Poor Folk (The Russians) ★★★★☆

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Title: Poor Folk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 201
Words: 54K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Varvara Dobroselova and Makar Devushkin are second cousins twice-removed and live across from each other on the same street in terrible apartments. Devushkin’s, for example, is merely a portioned-off section of the kitchen, and he lives with several other tenants, such as the Gorshkovs, whose son groans in agonizing hunger almost the entire story. Devushkin and Dobroselova exchange letters attesting to their terrible living conditions and the former frequently squanders his money on gifts for her.

The reader progressively learns their history. Dobroselova originally lived in the country, but moved to St. Petersburg (which she hates) when her father lost his job. Her father becomes very violent and her mother severely depressed. Her father dies and they move in with Anna Fyodorovna, a landlady who was previously cruel to them but at least pretends to feel sympathy for their situation. Dobroselova is tutored by a poor student named Pokrovsky, whose drunken father occasionally visits. She eventually falls in love with Pokrovsky. She struggles to save a measly amount of money to purchase the complete works of Pushkin at the market for his birthday present, then allows his father to give the books to him instead, claiming that just knowing he received the books will be enough for her happiness. Pokrovsky falls ill soon after, and his dying wish is to see the sun and the world outside. Dobroselova obliges by opening the blinds to reveal grey clouds and dirty rain. In response Pokrovsky only shakes his head and then passes away. Dobroselova’s mother dies shortly afterwards, and Dobroselova is left in the care of Anna for a time, but the abuse becomes too much and she goes to live with Fedora across the street.

Devushkin works as a lowly copyist, frequently belittled and picked on by his colleagues. His clothing is worn and dirty, and his living conditions are perhaps worse than Dobroselova’s. He considers himself a rat in society. He and Dobroselova exchange letters (and occasional visits that are never detailed), and eventually they also begin to exchange books. Devushkin becomes offended when she sends him a copy of “The Overcoat”, because he finds the main character is living a life similar to his own.

Dobroselova considers moving to another part of the city where she can work as a governess. Just as he is out of money and risks being evicted, Devushkin has a stroke of luck: his boss takes pity on him and gives him 100 rubles to buy new clothes. Devushkin pays off his debts and sends some to Dobroselova. She sends him 25 rubles back because she does not need it. The future looks bright for both of them because he can now start to save money and it may be possible for them to move in together.

The writer Ratazyayev, who jokes about using Devushkin as a character in one of his stories offends him, but genuinely seems to like him. Eventually Devushkin’s pride is assuaged and their friendship is restored. The Gorshkovs come into money because the father’s case is won in court. With the generous settlement they seem to be destined to be perfectly happy, but the father dies, leaving his family in a shambles despite the money. Soon after this, Dobroselova announces that a rich man, Mr. Bykov who had dealings with Anna Fyodorovna and Pokrovsky’s father, has proposed to her. She decides to leave with him, and the last few letters attest to her slowly becoming accustomed to her new money.

She asks Devushkin to find linen for her and begins to talk about various luxuries, but leaves him alone in the end despite his improving fortunes. In the last correspondence in the story, on September 29, Devushkin begs Dobroselova to write to him. Dobroselova responds saying that “all is over” and to not forget her. The last letter is from Devushkin saying that he loves her and that he will die when he leaves her and Now she will cry.

My Thoughts:

This was a very peculiar read. Not only was I dealing with the change in culture due to time (it was published in 1846) but I was also dealing with a “real” cultural change going from America all the way to Russia. I’ve read enough of the Russians to know that some of that change I can accommodate and that other bits are beyond inscrutable for me.

Basically, we have the letters between 2 distant cousins chronicling their ups and downs of fortune. Being happy or sad is universal, but the WHY of being happy or sad is where things just sailed over my head. Why does the older guy care so much about what random people on the street think about him? He is beyond obsessed, to the point where he’s making stuff up in his own head for goodness sake.

I am thankful this was as short as it was. While not unenjoyable it was strange enough that I couldn’t really get into the flow of things. Something would happen or they’d say something that you could tell had more meaning behind it but it simply lost to me.

