Who is your favorite Russian author and why?

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Who is your favorite Russian author and why?

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Ago 5, 2006, 5:57 pm

I have so many favorites that I can't pick one but I wish I could read more Maxim Gorky because I love his style and his understanding and portrayal of the lower class struggles.
Who are your favorites and why?

2gmenchen Primeira Mensagem
Editado: Ago 11, 2006, 12:57 pm

I'm not prepared to pick a single favorite but I'm currently 4 volumes through Ilya Ehrenburg's memoirs which are fascinating, a excellent picture of European intellectual life in the first part of the 20th century. The depiction of the rise of fascism, his experiences in the Spanish civil war, his reaction to the accord with Nazi German are all vivid. On the fiction side I recently read a collection of short stories by Paustovsky (pubished by Progress) that I really liked, as well as Fazil Iskander Sandro of Chegem. The chapter Balthazar's Feast was made in to an excellent movie (Dinner with Stalin, I think) that was extraordinarily faithful to the text.

Ago 11, 2006, 10:24 am

Again I'm going along with what I feel now. If I rationalize it too much I'll keep switching "loyalties" or end up not being able to confine myself to a single name.

As it is I think a little poetry/prose divide could be arranged even if many writers dabbled (or mastered) both. But I need to mention Pushkin and Akhmatova. Oops now I need someone who is not mainly known for his or her poetry, don't I? It's impossible. So I'll go with heart, gut and soul (rather than brain which I usually need for reading him but there) for Dostoievski.

Can't even start to go into the "why?" or "how come?" or "which works in particular made such an impression on you?". I hope you'll forgive my momentary cowardice.

Ago 11, 2006, 5:28 pm

Dostoesky because of his color. Because of his epilepsy, his insight is...poignant.

Ago 27, 2006, 10:57 am

First, let it be said that Dostoyevsky and Gogol are the only Russian authors I've read so far (does Gogol even count?). However, Dostoyevsky has become one of my favorite all-time authors, so I'll have to go with him.

Hard to say why - the obvious answer is 'because of his books', but I'm really not sure. I think it's the way he portrays the deepest abysses of the human mind so intensely well.

Set 21, 2006, 1:08 pm

Years back I got hooked on Solzhenitsyn and read all of his books, but my favorite Russian author is leo Tolstoy.

Set 21, 2006, 9:36 pm

It annoys me when people call him Leo. Not your fault, it's the most common thing, but it's not his NAME. His name was L(y)ev Nikolayevich.

Editado: Set 22, 2006, 12:48 am

OOOPS Sorry about that, but the copies that I read had the name Leo on the cover. Of course I'm unable to read them in the original Russian like yourself.

Set 22, 2006, 2:02 am

Like I said, it's not your fault. He was alive at a time when it was still more acceptable to anglicise names. :/ It's just kinda stuck, since then.

Nov 6, 2006, 10:23 pm

I have an affinity for Chechov; he just was a nice guy, who happened to a ridiculously talented writer. I've read Speak, Memory and Mashen'ka or Mary by Nabokov, and enjoyed both books very much. I'm hoping to start Lolita soon: what other books of his do you all recommend?

Nov 7, 2006, 6:33 am

Gogol is not just A Russian writer, he is THE Russian writer - the one that all the other great novelists look up to.

Is Nabokov a Russian writer? The answer is probably yes and no. I recommend Pale Fire, arguably even better than Lolita.

Nov 14, 2006, 2:19 pm

One needs only to check my tag or author cloud to discover my fav is Boris Pasternak.

With only one novel to his name, some might ask why?
1. Dr. Zhivago is one of my all-time favorite books. It was a powerful influence on me at a certain time of my life. I enjoy the detail, the characters, the story, the poetry of the book... I named mone of my daughters Larissa (ok, I can explain the extra "s" - this was the early eighties and my mother-in-law was shocked that I would suggest a "communist" name for my child. Thus the extra S.)
2. I also veyr much enjoy his poetry.

Mar 19, 2007, 4:32 pm

#10 Philip Marlowe: Since you liked Mary or Mashenka by Nabokov, I recommend the other novels he wrote in Russian under the name Sirin in Germany- King, Queen, Knave, Despair and The Gift.( the touchstones are getting it all wrong. there might be others, but i'm away from my library at the moment.) I found the russian novels gentler, and more sympathetic to the characters than the ones he wrote in English in the US. they are surely brilliant but I find them very hard to like. By the way, nabokov wrote a wonderful biographical and critical study of Gogol, and his Lectures in Russian Literature I thought impressive and helpful.

