A House of Gentlefolk ★★★★☆

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Title: A House of Gentlefolk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 228
Words: 62K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel’s protagonist is Fyodor Ivanych Lavretsky, a nobleman who shares many traits with Turgenev. The child of a distant, Anglophile father and a serf mother who dies when he is very young, Lavretsky is brought up at his family’s country estate home by a severe maiden aunt, often thought to be based on Turgenev’s own mother, who was known for her cruelty.

Lavretsky pursues an education in Moscow, and while he is studying there, he spies a beautiful young woman at the opera. Her name is Varvara Pavlovna, and he falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Following their wedding, the two move to Paris, where Varvara Pavlovna becomes a very popular salon hostess and begins an affair with one of her frequent visitors. Lavretsky learns of the affair only when he discovers a note written to her by her lover. Shocked by her betrayal, he severs all contact with her and returns to his family estate.

Upon returning to Russia, Lavretsky visits his cousin, Marya Dmitrievna Kalitina, who lives with her two daughters, Liza and Lenochka. Lavretsky is immediately drawn to Liza, whose serious nature and religious devotion stand in contrast to the coquettish Varvara Pavlovna’s social consciousness. Lavretsky realizes that he is falling in love with Liza, and when he reads in a foreign journal that Varvara Pavlovna has died, he confesses his love to her and learns that she loves him in return.

After they confess their love to one another, Lavretsky returns home to find his supposedly dead wife waiting for him in his foyer. It turns out that the reports of her death were false, and that she has fallen out of favor with her friends and needs more money from Lavretsky.

Upon learning of Varvara Pavlovna’s sudden appearance, Liza decides to join a remote convent and lives out the rest of her days as a nun. Lavretsky visits her at the convent one time and catches a glimpse of her as she is walking from choir to choir. The novel ends with an epilogue which takes place eight years later, in which Lavretsky returns to Liza’s house and finds that, although many things have changed, there are elements such as the piano and the garden that are the same. Lavretsky finds comfort in his memories and is able to see the meaning and even the beauty in his personal pain.

My Thoughts:

The “official” title of this book is actually The Home of the Gentry. If you search for A House of Gentlefolk on wikipedia, you end up on the page for Home. Obviously Garnett did a bang up job of translating back in the late 1800’s. Which of course makes the rest of the book completely suspect and while it didn’t ruin my read, it did make me cranky and suspicious the whole time that what I was reading wasn’t actually what I was supposed to be reading. I feel like I got gypped out of 99 cents from buying this “Complete Collection” on amazon.

This was ALL THE DRAMA! If you’ve ever seen a spanish soap opera, add a mega-dose of melancholy and nothing working out and you’ll get this story. Lavretsky gets cuckolded, then used by his wife, abandons his daughter, falls in love with a woman only to have his wife return from the dead, and gets cuckolded again. And then the woman he loves becomes a nun and his wife lives her life out in society in Paris or something and the kid either dies or is so sickly that you know she is going to die. And the book ends with Lavretsky returning to his village and having memories. Ugh.

With all of that it would seem that this should have been a 2star book for me. And this is where the power of the russian writing shows its power over me. I enjoyed every second of this book.

In many ways this seemed the opposite of Turgenev’s Rudin. Rudin is brash, impulsive, self absorbed and willing to fight anyone on any point and as such he dies in France in one of their many “revolutions”. Lavretsky on the other hand doesn’t want conflict with anyone, ever, under any circumstances, to the point where he gives his wife a massive amount of money to go live her life and to leave him alone when she first cuckolds him. Lavretsky SHOULD have killed her lover in a duel and then given her the choice of honorably taking her own life or casting her out into the streets ignobly. Then when his wife returns, he has no fire to fight her on any point and just lets her slide back into his life. It was a complete contrast in people and I rather enjoyed that contrast, as a study.

One thing I have noticed is that the russian writers tend to have their women be the ones who are religious and try to convert the men they are interested in. In this book, Lisa is very God oriented and while Lavretsky isn’t, she’s convinced she can lead him to God after they are married. Once again, a lack of knowledge about what the Bible says on a subject seems to form the majority of the religious in these books. They, the characters have an idea that is kind of Biblical, but not actually based on it and then go with it however it seems to fit the circumstances instead of using the Bible as their yardstick and plumbline. I guess that’s what one would expect to see if Christianity was just a cultural thing instead of a personal thing. It is very disconcerting to me though and I suspect it will continue to be that way through all the russian books I read.