This was translated by C.J. Hogarth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anna Karenina (The Russians) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Anna Karenina
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1287
Words: 350K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Part 1

The novel opens with a scene that introduces Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (“Stiva”), a Moscow aristocrat and civil servant who has been unfaithful to his wife, Princess Darya Alexandrovna (“Dolly”). Dolly has discovered his affair with the family’s governess, and the household and family are in turmoil. Stiva informs the household that his married sister, Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, is coming to visit from Saint Petersburg in a bid to calm the situation.

Meanwhile, Stiva’s childhood friend, Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin (“Kostya”), arrives in Moscow with the aim of proposing to Dolly’s youngest sister, Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (“Kitty”). Levin is a passionate, restless, but shy aristocratic landowner who, unlike his Moscow friends, chooses to live in the country on his large estate. He discovers that Kitty is also being pursued by Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, an army cavalry officer.

Whilst at the railway station to meet Anna, Stiva bumps into Vronsky who is there to meet his mother, the Countess Vronskaya. Anna and Vronskaya have traveled and talked together in the same carriage. As the family members are reunited, and Vronsky sees Anna for the first time, a railway worker accidentally falls in front of a train and is killed. Anna interprets this as an “evil omen”. Vronsky, however, is infatuated with Anna, and donates two hundred roubles to the dead man’s family, which impresses her. Anna is also uneasy about leaving her young son, Sergei (“Seryozha”), alone for the first time.

At the Oblonsky home, Anna talks openly and emotionally to Dolly about Stiva’s affair and convinces her that Stiva still loves her despite the infidelity. Dolly is moved by Anna’s speeches and decides to forgive Stiva.

Kitty, who comes to visit Dolly and Anna, is just eighteen. In her first season as a debutante, she is expected to make an excellent match with a man of her social standing. Vronsky has been paying her considerable attention, and she expects to dance with him at a ball that evening. Kitty is very struck by Anna’s beauty and personality and becomes infatuated with her just as Vronsky. When Levin proposes to Kitty at her home, she clumsily turns him down, believing she is in love with Vronsky and that he will propose to her, and encouraged to do so by her mother, who believes Vronsky would be a better match (in contrast to Kitty’s father, who favors Levin).

At the big ball Kitty expects to hear something definitive from Vronsky, but he dances with Anna instead, choosing her as a partner over a shocked and heartbroken Kitty. Kitty realizes that Vronsky has fallen in love with Anna and has no intention of marrying her, despite his overt flirtations. Vronsky has regarded his interactions with Kitty merely as a source of amusement and assumes that Kitty has acted for the same reasons. Anna, shaken by her emotional and physical response to Vronsky, returns at once to St. Petersburg. Vronsky travels on the same train. During the overnight journey, the two meet and Vronsky confesses his love. Anna refuses him, although she is deeply affected by his attentions to her.

Levin, crushed by Kitty’s refusal, returns to his estate, abandoning any hope of marriage. Anna returns to her husband, Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a senior government official, and her son, Seryozha, in St. Petersburg. On seeing her husband for the first time since her encounter with Vronsky, Anna realizes that she finds him unattractive, though she tells herself he is a good man.

Part 2

The Shcherbatskys consult doctors over Kitty’s health, which has been failing since Vronsky’s rejection. A specialist advises that Kitty should go abroad to a health spa to recover. Dolly speaks to Kitty and understands she is suffering because of Vronsky and Levin, whom she cares for and had hurt in vain. Kitty, humiliated by Vronsky and tormented by her rejection of Levin, upsets her sister by referring to Stiva’s infidelity, saying she could never love a man who betrayed her. Meanwhile, Stiva visits Levin on his country estate while selling a nearby plot of land.

In St. Petersburg, Anna begins to spend more time in the inner circle of Princess Elizaveta (“Betsy”), a fashionable socialite and Vronsky’s cousin. Vronsky continues to pursue Anna. Although she initially tries to reject him, she eventually succumbs to his attentions and begins an affair. Meanwhile, Karenin reminds his wife of the impropriety of paying too much attention to Vronsky in public, which is becoming the subject of gossip. He is concerned about the couple’s public image, although he believes mistakenly that Anna is above suspicion.