14agentrv007 Primeira Mensagem
Mar 29, 2007, 2:37 pm

Its a terribly hard question for me. Need I mention Gogol...its just kind of understood that he's one. I've written more papers than I can count on Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. But perhaps my ultimate is Chekhov, more particularly his short stories. But as a Russian literature general rule, the more gloomy, the more I like it. They follow a very broad theme of "Life sucks, then you die"...which I enjoy.

Mar 30, 2007, 5:24 am

Having just finished Life and fate I'm tempted to say Grossman, though I think it's not necessarily fair to make such a statement after only one book by an author.

16borntoread Primeira Mensagem
Maio 13, 2007, 10:26 pm

"Vladimir Makanin" - 'Underground, ili gheroi nasego vremeni', unfortunately not yet translated in English.

Maio 18, 2007, 11:49 pm

Gogol is the poet-novelist supreme. Nabokov's lecture on "Dead Souls" opened that book up to me and I feel obliged to revisit it at least once a year just to tune up my own writing. Gogol has a technique where he uses an analogy about a character or object, invites a second object into the analogy, then compares that object to a person ... and this is how a new character is introduced. The more I understand "Dead Souls", the more in awe of Gogol I become.

But my favorite writer is Tolstoy. Here's why Tolstoy is better than Dostoyevsky ... Dostoyevsky loves to let all kinds of characters with a variety of viewpoints get into arguments and introduce interesting viewpoints, but he NEVER lets a character he disagrees with win the argument. Karamazov is unquestionably a great novel, but Harold Bloom's criticism is correct, Dostoyevsky is terribly cruel to Dmitri and Ivan and demeans their ideas by association.

Tolstoy, on the other hand, has such great affection for all of his characters that he lets them get the better of him in arguments consistently. The only problem I have with Tolstoy is his endings. I didn't need the second postscript to War and Peace, I got the theory of history the first time, and I just don't buy Levin's semi-religious conversion at the end of Anna Karenina. But these are tiny quibbles, they are clearly two of the 10 best novels ever written. Nobody writes sorrow more joyfully than the Count.

Maio 19, 2007, 12:14 am

I'm interested in Nabokov's lecture on Gogol. I read dead souls and would be intereted in having it opened up for me. I loved Tolstoy. When I read Anna Karenina what I really enjoyed was the scope. I still remember a long part dedicated to a secondary character talking about counting trees.

Maio 23, 2007, 2:22 pm

#17 Now, I'm not claiming to be a Tolstoy expert by ANY means but what about Alyosha the Pot or Master and Man? I believe he wrote that later on in his life and they seem very didactic and preachy. Similar to Dostoyevsky's own prejudice writings. I love Dostoyevsky and I defend him to the core (unless proven undeniably wrong :)) but they both seem pretty vocal in their beliefs.

Maio 23, 2007, 3:25 pm

I don't read russian, but someone wrote that the Bernard Guilbert Guerney translation of Dead Souls was the best. It was published as Chichikov's Journey. I cant vouch for the quality of the translation, but I thought it was wonderful reading. If there are any Russian readers in the group, maybe they could comment.

Jun 25, 2007, 9:00 pm

Other than Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, I've loved every Russian novel I've read. From Invitation to a Beheading to Uncle Vanya to Dead Souls to The Possessed (and so on and so forth!), I've loved every page I've read. Russian authors are exceptional and it should be difficult to choose a favourite but, all I have to do is think of The Master and Margarita and it becomes very easy to choose Mikhail Bulgakov. I would be unhappy if I knew I could never again read books by all of the other Russian greats but I would be inconsolable if I was deprived of The Master and Margarita. I wish Bulgakov had lived long enough to be as prolific as some of the others.

22kelt65 Primeira Mensagem
Out 22, 2007, 1:09 pm

As far as writing style, Gogol is my favorite hands down. He was an absolutely brilliant writer.

N. Leskov is another favorite, especially for "Lady MacBeth" and "The Enchanted Wanderer"

My other favorites are Ivan Bunin, Bulgakov, Chekov, Pushkin, so many more.