I think that’s enough for me. I’m right around the 600 word mark and that seems to be my happy place, at least according to the statistics that wordpress supplies me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Double ★★★✬☆

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 Double
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 215
Words: 62K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In Saint Petersburg, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin works as a titular councillor (rank 9 in the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great.), a low-level bureaucrat struggling to succeed.

Golyadkin has a formative discussion with his Doctor Rutenspitz, who fears for his sanity and tells him that his behaviour is dangerously antisocial. He prescribes “cheerful company” as the remedy. Golyadkin resolves to try this, and leaves the office. He proceeds to a birthday party for Klara Olsufyevna, the daughter of his office manager. He was uninvited, and a series of faux pas lead to his expulsion from the party. On his way home through a snowstorm, he encounters a man who looks exactly like him, his double. The following two thirds of the novel then deals with their evolving relationship.

At first, Golyadkin and his double are friends, but Golyadkin Jr. proceeds to attempt to take over Sr.’s life, and they become bitter enemies. Because Golyadkin Jr. has all the charm, unctuousness and social skills that Golyadkin Sr. lacks, he is very well-liked among the office colleagues. At the story’s conclusion, Golyadkin Sr. begins to see many replicas of himself, has a psychotic break, and is dragged off to an asylum by Doctor Rutenspitz.

My Thoughts:

This was extremely confusing. I’m used to being confused by russian stories as the authors simply think differently than I do but this just felt even more so than usual.

I can chalk that up to 3 possibilities. First, this is a novel about a man going insane and as we’re in his head, the journey to madness makes no sense itself. The second is that this was Dostoyevsky’s second novel and so it was unpolished and not as well put together as his later works. The option is that the translator bunged things up, badly. I really can’t say which option is correct but if all 3 played a part it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Reading this so closely after finishing In the Court of the Yellow King was a mistake. That book was all about madness in phantasmagorical terms while this was “real” madness. It simply overloaded me in terms of what I could handle. Many of the situations were supposed to be humorous but they never struck me that way. It was simply sad seeing a man going insane and not knowing what was going on. It rang all too true to life too. I’ve dealt with a couple of people on meds and when they got off their meds they were just like Golyadkin. It was scary.

I am glad this was as short as it was. By the end when Golyadkin is committed to an insane asylum I was ready for this to be over, as I couldn’t handle it any more. Probably a good thing I’m not a therapist or something, hahahahaa 🙂 Despite my issues, I am glad I read this and it has in no way deterred me from continuing on with this Russian journey I have begun.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Awakening ★★★☆☆

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Title: The Awakening
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translater: Unknown
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 641
Words: 174K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. When he was a younger man, at his Aunts’ estate, he fell in love with their ward, Katyusha (Katerina Mikhailovna Maslova), who is goddaughter to one Aunt and treated badly by the other. However, after going to the city and becoming corrupted by drink and gambling, he returns two years later to his Aunts’ estate and rapes Katyusha, leaving her pregnant. She is then thrown out by his Aunt, and proceeds to face a series of unfortunate and unpleasant events, before she ends up working as a prostitute, going by her surname, Maslova.

Ten years later, Nekhlyudov sits on a jury which sentences the girl, Maslova, to prison in Siberia for murder (poisoning a client who beat her, a crime of which she is innocent). The book narrates his attempts to help her practically, but focuses on his personal mental and moral struggle. He goes to visit her in prison, meets other prisoners, hears their stories, and slowly comes to realize that below his gilded aristocratic world, yet invisible to it, is a much larger world of cruelty, injustice and suffering. Story after story he hears and even sees people chained without cause, beaten without cause, immured in dungeons for life without cause, and a twelve-year-old boy sleeping in a lake of human dung from an overflowing latrine because there is no other place on the prison floor, but clinging in a vain search for love to the leg of the man next to him, until the book achieves the bizarre intensity of a horrific fever dream. He decides to give up his property and pass ownership on to his peasants, leaving them to argue over the different ways in which they can organise the estate, and he follows Katyusha into exile, planning on marrying her. On their long journey into Siberia, she falls in love with another man, and Nekhludov gives his blessing and still chooses to live as part of the penal community, seeking redemption.