Vronsky, a keen horseman, takes part in a steeplechase event, during which he rides his mare Frou-Frou too hard—his irresponsibility causing him to fall and break the horse’s back. Anna is unable to hide her distress during the accident. Before this, Anna had told Vronsky that she is pregnant with his child. Karenin is also present at the races and remarks to Anna that her behaviour is improper. Anna, in a state of extreme distress and emotion, confesses her affair to her husband. Karenin asks her to break it off to avoid further gossip, believing that their marriage will be preserved.

Kitty and her mother travel to a German spa to recover from her ill health. There, they meet the wheelchair-bound Pietist Madame Stahl and the saintly Varenka, her adopted daughter. Influenced by Varenka, Kitty becomes extremely pious, but becomes disillusioned by her father’s criticism when she learns Madame Stahl is faking her illness. She then returns to Moscow.

Part 3

Levin continues working on his estate, a setting closely tied to his spiritual thoughts and struggles. He wrestles with the idea of falseness, wondering how he should go about ridding himself of it, and criticising what he feels is falseness in others. He develops ideas relating to agriculture, and the unique relationship between the agricultural labourer and his native land and culture. He comes to believe that the agricultural reforms of Europe will not work in Russia because of the unique culture and personality of the Russian peasant.

When Levin visits Dolly, she attempts to understand what happened between him and Kitty and to explain Kitty’s behaviour. Levin is very agitated by Dolly’s talk about Kitty, and he begins to feel distant from Dolly as he perceives her loving behaviour towards her children as false. Levin resolves to forget Kitty and contemplates the possibility of marriage to a peasant woman. However, a chance sighting of Kitty in her carriage makes Levin realize he still loves her. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Karenin refuses to separate from Anna, insisting that their relationship will continue. He threatens to take away Seryozha if she persists in her affair with Vronsky.

Part 4

When Anna and Vronsky continue seeing each other, Karenin consults with a lawyer about obtaining a divorce. During the time period, a divorce in Russia could only be requested by the innocent party in an affair and required either that the guilty party confessed—which would ruin Anna’s position in society and bar her from remarrying in the Orthodox Church—or that the guilty party be discovered in the act of adultery. Karenin forces Anna to hand over some of Vronsky’s love letters, which the lawyer deems insufficient as proof of the affair. Stiva and Dolly argue against Karenin’s drive for a divorce.

Karenin changes his plans after hearing that Anna is dying after the difficult birth of her daughter, Annie. At her bedside, Karenin forgives Vronsky. However, Vronsky, embarrassed by Karenin’s magnanimity, unsuccessfully attempts suicide by shooting himself. As Anna recovers, she finds that she cannot bear living with Karenin despite his forgiveness and his attachment to Annie. When she hears that Vronsky is about to leave for a military posting in Tashkent, she becomes desperate. Anna and Vronsky reunite and elope to Europe, leaving Seryozha and Karenin’s offer of divorce.

Meanwhile, Stiva acts as a matchmaker with Levin: he arranges a meeting between him and Kitty, which results in their reconciliation and betrothal.

Part 5

Levin and Kitty marry and start their new life on his country estate. Although the couple are happy, they undergo a bitter and stressful first three months of marriage. Levin feels dissatisfied at the amount of time Kitty wants to spend with him and dwells on his inability to be as productive as he was as a bachelor. When the marriage starts to improve, Levin learns that his brother, Nikolai, is dying of consumption. Kitty offers to accompany Levin on his journey to see Nikolai and proves herself a great help in nursing Nikolai. Seeing his wife take charge of the situation in an infinitely more capable manner than he could have done himself without her, Levin’s love for Kitty grows. Kitty eventually learns that she is pregnant.

In Europe, Vronsky and Anna struggle to find friends who will accept them. Whilst Anna is happy to be finally alone with Vronsky, he feels suffocated. They cannot socialize with Russians of their own class and find it difficult to amuse themselves. Vronsky, who believed that being with Anna was the key to his happiness, finds himself increasingly bored and unsatisfied. He takes up painting and makes an attempt to patronize an émigré Russian artist of genius. However, Vronsky cannot see that his own art lacks talent and passion, and that his conversation about art is extremely pretentious. Increasingly restless, Anna and Vronsky decide to return to Russia.