I don't really care for Tolstoy at all, nor do I like Dostoyevsky very much (love the content, hate the way he writes)

Dez 4, 2007, 2:31 am

you have it right there LillyJames, Bulgakov was probably the best in my opinion. the master and margarita was the first of his i read and i was bowled over by it. check out heart of a dog thats also great. i also liked we by Zamyatin and Lolita was a great read. hoping to read Dead souls soon and i got a nice collection of short stories by Solzhenitsyn. lastly a question, is it wrong to class Andrey Kurkov under Russian fiction. i believe he was born in st petersburg but i've only yet read the the penguin novels which are largly set in the ukraine

Dez 4, 2007, 7:42 am

Andrei Platonov! The Fierce and Beautiful World is stunning; along with him, Anna Akhmatova and Yevgeny Yevtushenko are brilliant (as, of course, are the regulars-- Bulgakov, Dostoevsky, et al). Can't possibly pick a favorite.

Dez 4, 2007, 11:42 pm

Turgenev, Isaac Babel and Tsvetaeva haven't been mentioned, and I put them up there with Gogol, Checkov, Akhmatova, Blok, Mayakovsky, Grossman, Bunin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Jan 23, 2008, 6:50 am

My favourite Russian novel would be a three-way tie between A Hero of Our Time, The Master and Margarita and Fathers and Sons. If I was forced to choose one book, I think it would be the Lermontov by a short head, but over his career, probably Lev Tolstoy as a novelist. In short fiction, Anton Chekhov and Yevgeny Zamyatin. Among poets - now that's really hard - Osip Mandelshtam and Anna Akhmatova, plus my sentimental favourite Esenin.

I guess that list represents a failure to answer the question ...

Abr 22, 2008, 12:46 am

My favorite Russian writer is Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn because of Matryona's House, a short story I read for a Russian Literature class in 1984. The ambiance of that story has always stayed with me. I also greatly admire the poems he wrote somewhat recently which are published in the biography of him by Joseph Pearce,
Solzhenitsyn : a soul in exile. Avaland (#12), I named my first child Alexander because of him...handy that my father-in-law was also named Alexander.

Abr 22, 2008, 8:11 am

#21 - could you or someone explain why you think Master and Margarita is so wonderful? I read it recently, but gave up on it about two thirds of the way through, as I could not relate to it in any way; only a few humorous and macabre scenes had kept me reading thus far. Do I need to have read Faust properly to appreciate it?


Abr 22, 2008, 11:39 am

I missed this thread originally. In short: Gogol reigns supreme for me. I think Pushkin's prose, while limited availability, is just as amazing. Nabokov seems so different from 'Russian authors' that I consider him Western. (BTW, like some, I didn't like Dead Souls). I prefer many others to Tolstoy but I have not had good translation so I consider the jury (for me) out.

> 28. I haven't read Faust and I thought Master and Margarita one of the top 15 novels for me ever. Amazingly good. I have not read Faust but I would say having some (I am going out on a limb here, and may draw some fire, and mean this without any implication) true but lost love, broken heart, rejection, and darkness in your life is probably an accelerant to appreciating Master and Margarita.

Maio 8, 2008, 9:11 pm

I see few if any references to Goncharov. I haven't read Oblomove but i heard it was very good. Opinions?

Maio 9, 2008, 8:56 am

> 30. I just read first half of Oblomov, so it's fresh in my mind. Wow. How did I miss this guy for all these years? Well written in the style of the age and country. If you like Gogol or Turgenev I suspect you'd like it. I happen to especially resonate with the first half in that I have a lot of free time and let's just say share some life habits of Oblomov. I've been avoiding the second half because in it there's more action and romance. I would highly recommend it.

Maio 10, 2008, 6:54 am

I just finished Oblomov! shawnd, don't avoid the second half! There isn't that much action really; although I do agree that the first part is the strongest. Goncharov has a style that reminds me of Gogol, for example by using small tropes that he repeats after every few pages ("Don't come too close, you're bringing in the cold!").

In a way, Oblomov is the opposite of War & Peace: it describes nothing, very elaborately. It's focused on the incredibly slow, but unavoidable, downfall of a figure.

Maio 10, 2008, 9:22 am

>32 Steven_VI: Thanks Steven_VI. Your post is the kick-in-the-pants I need to start second half - glad to know it doesn't turn into Anna Karenina next...