My Thoughts:

While I have not committed the same particular sin as the main character, his reaction to it, albeit a decade later, felt like looking in a mirror of my younger days. It was scary because while I wouldn’t react like that now, I remember reacting/thinking EXACTLY like that in my 20’s. It was eye opening and made me much more charitable towards Nekhlyudov and as such, towards young idiots of today 😉

This was pretty heavy-handed in terms of philosophy. Tolstoy uses Nekhlyudov to talk about property ownership and pre-supposes the audience is familiar with some long forgotten european who seemed to be against property ownership. The little bit I was able to figure out was pretty ridiculous at best, and woke guilt at worst. Who knew, you woke folks are just old news recycled 😉

I’ve got so many reviews coming up this month that I’m keeping everything super short. The dangers of being out of work for 10 days. Lots of books get read :-/

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Taras Bulba (The Russians) ★★★☆☆

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Title: Taras Bulba
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Nikolai Golgol
Translater: CJ Hogarth
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 170
Words: 46K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Taras Bulba’s two sons, Ostap and Andriy, return home from an Orthodox seminary in Kyiv. Ostap is the more adventurous, whereas Andriy has deeply romantic feelings of an introvert. While in Kyiv, he fell in love with a young Polish noble girl, the daughter of the Governor of Kowno, but after a couple of meetings (edging into her house and in church), he stopped seeing her when her family returned home. Taras Bulba gives his sons the opportunity to go to war. They reach the Cossack camp at the Zaporozhian Sich, where there is much merrymaking. Taras attempts to rouse the Cossacks to go into battle. He rallies them to replace the existing Hetman when the Hetman is reluctant to break the peace treaty.

They soon have the opportunity to fight the Poles, who rule all Ukraine west of the Dnieper River. The Poles, led by their ultra-Catholic king, are accused of atrocities against Orthodox Christians, in which they are aided by Jews. After killing many of the Jewish merchants at the Sich, the Cossacks set off on a campaign against the Poles. They besiege Dubno Castle where, surrounded by the Cossacks and short of supplies, the inhabitants begin to starve. One night a Tatar woman comes to Andriy and rouses him. He finds her face familiar and then recalls she is the servant of the Polish girl he was in love with. She advises him that all are starving inside the walls. He accompanies her through a secret passage starting in the marsh that goes into the monastery inside the city walls. Andriy brings loaves of bread with him for the starving girl and her mother. He is horrified by what he sees and in a fury of love, forsakes his heritage for the Polish girl.

Meanwhile, several companies of Polish soldiers march into Dubno to relieve the siege, and destroy a regiment of Cossacks. A number of battles ensue. Taras learns of his son’s betrayal from Yankel the Jew, whom he saved earlier in the story. During one of the final battles, he sees Andriy riding in Polish garb from the castle and has his men draw him to the woods, where he takes him off his horse. Taras bitterly scolds his son, telling him “I gave you life, I will take it”, and shoots him dead.

Taras and Ostap continue fighting the Poles. Ostap is captured while his father is knocked out. When Taras regains consciousness he learns that his son was taken prisoner by the Poles. Yankel agrees to take Taras to Warsaw, where Ostap is held captive, hiding Taras in a cartload of bricks. Once in Warsaw, a group of Jews help Yankel dress Taras as a German count. They go into the prison to see Ostap, but Taras unwittingly reveals himself as a Cossack, and only escapes by use of a great bribe. Instead, they attend the execution the following day. During the execution, Ostap does not make a single sound, even while being broken on the wheel, but, disheartened as he nears death, he calls aloud on his father, unaware of his presence. Taras answers him from the crowd, thus giving himself away, but manages to escape.

Taras returns home to find all of his old Cossack friends dead and younger Cossacks in their place. He goes to war again. The new Hetman wishes to make peace with the Poles, which Taras is strongly against, warning that the Poles are treacherous and will not honour their words. Failing to convince the Hetman, Taras takes his regiment away to continue the assault independently. As Taras predicted, once the new Hetman agrees to a truce, the Poles betray him and kill a number of Cossacks. Taras and his men continue to fight and are finally caught in a ruined fortress, where they battle until the last man is defeated.

Taras is nailed and tied to a tree and set aflame. Even in this state, he calls out to his men to continue the fight, claiming that a new Tsar is coming who will rule the earth. The story ends with Cossacks on the Dniester River recalling the great feats of Taras and his unwavering Cossack spirit.