In St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky stay in one of the best hotels, but take separate suites. It becomes clear that whilst Vronsky is still able to move freely in Russian society, Anna is barred from it. Even her old friend, Princess Betsy, who has had affairs herself, evades her company. Anna starts to become anxious that Vronsky no longer loves her. Meanwhile, Karenin is comforted by Countess Lidia Ivanovna, an enthusiast of religious and mystic ideas fashionable with the upper classes. She advises him to keep Seryozha away from Anna and to tell him his mother is dead. However, Seryozha refuses to believe that this is true. Anna visits Seryozha uninvited on his ninth birthday but is discovered by Karenin.

Anna, desperate to regain at least some of her former position in society, attends a show at the theatre at which all of St. Petersburg’s high society are present. Vronsky begs her not to go, but he is unable to bring himself to explain to her why she cannot attend. At the theatre, Anna is openly snubbed by her former friends, one of whom makes a deliberate scene and leaves the theatre. Anna is devastated. Unable to find a place for themselves in St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky leave for Vronsky’s own country estate.

Part 6

Dolly, her mother the Princess Scherbatskaya, and Dolly’s children spend the summer with Levin and Kitty. The Levins’ life is simple and unaffected, although Levin is uneasy at the “invasion” of so many Scherbatskys. He becomes extremely jealous when one of the visitors, Veslovsky, flirts openly with the pregnant Kitty. Levin tries to overcome his jealousy, and briefly succeeds during a hunt with Veslovsky and Oblonsky, but eventually succumbs to his feelings and orders Veslovsky to leave in an embarrassing scene. Veslovsky immediately goes to stay with Anna and Vronsky at their nearby estate.

When Dolly visits Anna, she is struck by the difference between the Levins’ aristocratic-yet-simple home life and Vronsky’s overtly luxurious and lavish country estate. She is also unable to keep pace with Anna’s fashionable dresses or Vronsky’s extravagant spending on a hospital he is building. In addition, all is not quite well with Anna and Vronsky. Dolly notices Anna’s anxious behaviour and her uncomfortable flirtations with Veslovsky. Vronsky makes an emotional request to Dolly, asking her to convince Anna to divorce Karenin so that the two might marry and live normally.

Anna has become intensely jealous of Vronsky and cannot bear when he leaves her, even for short excursions. When Vronsky leaves for several days of provincial elections, Anna becomes convinced that she must marry him to prevent him from leaving her. After Anna writes to Karenin, she and Vronsky leave the countryside for Moscow.

Part 7

While visiting Moscow for Kitty’s confinement, Levin quickly gets used to the city’s fast-paced, expensive and frivolous society life. He accompanies Stiva to a gentleman’s club, where the two meet Vronsky. Levin and Stiva pay a visit to Anna, who is occupying her empty days by being a patroness to an orphaned English girl. Levin is initially uneasy about the visit, but Anna easily puts him under her spell. When he admits to Kitty that he has visited Anna, she accuses him of falling in love with her. The couple are later reconciled, realising that Moscow society life has had a negative, corrupting effect on Levin.

Anna cannot understand why she can attract a man like Levin, who has a young and beautiful new wife, but can no longer attract Vronsky. Her relationship with Vronsky is under increasing strain, because he can move freely in Russian society while she remains excluded. Her increasing bitterness, boredom, and jealousy cause the couple to argue. Anna uses morphine to help her sleep, a habit she began while living with Vronsky at his country estate. She has become dependent on it. Meanwhile, after a long and difficult labour, Kitty gives birth to a son, Dmitri, nicknamed “Mitya”. Levin is both horrified and profoundly moved by the sight of the tiny, helpless baby.

Stiva visits Karenin to seek his commendation for a new post. During the visit, Stiva asks Karenin to grant Anna a divorce (which would require him to confess to a non-existent affair), but Karenin’s decisions are now governed by a French “clairvoyant” recommended by Lidia Ivanovna. The clairvoyant apparently had a vision in his sleep during Stiva’s visit and gives Karenin a cryptic message that he interprets in a way such that he must decline the request for divorce.

Anna becomes increasingly jealous and irrational towards Vronsky, whom she suspects of having love affairs with other women. She is also convinced that he will give in to his mother’s plans to marry him off to a rich society woman. They have a bitter row and Anna believes the relationship is over. She starts to think of suicide as an escape from her torments. In her mental and emotional confusion, she sends a telegram to Vronsky asking him to come home to her, and then pays a visit to Dolly and Kitty. Anna’s confusion and anger overcome her and, in conscious symmetry with the railway worker’s death on her first meeting with Vronsky, from ground level at the end of a railway platform, she throws herself with fatal intent between the wagon wheelsets of a passing freight train.