Maio 10, 2008, 10:03 am

Which translation of Oblomov would readers recommend? The newer Stephen Pearl translation has been praised for its freshness as well as criticised for its poor editing (see comments on Amazon for example). Is the old Magarshack the one to go for? I ask as I am quite sensitive to translations and don't have access to an English book store, so I can't check myself. Any comments much appreciated.

Maio 15, 2008, 12:04 pm

It's Dostoevsky hands down for me. I've always loved to read, but when I was 15 and read Crime and Punishment, the way I experience literature was changed. Nabokov and Chekhov round out my top three.

Editado: Ago 4, 2008, 7:43 pm

Tolstoy is not just my favorite Russian author, but my favorite author period. Favorite book is War and Peace - the first time I read it (at the risk of hyperbole) it blew my mind. The second time I read it, it blew my mind. We'll see what happens the third time (I'm reading different translations).

Other favorite Tolstoy works: Sevastopol Sketches and The Kreutzer Sonata.

Ago 5, 2008, 1:51 am

sbnicar, I feel completely the same! I haven't read War and Peace more than once though - for one thing I'm afraid it won't have the same effect the second time. And there are so many other great books to read. I don't think I can keep it off much longer though, I'm "itching" to read it again! No matter what my friends think of me! :-)

Ago 5, 2008, 1:31 pm

For me it would be Chekhov, and especially the plays, which I studied in great depth in grad school. Gogol, Dostoevsky and Sholem Aleichem are also at the top of my list.

Ago 15, 2008, 2:06 pm

I like very-very much Achmatova. I thing she's one of the greatest russian (and, maybe, not only russian) poets. Also I like Rozanov - the most "readable" philosopher for me.

Set 6, 2008, 2:36 pm

Love this discussion! Love Russia. Love her people and her writers.

I'd like to add Aleksandr Zinoviev to the mix. His novel The Yawning Heights got him officially kicked out of the Soviet Union upon its publication in the West in 1978, despite his being one of Russia's most prominent philosophers for decades. Brezhnev revoked Zinoviev's Soviet citizenship for "behavior damaging to Soviet prestige". The "damaging behavior" apparently, was having the audacity to author The Yawning Heights, the hysterical, black-humored, 829-page satiric tome that skewered, no, DISEMBOWELED, Soviet politics & revered icons. How he was ever allowed to leave and not sent to Siberia is beyond me.

His lesser works, penned in exile in Germany, included The Radiant Future and Homo Sovieticus.

Not my fave Russian but he's so worth checking out.

Jun 2, 2009, 8:06 pm

Dostoevsky is my favorite, hands down. Right after him are Akhmatova and Blok, closely followed by Turgenev, Goncharov and Gogol. Sometimes I like Chekov and sometimes I don't. Some more that I enjoy are Babel, Mandelstam and Lermontov. Tolstoy I appreciate, but he's never been one of my favorites. It's too much of a struggle for me to get through his novels, and they hardly draw me in.

Jul 22, 2009, 11:59 am

Does anyone read contemporary Russian litereture?

Jul 22, 2009, 3:57 pm

Dostoyevsky is probably my favorite, but Checkov is a close second. Checkov's prose is wonderful, and he is a first-rate dramatist. The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya are two of my favorites, but I even like the short farces he wrote. His range is really quite impressive.

Jul 23, 2009, 6:05 am

Re #42: Victor Pelevin and Tatyana Tolstaya are the most contemporary Russian authors I've read, and I guess Yuri Rytkheu (A Dream In Polar Fog) should be included as well. I'm keen to get more recommendations, though.

Jul 24, 2009, 8:10 pm

Try Lyudmila Ulitskaya. She's really good.

Jun 27, 2011, 11:37 am

"Does anyone read contemporary Russian litereture?"

Yes. I have read most of Boris Akunin's Fandorin strories and recently read Natan Dubovitsky's "Close to zero" (in German: "Nahe Null").

Jun 30, 2011, 3:35 am

Since I posted #44 above, I have read one novel and one short story collection by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, and am about to start another short story collection. She's a tremendous contemporary Russian writer, as I endeavour to say in this review:


Jun 30, 2011, 6:26 am

Okay, I may have missed it, and I'm not going to read the thread from the beginning again (as enjoyable as it was the first time through) to verify my suspicion that we've got this far without any mention of Turgenev. I can't pick a favorite among the Russians, but my life would be poorer bereft of Fathers and Sons and A Spotsman's Sketches (the title's translated a few different ways).

