Some Russian Lit Updates for Winter Evenings
Stephen Fry Profiles Six Russian Writers in the New Documentary Russia’s Open Book:
via Open Culture:
Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov… someone could design a personality test around which great 19th century Russian writers turned readers on to that most brooding and intense of national literatures. For me it was first Dostoevsky, with an obligatory high school reading of Crime and Punishment, whose ending I hated so much that I had to go on and read The Idiot, The Possessed, Notes From the Underground, and nearly everything else to find out what went wrong. And the mischievous fantasist Gogol I preferred even to Kafka as a young reader, so I’d probably score high on existential angst and absurdist tendencies on whatever we’re calling our literary Meyers-Briggs.
But we would have to include the 20th century successors: Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov, Pasternak. The dissenters and exposers of Soviet cruelty and corruption who took on the traditions of stark, brutal realism and darkly comic allegory. All of these are traditions that literary gadabout Stephen Fry rightly points out “changed the literature, and particularly the literature of the novel, the world over.” Yet somehow, after the fall of the Soviet Union, it’s a literature we seemed to stop hearing about. However, “just because we stopped reading,” says Fry as host of the documentary above, Russia’s Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin, “doesn’t mean the Russians stopped writing.” Produced by Intelligent Television and Wilton films and premiering online today (and on PBS on December 28), the film profiles six new Russian writers most of us haven’t read, but should.
[Intro text ctd here]