Part 8

Sergei Ivanovich’s (Levin’s brother) latest book is ignored by readers and critics and he participates in the Russian commitment to Pan-Slavism. Stiva gets the post he desired so much, and Karenin takes custody of Vronsky and Anna’s baby, Annie. A group of Russian volunteers, including the suicidal Vronsky, depart from Russia to fight in the Orthodox Bulgarian revolt that has broken out against the Turks, more broadly identified as the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).

A lightning storm occurs at Levin’s estate while his wife and newborn son are outdoors and, in his fear for their safety, Levin realizes that he does indeed love his son as much as he loves Kitty. Kitty’s family is concerned that a man as altruistic as her husband does not consider himself to be a Christian.

After speaking at length to a peasant, Levin has a true change of heart, concluding that he does believe in the Christian principles taught to him in childhood and no longer questions his faith. He realizes that one must decide for oneself what is acceptable concerning one’s own faith and beliefs. He chooses not to tell Kitty of the change that he has undergone.

Levin is initially displeased that his return to his faith does not bring with it a complete transformation to righteousness. However, at the end of the story, Levin arrives at the conclusion that despite his newly accepted beliefs, he is human and will go on making mistakes. His life can now be meaningfully and truthfully oriented toward righteousness.

My Thoughts:

Before I talk about this book in particular, I want to discuss this “series” in general. In my quest to be more generally well-read I have included “The Complete Works” of several authors like GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, The Bronte Sisters and now, four different Russian authors. Included are Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev and Nikolai Gogol. I shall be cycling through these four russian authors. Obviously, this particular little literary project, much like my Dickens Project, will take years to complete. Given what I am learning about myself as a long term reader, I suspect there will be breaks to prevent burnout and boredom. But that being said, I have read enough russian classics before to know that I have a russian soul and these stories resonate with me just like Dickens’ stories did.

On to this book in particular.

When I read this for the first time in 2004, I summed it up in one sentence and gave it 3stars. Looking back, I can understand my casual dismissal of this book. Massive (at over 1200 pages this is one big book!), sprawling in scope (over 12 main characters) and chock full to the gills with russian culture, it is easy to think “lets just get through this”. Ahhhh, what a callow youth I was in those days.

Considered by “them” to be one of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina is a study in fallen humanity. Tolstoy was a Christian and while Jesus is never mentioned nor the Bible itself, the church is explicitly talked about. At first it bothered me but I just realized it was one of those “cultural” things. I suspect as I read through these russian authors that I’ll be experiencing a lot of that.

This took me over two weeks to complete. Not because I didn’t pick it up every day (because I did) but because I actually just slowed down and enjoyed reading this instead of consuming like I do so much of my SFF books. I didn’t take any notes but I think when I start the next russian book that I’ll grab some sort of notebook and scribble stuff down as I go along. I don’t do well with taking notes on my kindle and remembering to look them up afterwards just doesn’t happen. I need a physical notebook. Even if I end up not using 99% of the scribblings, at least I will have gotten them out of my head and onto a page. Some books deserve to be thought about and mulled over instead of just inhaled.

Thinking about this book, I’d love to be one of those people who can write pages on the meanings of everything in the book. It is a rich, complex and fulfilling book and I want to do it justice. That being said, I know I simply don’t operate that way. I hardly ever write long reviews, much less even medium reviews.

In regards to the translation. I have one of those 99cent “Complete Works of Tolstoy” that I got from Amazon so I don’ know if the translator was even listed. * heads out to check * Nope, no translator is listed. I noticed nothing egregious though so that shouldn’t b a worry for anyone.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Master and Margarita ★☆☆☆½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Master and Margarita
Series: ———-
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Modern Classic
Pages: 431
Words: 157K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel has two settings. The first is Moscow during the 1930s, where Satan appears at Patriarch’s Ponds as Professor Woland. He is accompanied by Koroviev, a grotesquely-dressed valet; Behemoth, a black cat; Azazello, a hitman; and Hella, a female vampire. They target the literary elite and Massolit, their trade union,[note 1] whose headquarters is Griboyedov House. Massolit consists of corrupt social climbers and their women, bureaucrats, profiteers, and cynics. The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate: Pilate’s trial of Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus of Nazareth), his recognition of an affinity with (and spiritual need for) Yeshua, and his reluctant acquiescence to Yeshua’s execution.

