendation for children's literature. You might also try Alexander Grin, whose unclassifiable adventure stories are set in a premodern world and can be enjoyed by people of any age; the most famous is Scarlet Sails, which should be easy to find in Russian.

5sparemethecensor
Maio 18, 2021, 6:58 pm

Great suggestions here so far. In addition to Chekhov, I was also able to read Lermontov's Geroi Nashevo Vremeni after 3.5 years of study. Lermontov is also great, and this novel is a quintessential example of the Russian literary superfluous man.

I never mastered participles well enough to tackle the authors more recent than Lermontov, to my chagrin. Russian literary structure (especially participles) became much more complex in the Dostoyevsky era (even though Lermontov and Dostoyevsky are separated by not terribly many years). If you've mastered Russian participles, you may have far more available to you.

In addition, though I have not read it in Russian, only in English, I imagine due to its structure that the excellent modern novel The Queue (by Sorokin) would be doable.

6languagehat
Maio 19, 2021, 9:44 am

The Queue is an excellent suggestion -- it's all in dialogue (spoken by people waiting on an endless line)! Here's the start, to give you an idea:

– Товарищи, кто последний?

– Наверное, я, но за мной еще женщина в синем пальто.

– Значит, я за ней?

– Да. Она щас придет. Становитесь за мной пока.

– Вы будете стоять?

– Да.

– Я на минуту отойти хотел, буквально на минуту…

– Лучше, наверное, ее дождаться. А то подойдут, а мне что объяснить? Подождите. Она сказала, что быстро…

– Ладно. Подожду. Вы давно стоите?

– Да не очень…

– А не знаете, по сколько дают?

– Черт их знает… Даже и не спрашивал. Не знаете, по сколько дают?

– Сегодня не знаю. Я слышала, вчера по два давали.

– По два?

– Ага. Сначала по четыре, а потом по два.

(N.b.: Sorokin is famous for stories that go in bizarre/obscene directions with plenty of bad language, but not here, in his first novel. And he's very funny.)

7languagehat
Jun 2, 2021, 12:12 pm

Erik McDonald has made a very useful post at XIX век, Authentic texts for people learning Russian:
https://xixvek.wordpress.com/2021/06/02/authentic-texts-for-people-learning-russ...

8LolaWalser
Jun 2, 2021, 9:16 pm

>7 languagehat:

Interesting, thanks very much.

I looked at a number of his YT links and haven't noticed this channel--like Mosfilm, it's the official Lenfilm page:

https://www.youtube.com/user/LenfilmVideo/featured

They have, among other, the 1970s/80s Sherlock Holmes serials with Vasily Livanov (who actually got an OBE for it)...

9gcthomas
Jun 5, 2021, 11:04 pm

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!

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