My Thoughts:

I had a couple of thoughts about this story and so you get to be the spectator today as I lay them out, like pearls of great price. So don’t be a swine! 😉

First, this was pure propaganda of the highest order. There is Nationalism and pride of country, but Gogol takes us beyond that and into propaganda territory. The Cossacks are the best, the brightest, the bravest, the most devout, the most fervent, the loyalest, the fiercest, the most honest and just, just THE BEST EVAH! and don’t you forget it. At first it grated but then it just became so ridiculous as the cossacks own behavior put lie to what Gogol was claiming that I simply had to grin.

Second, it was hard to tell if it was Hogarth’s translating, but I really didn’t care for Gogol’s style. I do think it was Gogol himself, or at least this specific story, because I’ve enjoyed most of the other Russian literature I’ve read and I believe a lot of it was translated by Hogarth as well. This was the first book I’ve read by Gogol and I’m not really impressed. I’ve got a Complete Works of Gogol so I’ll be giving him a couple more chances to impress me, but I’ve got that DNF axe ready and it won’t take much for me to let it fall and for heads to roll.

Overall, this was a story of a man who grew up fighting, raised his sons to fight and died fighting. I can’t say it is a good advertisement for the Warrior Lifestyle though. While the Cossacks were presented as The Best Evah, it was only to their own kind. Bulba considers it as a mark of how good Christians the cossacks are that they don’t steal from each other or cheat other cossacks. But when it comes to someone who isn’t a cossack, well, there simply aren’t any rules. It made me wonder how much of what Bulba thought of as “Christian” was from culture and what he’d heard in church instead of actually reading from the Bible. That is why even our pastor says “Don’t take my word for it, go look it up in the Bible”.

With only one more full novel, Dead Souls, then a large body of short stories collected in various editions, I should be able to make my mind up about Gogol relatively easily. It looks like Garnett did the translating for the majority of the short stories so once I get to those it should be easier to tell if it is the translator or the author I don’t care for 😀

Gogol is the last of the Russians that I have on tap, so now I begin the cycle anew. I’m pretty pleased overall with how this is going and while it is a bit more spread out than say my Dickens read, I just can’t read the Russians as intensely as I can Dickens.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rudin (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: Rudin
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 183
Words: 49K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Rudin’s Arrival

The novel begins with the introduction of three of the characters – Aleksandra, Lezhnev, and Pandalevskii. Pandalevskii relates to Aleksandra Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s invitation to come and meet a Baron Muffel’. Instead of the Baron, Rudin arrives and captivates everyone immediately with his intelligent and witty speeches during the argument with Pigasov. Rudin’s arrival is delayed until Chapter Three. After his success at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, he stays the night and the next morning meets Lezhnev who arrives to discuss some business affairs with Dar’ya Mikhailovna. This is the first time the reader finds out that Rudin and Lezhnev are acquainted, and studied together at university. During the day that follows Rudin has his first conversation with Natasha; as she speaks of him highly and says he “ought to work”, he replies with a lengthy speech. What follows is a description quite typical of Turgenev, where the character of Rudin is shown not through his own words, but through the text which underlines Rudin’s contradictory statements:

“Yes, I must act. I must not bury my talent, if I have any; I must not squander my powers on talk alone — empty, profitless talk — on mere words,’ and his words flowed in a stream. He spoke nobly, ardently, convincingly, of the sin of cowardice and indolence, of the necessity of action.”[5]

On the same day, Sergei leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s early and arrives to see that Lezhnev is visiting. Lezhnev then gives his first description of Rudin.

Rudin and Natasha

In two months, we are told, Rudin is still staying at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, living off borrowed money. He spends a lot of time with Natasha; in a conversation with her he speaks of how an old love can only be replaced by a new one. At the same time, Lezhnev gives the account of his youth and his friendship with Rudin, making for the first time the point that Rudin is “too cold” and inactive. On the next day, Natasha quizzes Rudin over his words about old and new love. Neither she, nor he confess their love for each other but in the evening, Rudin and Natasha meet again, and this time Rudin confesses his love for her; Natasha replies that she, too, loves him. Unfortunately, their conversation is overheard by Pandalevskii, who reports it to Dar’ya Mikhailovna, and she strongly disapproves of this romance, making her feelings known to Natasha. The next time Natasha and Rudin meet, she tells him that Dar’ya Mikhailovna knows of their love and disapproves of it. Natasha wants to know what plan of action is Rudin going to propose, but he does not fulfil her expectations when he says that one must “submit to destiny”. She leaves him, disappointed and sad:

“I am sad because I have been deceived in you… What! I come to you for counsel, and at such a moment! — and your first word is, submit! submit! So this is how you translate your talk of independence, of sacrifice, which …”

Rudin then leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Before his departure he writes two letters: one to Natasha and one to Sergei. The letter to Natasha is particularly notable in its confession of the vices of inactivity, inability to act and to take responsibility for one’s actions – all the traits of a Hamlet which Turgenev later detailed in his 1860 speech. Lezhnev, meanwhile, asks Aleksandra to marry him and is accepted in a particularly fine scene.

The Aftermath

Chapter Twelve and the Epilogue detail events of over two years past Rudin’s arrival at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Lezhnev is happily married to Aleksandra. He arrives to give her news of Sergei’s engagement to Natasha, who is said to “seem contented”. Pigasov lives with Lezhnevs, and amuses Aleksandra as he used to amuse Dar’ya Mikhailovna. A conversation which follows happens to touch on Rudin, and as Pigasov begins to make fun of him, Lezhnev stops him. He then defends Rudin’s “genius” while saying that his problem is that he had no “character” in him. This, again, refers to the superfluous man’s inability to act. He then toasts Rudin. The chapter ends with the description of Rudin travelling aimlessly around Russia. In the Epilogue, Lezhnev happens by chance to meet Rudin at a hotel in a provincial town. Lezhnev invites Rudin to dine with him, and over the dinner Rudin relates to Lezhnev his attempts to “act” – to improve an estate belonging to his friend, to make a river navigable, to become a teacher. In all three of this attempts Rudin demonstrated inability to adapt to the circumstances of Nicholas I’s Russia, and subsequently failed, and was in the end banished to his estate. Lezhnev then appears to change his opinion of Rudin as inherently inactive, and says that Rudin failed exactly because he could never stop striving for truth. The Epilogue ends with Rudin’s death at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848; even at death he is mistaken by two fleeing revolutionaries for a Pole.

My Thoughts:

After Anna Karenina and it’s almost 1300 pages, every other Russian novel that’s under 500 pages suddenly makes me feel like somehow I’m cheating and having an easy time of it. Russian literature is bleak and grim and depressing and your very soul is supposed to suffer while reading it. And here I am, breezing along like I’m on a circus ride or something.

It’s just not right. Or maybe I’m just not right. OR (prepare for Conspiracy Theory Numero Uno)…..

….. The WP4 have brainwashed me into somehow liking Russian Literature. I can totally see Dix trying to brainwash me, so I’m going with the Conspiracy Theory option.

Thankfully the titular character is not the main character. He’s an arrogant jackass who won’t stick to anything unless it is done exactly his way. Since he pretty much sponges off of other people, well, you can see the friction there. What got to me was near the end of the novel, Lezhnev (I’d call him a main character) meets Rudin (who is now practically homeless and barely surviving) and is very charitable to him. That was fine and showed what a good man Lezhnez was. What I really disliked was how Lezhnev starts praising Rudin for everything that I abominated in him. His inability to get along with others. His laziness. His excuses for not finishing things. His playing with people’s lives as if they exist for his use alone. I was actually waiting for him to starve to death all alone but I think how Turgenev portrayed him dying, getting shot at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848 (I had to go look on wikipedia, but this Revolution was just another one by the Frenchies, not the one portrayed in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities). It was very fitting for Rudin to die while sticking his nose into a completely different country’s business.

I have to admit, I am not skilled enough to be able to tell the differences in writing style of Turgenev from either Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Part of that might be that a good bit of Russian literature was translated by Constance Garnett and if she wasn’t careful, her own style would overpower theirs. While no translator is listed for this book, the public domain version is translated by Garnett so I’m going to assume this is her translation.

And yet, with everything, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Turgenev sees people and does an excellent job of putting that down in words. I get all the benefit of a varied circle of acquaintences without actually having to deal with people. That is a Win-Win situation as far as I’m concerned!

The only other Turgenev that I’ve read is Fathers and Sons. I definitely preferred that to Rudin. However, I do look forward to more Turgenev as I continue this Russian journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Poor Folk (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: 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.