Part one opens with a confrontation between Berlioz (the head of Massolit) and Woland, who prophesizes that Berlioz will die later that evening. Although Berlioz dismisses the prophecy as insane raving, he dies as the professor predicted. His death prophecy is witnessed by Ivan Nikolaevich Ponyrev, a young, enthusiastic, modern poet who uses the pen name Bezdomny (“homeless”). His nom de plume alludes to Maxim Gorky (Maxim the Bitter), Demyan Bedny (Demyan the Poor), and Michail Golodny (Michail the Hungry). His futile attempts to capture the “gang” (Woland and his entourage) and his warnings about their evil nature land Ivan in a lunatic asylum, where he is introduced to the Master, an embittered author. The rejection of his novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ led the Master to burn his manuscript in despair and turn his back on Margarita, his devoted lover.

The novel’s first part includes satirical depictions of Massolit and Griboyedov House; Satan’s magic show at a variety theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed, and gullibility of the new elite; and Woland and his retinue appropriating Berlioz’s apartment after his death. (Apartments – scarce in Moscow – were controlled by the state, and Bulgakov based the novel’s apartment on his own.)

Part two introduces Margarita, the Master’s mistress, who refuses to despair of her lover and his work. Azazello gives her a magical skin ointment and invites her to the Devil’s midnight Good Friday ball, where Woland gives her the chance to become a witch.

Margarita enters the realm of night and learns to fly and control her unleashed passions. Natasha, her maid, accompanies her as they fly over the Soviet Union’s deep forests and rivers. Margarita bathes and returns to Moscow with Azazello as the hostess of Satan’s spring ball. At Azazell’s side, she welcomes dark historical figures as they arrive from Hell.

Margarita survives the ordeal, and Satan offers to grant her deepest wish: to free a woman she met at the ball from eternal punishment. The woman, who had been raped, murdered the child; her punishment was to wake each morning next to the handkerchief she used to smother it. Satan tells Margarita that she liberated the woman, and still has a wish to claim from him. She asks for the Master to be delivered to her and he appears, dazed and thinking he is still in the lunatic asylum. They are returned to the basement apartment which had been their love nest.

Matthew Levi delivers the verdict to Woland: the reunited couple will be sent to the afterlife. Azazello brings them a gift from Woland: a bottle of Pontius Pilate’s (poisoned) wine. The Master and Margarita die; Azazello brings their souls to Satan and his retinue (awaiting them on horseback on a Moscow rooftop), and they fly away into the unknown, as cupolas and windows burn in the setting sun, leaving Earth behind and traveling into dark cosmic space. The Master and Margarita will spend eternity together in a shady, pleasant region resembling Dante Alighieri’s Limbo, in a house under flowering cherry trees.

Woland and his retinue, including the Master and Margarita, become pure spirits. Moscow’s authorities attribute its strange events to hysteria and mass hypnosis. In the final chapter, Woland orders Margarita to supply the missing end of the Master’s story about Pontius Pilate – condemned by cowardice to limbo for eternity. “You are free!” she cries; Pontius Pilate is freed, walking and talking with the Yeshua whose spirit and philosophy he had secretly admired. Moscow is now peaceful, although some experience great disquiet every May full moon.

My Thoughts:

My biggest take away from this book is that I do not like 20th Century classics. They are almost all full of crap and are not even worthy of being toilet paper. With this astounding revelation, I am creating a new tag and genre, Modern Classics, that I shall give to all “classics” written from 1900 and on. I will suspect them of being nothing but bushwa until they prove otherwise to me.

Now, this book.

I had enjoyable times reading it. The devils sidekicks doing all sorts of immature and childish pranks and tricks and even serious ones, had me quite amused. The devil on the other hand, well, he was a real party pooper. I’m not exactly the devil’s biggest fan but even still, where was the being that defied God Himself? This devil in the book was practically a drunk, melancholic russian peasant. I kept expecting him to burst into tears and go “boo hoo”. The antics were amusing. Which is why this got as high a rating as it did.