Jul 7, 2011, 6:59 pm

Voinovich is my favorite; I can read through his books over and over, which is something I don't do with any>/> other writer.

Contemporary writers... I like Sergei Lukyanenko, though I've only read one of his books. I also like Boris Akunin, but the Fandorin stories get a little dry after a while.

I tend to gravitate to Soviet/anti-Soviet satire.

Jul 9, 2011, 6:16 pm

Oh, I absolutely love Voinovich! I don't hear a lot of people mention him but I think he's absolutely brilliant.

Jul 21, 2011, 11:22 am

Tolstoy. Period. The master of realism.

Editado: Jul 21, 2011, 12:19 pm

>48 dcozy:

I am very fond of Turgenev myself, having read a few other works, Lear of the Steppes, A Nest of Gentlefolk, Punin and Baburin it has only deepened my appreciation. He is at once both melancholy and beautiful. Readers who enjoy Chekhov might also like Turgenev as well. I find Flaubert is similar in tone but slightly more jaded. It's a shame we can't get publishers to translate more of him (I have a 10 volume set by the 19th century translator Isabel Hapgood).

Tolstoy though, if I had to pick. I read the Forged Coupon in December and even that, when you filter out the Christian dross, has it's moments. Resurrection has a fantastic final 50 pages, once he tires of the religious posture. Anyone read the Sophia Tolstoy diaries? I found them very amusing for some reason. Oh Lev!

Was someone up there looking for a Nabokov recommendation?

Jul 21, 2011, 12:29 pm

During my 'Russian period' I missed reading Tolstoy, and Ressurection is on my TBR pile. I try to avoid the long depressing novels now.

Gogol's short story, The Overcoat still stands heads above all else in my memory.

We performed Chekhov's The Marriage Proposal "in the round" in high school, and that was lots of fun.

Ago 4, 2011, 8:01 pm

I've recently discovered Tolstoy, and have just been blown away by his talent. I read Anna Karenina for the first time earlier this year, and it immediately became my favorite book ever.

Today, I purchased Great Short Works of Tolstoy. I only dipped into a few pages, so far, but the small bit I read seemed to confirm that the superior talent he displayed with Anna Karenina was not at all a fluke. What a rare ability he had to immerse himself in...to live in his characters' world, and to bring the reader into that world as well. It's as if you are there...observing the story from the inside, rather than just reading from the outside. (That's the best I an explain it.)

I've tried to get into Dosteyevsky. I have a copy of The Brothers Karamozov that I've tried to read and just haven't been able to. (The style is so different from Tolstoy.) I will definitely give Dosteyevsky another try sometime, but I think it will always be Tolstoy for me!

Set 20, 2016, 5:17 pm

What an impressive thread! Just about all my favorite Russian writers have been mentioned; the ones I'd add off the top of my head are Andrei Bely (for prose, though his prose is highly poetic), Joseph Brodsky (for poetry -- I haven't read his essays yet), and Venedikt Erofeev (for the immortal Moskva-Petushki, translated as Moscow Circles).

Set 21, 2016, 3:43 pm

I haven't read a Russian novel in quite some time, so no one is particularly at the forefront of my mind at the moment. My favourite three 20th century Russian novels are Doctor Zhivago, Life and Fate and First Circle.

From the 19th century, probably Fathers and Sons, which is the only one I have read in full more than once, but I also rate highly War and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata and Crime and Punishment.

I'm listening to Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, while typing this, so perhaps this will inspire me to read some Russian literature (though not immediately as I started re-reading David Copperfield yesterday, one of my great favourites).

Editado: Mar 4, 2018, 10:53 am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Maio 7, 2017, 11:05 am

You might be interested in my review of Thirst:


Maio 13, 2017, 1:24 pm

I have too many Russian authors to just pick one. I have just discovered an author whose work is the closest novel to War and Peace, Vassily Grossman Life and Fate. A great novel about the battle of Stalingrad. Also highly recommended is his Everything Flows.

Editado: Maio 17, 2017, 11:22 am

> 60 languagehat: what a great review, thanks for sharing, exactly how I feel about Grossman's novels.

Jun 21, 2017, 2:25 pm

No one mentioned Quiet Flows the Don. There is a newer translation of it out.

Jun 23, 2017, 2:07 pm

Alans, could you post the translator and publisher, can't seem to local it. Thanks

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