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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   100 Greatest Novels Lists (& the 5th best Russian Novel) (153 comments)

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  •  Tried to read "Crime and Punishment" once, (5+ / 0-)

    but the smell of cabbage soup coming from the pages was so starkly convincing it put me off, so I never finished it.  Every time I've tried to read a Russian novel, their interminable nicknames for each other--depending on their mood, who's doing the talking, their relationship, or whatever--is mind-numbing to keep up with.

    That's why I thankfully reach for an English novel. Even novels about Germans (Erich M. Remarque's books) are easier to understand than Russian novels, IMHO.

    But that's just moi--a bit mentally lazy, I'm afraid.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 05:22:50 AM PDT

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    •  I tried several times to read 'Crime & Punishment' (6+ / 0-)

      I always ran aground. Even after I had fallen in love with Dostoevsky, and enjoyed several others of his.

      As you nicely put it, "the smell of cabbage soup coming from the pages was so starkly convincing" - which shows that Dostoevsky captured well this world he wanted to show us. I'll get to the problem of Russianness in a moment. The problem of C & P, for me, was that it rubbed my face in a world so noisome and distressing that I really didn't want to go there.

      On that particular count, I recommend The Idiot, which I found to be Dostoevsky's most uplifting novel. He decided to drop Don Quixote into Petersburg society, and see what happened.

      When I finally got into C & P, I still found it grim, but also Dostoevsky's most gripping work, the most tightly plotted (it felt like). That doesn't mean it's for you.

      Russia is, in many respects, much further from England than Germany is. I've gotten stuck in all the thickets you mention. In the end, I find so much ambition, humanity and magic in the best Russian literature, that it's worth breaking a mental sweat to get there.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 01:42:38 PM PDT

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      •  Heh, I guess it's part of Dostoevsky's genius (4+ / 0-)

        that we can have such divergent reactions: I find The Idiot the most despairing of his major novels.  It's the only one in which everyone is destroyed, no one learns anything, and extends us not even an onion of hope (an image from BK).

        Demons is the funniest, although if you want Dostoevskian humor distilled in the best way, I cannot recommend his bonkers short story "Bobok" enough.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 05:31:49 PM PDT

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        •  I agree with both your paragraphs, if you'll just (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, translatorpro

          switch the two titles. Funny that. But Dostoevsky had a bipolar soul, and poured both ends of it into all his work.

          I know there's darkness and tragedy in The Idiot. Still, I found light and joy woven through the whole work, and took a real shine to Prince Myshkin. But I read it once, long ago.

          I'll have to find Bobok.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 08:54:35 PM PDT

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    •  It does seem interminable, but (5+ / 0-)

      there's a lot of information passed along in the authors' (and characters') choices of what names and nicknames to use with each other.  Unfortunately a lot of that is inaccessible without the necessary cultural background.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 05:34:34 PM PDT

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