What brought this down though, was the inclusion of the “Historical Jesus” heresy. The quick and dirty explanation of that is that Jesus was real, but that he was just a man, who said some nice things and that what he was and what he said have been distorted and manipulated to form this new religion called Christianity. It is nothing less than an attack on the Godhood of Jesus and the veracity of the Bible. Needless to say, the parts of the book about Pontius Pilate and the story told were anathema to me.

Thankfully, I had been forewarned by Earnestly Eccentic’s Review, so I didn’t walk into the situation and take a baseball bat to the side of my literary head. I wore a helmet so a light *Ka-Thunk* was all I felt. I don’t know what else Bulgakov might have written, but I won’t be bothering.

★☆☆☆½

Fathers and Sons (Classic)

f44d7dea90b6b1567680b9dd74a41878This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: Fathers and Sons

Series: ——

Author: Ivan Turgenev

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Genre: Classic

Pages: 233

 

 

 

Synopsis:

We follow 2 young men, Bazarov and Arkady, as they relate to each other, their fathers and their romantic interests.

 

My Thoughts:

I was not expecting to like this so much. This book is a snapshot of the changing of a generation and how it can clash with those before. In Russia.

[if you’ve ever watched Yugioh the Abridged series, you’ll know that comes from Bandit Keith and his “In America!” schtick]

Honestly, this was melancholy, romance, young silliness, arrogance and then maturity all rolled into one.

Bazarov is our main antagonist and he does a good job of being an ass for the whole book. He is a nihilist and simply wants to destroy anything and everything, period. He is well enough off that he doesn’t have to work and so has lots of time to think and like many introspective young men, his thoughts are centered on himself. That never turns out well and in the end Bazarov gets what is coming to him.

As for protagonists, there didn’t seem to be just one and in fact it could be argued that Bazarov is the protagonist as well. Arkady is a young man under Bazarov’s philosophical sway until he comes under the sway of Katya, a reserved young lady who is strong as steel but covers it with a modest and demure exterior. The Fathers, of Bazarov and Arkady, don’t seem to be strong enough to count as the protagonists as they are afflicted with trying to be their sons best friend instead of their fathers. They typified everything that I associate with Russian men: emotional, philosophical and very melancholic.

I really liked the progression of seeing Arkady and Bazarov mature. Arkady takes on responsibility and finds his place and begins to shoulder the burden that his station in life places upon him. Bazarov lives true to his destructive principles and I was glad to see him die.

To end, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book and am now going to have to search out a hardcover copy in a used book store. On amazon, “good” hard cover copies start at $35. That is too rich for me.

 

Brothers Karamazov

Brothers Karamavoz
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
3 Stars
Classic
822 Pages

man, I think I am done with russian classics for at least the next 6 months. Ok, this follows the Karamazov family. Father, 3 sons by 2 different wives, and one illegitimate son. The father is a dissolute, sensualist who amasses a great fortune, and tries to buy the affection of a loose young woman. This Woman is also being sought by one of the sons. But he is engaged to a young lady in town. This young lady, is in turn, loved by another brother. The 3rd brother is a monk, who comes out into the non-monastic life after his spiritual father dies. Eventually the illegitimate son kills the father, implicates the eldest son, and drives a wedge between the 1 and 2 son. The third son is the only good one of the whole bunch.

I know now why I don’t really like russian classics. They go on and on about subjects that have nothing to do with the story. Usually philosophical, religious or political speeches, stories or writings by a sub character. Ugh.

The Idiot

The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Classic
4 stars

the adventures of Prince Myshkin. A mental patient who is cured, falls in love with one woman, is scorned by her, falls in love with another young lady, the first woman intrigues to break them up just to show she can, he is forced to choose between them, chooses the first woman, she leaves him at the altar for a former lover, who then kills her in revenge, the second woman marries badly and becomes estranged from her family and the Prince ends up an Idiot back where he came from.

Not uplifting at all in my opinion. I liked the story overall, but the author skipped whole months near the beginning and then would spend inordinate amounts of time recounting peoples speeches. There were times I wondered if I was reading some sort of political/theological diatribe, which to be honest, these writings are. It’s under my belt, done with.