I’m really Russian through this book

So I wrote last week about how I’ve jumped back on the Russian literature train (the darkest, gloomiest, most morbidly hilarious train there is) and I cannot believe how much I have missed the ride.

(Alas, Wolf Hall has been relegated to the far corner of my bedside table, YET AGAIN. One day Ms. Mantell! One day I will finish your oeuvre.)

But back to the goods.

The Brothers Karamazov is a bloody long novel – my translation is 985 pages long (I’m a sucker for Penguin Classics and will go to my death promoting their superior products), but reading it doesn’t feel like a slog.

It feels like I am blazing through the work – paragraphs and pages flying by in the blink of an eye.

I need to emphasize that this isn’t a bad thing.

In fact, when I say that reading this work reminds me of travelling by train, that wasn’t just my attempt at a heavy handed simile.

As I sit and read, I watch as fantastical landscapes whiz past – bright colours, flashes of light, villages, country sides, peasants, gentry – all stream together, and I have make sure that I don’t get dizzy and lose my place.

Because the book is delirious; it makes me feel delirious.

It’s maddening.

And passionate, and hilarious, and brilliant.

Also, another thing that I seem to have forgotten is just how much Russian people (in particular, Russian men) love, LOVE to soliloquise.

(That is, of course, if I’m to take Dostoevsky’s prose as a truthful representation of 19th century Russian conversations.)

Because goodness gracious do his characters ever enjoy a monologue and a half.

And if they’re not monologuing, they’re falling prey to crazed, impassioned fits.

Sometimes they’re doing both at the same time.

Not that I have any right to call out anyone for their liberal use of hysterics when waxing eloquent on a matter at hand (pot being black et. al.)

HOWEVER, it never fails to leave me breathless and a little exasperated every time Dmitry starts beating his chest, or when old papa Fyodor starts acting like a classless arsehole (or buffoon by his definition.)

But mostly I am just bowled over by the writing. The attention to detail, the tangents, the word play, the physical descriptions of characters, ranging from the lowliest urchin to the highest ranking official – they all enthrall me.

They ravage, they provoke, they inspire.

I’m about a fourth of the way through, and I find myself fidgeting throughout the day, wishing that I could crack open this tome and once again lose myself in the provincial world of Alyosha and his brothers. To relish in their dialogues, their anguishes, their fears.

It also makes me reminisce about my trip to the motherland.

Two weeks gallivanting about St. Petersburg, presenting my writing around town, exploring museums and art galleries, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, eating dinner at midnight, and drinking coffee so strong it would tickle your fingertips.

What about you friends? What are you reading these days? I want to know.

Spokoynoy nochimalyshi!

Published by

Vanessa Woznow

Writer, runner, ranter, reader. I write about all things.

19 thoughts on “I’m really Russian through this book”

  1. I feel as though we should start a Russian book club.

    And I LOVE the way you describe reading, and how you feel while reading. This is what I feel. All the time. And it completely baffles me as to why some people don’t like reading! What ELSE gives you that magical feeling that a good book does? Nothing, I tell you, nothing.


    P.s. Since you asked, I’m reading The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton…The Chronicles of Narnia (for somewhere around the 94th time)…the last Harry Potter book (only because I wanted something terribly easy to read in the bathtub)…and Chuck Palahniuk’s latest. And now I want to break out the Russian books again.

    1. WE MUST!

      I totally don’t get how someone wouldn’t want to read either. It blows my mind! We are two peas in a book loving pod m’dear :)

      You are reading all the books! The one Harry Potter I love to re-read is the Goblet of Fire. I’m sure there are passages of that book that I have memorized.

  2. Great pics!

    I am reading “1831”. It’s nonfiction, history. I’m a bit of a history geek and this book as been on my list for a while, so I’m finally taking a crack at it.

    I started “Anna Karenina” at the end of the summer and need to get back to it. The only Russian novel I’ve ever read ws Doctor Zhivago a million years ago.

  3. Just picked up Faulkner, from a bus stop bench where someone had left it.

    But about Dostoevsky! Amazing! to say the least. I read Crime and Punishment over the summer and felt my own self slipping mad with Raskolnikov. I can’t wait to crack open The Idiot, and then The Brothers. And Notes From The Underground! HOLY SHIT.
    I shall write until I bleed (i’m not sure why writing would suddenly become physically dangerous, but the image is nice, I guess) in the hopes that one day I can complete a novel equally mind-numbing, engaging and enlightening as Dostoevsky!

    1. That’s so fabulous! Found books :)

      Ooooer, I totally feel the same way about Dostoevsky. I LOVE him. Crime and Punishment is so good it shouldn’t be able to exist. I am so happy that you feel the same way! (and I feel exactly the same way about writing until you bleed.) Thanks for the fab comment Wanderlust!

  4. “what she (jajaj) said”: a million years ago. Pasternak’s Dr. Chicago, and D’s Bro’s K. didja note/remember the reference to “smerdyakov” in “Alongside Kerouac”?

    i’m still struggling thru’ the JOY that is Pynchon’s “Against the Day.”
    multi, extra, intra dimensional, fer shurr.
    just finischt “Bowerman and …” by Kenny Moore. nice, light reading. tho’ there are a few threads, this book will give the reader pretty much “a history of (long-distance) running,” really.

    1. Lol, Dr. Chicago. Love it. I got that reference, it put a silly smile on my face.

      Ahhhh Pynchon, he remains firmly entrenched on “the list.” And a history of long distance running!? I must check this out.

  5. Holy crap, St. Petersburg! I knew that, without reading the text of your post, I swear. Looks like it was an awesome time. Also quite impressed with the fact that your reading The Brothers Karamazov. Can I get a precis? I’ve always wanted to read it, and it has come up in Intellectual History class, but I’ve never had the guts to pick it up… for obvious reasons!

    1. I would believe it! The city is amazing. If you ever have the chance to go, you must!

      And definitely pick up the Brothers K. :) It’s a huge book that explores a myriad of topics (Russian society/religion/family), all from the interactions of three brothers and their father.

  6. You always make me wanna do something with my life. Today – it’s read. I haven’t read a book in SO LONG (it’s not my fault, ok it is – whatever) and seeing you with a book in FRONT of your face makes me want to read EVEN MORE. I think I’m actually going to go buy a book this evening. Hell, I’ll even buy one for my daughter! Wow, that comment went on for waaaay longer than I anticipated…hope you didn’t get washed away during the marathon – I would miss you terribly! :(

    1. What an amazing comment! Thank you Ms. B :) Let me know what book you pick up (and which one for your daughter!) – I am excited for you! I love book shopping. And I made it through it one piece – phew!

  7. Currently reading ‘The Inheritance’ by Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm. And it is. Amazing. Robin Hobb writes THE best fantasy I’ve ever read (sorry ’bout that Tolkien). So good I can’t stop myself from re-reading 14 novels every year, haha. But really, check out the Farseer trilogy and the other ones, they are… so good you need a better vocabulary than mine to describe them.

    (Just because I need to shamelessly promote the best author EVAH (in my not so humble opinion ;) )

    1. I am so sorry to be just replying now (sometimes it seems my notifications fall through the cracks…)

      When we were living in England I swear to goodness that my husband read every single thing written by Robin Hobb. He loved pretty much all of her stuff (save for one set of books about a knight that becomes very fat if I remember correctly) and he continues to extoll her virtues as a writer to this day.

      I really MUST check her out. Thanks for the comment and for stopping by! x

      1. Haha, ah yes, The Soldier Son trilogy. It took three readthroughs of it for me to start enjoying it, so I understand him :D

        Do check her out!

        Thanks for writing so brilliantly!

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