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russian literature list for beginners

greetings! this list may be useful in case you are interested in russian literature, but don't know where to start (and may be afraid of long, difficult books)
note: in my opinion, the best thing you can do before reading a book, is to briefly read writer's biography. so this entry includes good videos about their lives in english! hope you will enjoy! :)

1. f. dostoyevsky

i highly recommend starting reading dostoyevsky with his short tales, such as "gentle creature" and "poor folk".

poor folk was his very first published work, published in 1846, it was highly appreciated by literature society of russian empire (this story is the basis of the story of Ivan from hemilated and insulted, this novel has some autobiographical features). the story is epistolary novel, includes letters of young girl varvara and her relative makar devushkin. both of them are very poor. the story is sad and somehow tragic.

gentle creature was published in 1876. the story is told by unnamed narrator. he tells you the story of his relationships with his wife (unnamed as well, she is often called "the gentle creature") and her tragic death. the story is sad and not romantic at all (except for the last pages) 
(by the way, there is his unfinished novel "netochka nezvanova", it is tragic as well, but its also queer and sapphic! so i highly recommend. netochka was the first of dostoyevsky's strong female characters) 
dostoyevsky's biography (about 30 minutes)

2. m. lermontov
even though he is known for his poems, full of tragic egoism and loneliness (he was the first russian poet to bring these topics), im going to recommend you his novel called the "hero of our time". it is a story, told by at least 3 different people (the narrator, maksim maksimovich and pechorin himself) about young officer pechorin. he is lonely, cruel soul. the story takes place at caucasus and includes some pretty landscapes of it. 
lermontov's biography (about 10 minutes) 
by the way! there is this wonderful and beautiful documentary film about his life, it is 1.5 hours and has english subtitles. i highly recommend watching it! film by starmedia

3. l. tolstoy

to be honest, i havent read much of his works, but one i read and loved a lot — "childhood, boyhood, youth". its his first published work. its a trilogy about growing up as a rich nobleboy in xix century russia. its full of memories, thoughts and actions of growing kid, his attempts and regrets. its a lovely book, that sometimes brings heavy topics. worths a read!
tolstoy's biography! (5 minutes)

4. n. gogol
the ones i recommend to read are his "petersburg tales" and "evenings on a farm near dikanka"
"petersburg tales" is a collection of his short tales. most of them are about poor, lonely and small people in such big city as saint-petersburg. some of them are tragic, some are funny (the "nevsky prospect" is both).
"evenings on a farm near dikanka" is a collection of gogol's tales, that take place at the farm in ukraine in xix century. they include a lot of mystery and slavic folk creatures, even demons! 
gogol's biography (5 minutes) i couldnt find any good english videos, this one is in russian but it has english subtitles! 
let me know what do you think about these books if youve read any of them, id be glad to discuss them! have a nice day ^.^

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Hyacinth's profile picture

I've only just gotten into Russian literature. I recently read "Roadside Picnic" by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. I plan to read something by Dostoevsky next, probably The Brothers Karamazov.

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oh, brothers strugatsky! ive heard a lot of good about them, but im not into soviet literature so i havent read their works. was that book good? good luck with dostoyevsky, hope you’ll enjoy his works! (btw, you have wonderful layout and beautiful name!! may i ask, is it somehow connected with greek mythology? :D )

by jan; ; Report

Roadside picnic is a fantastic book. If you also enjoy movies, I recommend the movie STALKER (1979). Heavily influenced by roadside picnic.

by BrapMaster; ; Report

Yes, the book was very good. The movie Stalker (1979) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (which was mentioned by BrapMaster) is also very good, although I preferred the book. Regarding my name, I chose it for a few reasons; one of which being that Hyacinths are some of my favorite flowers. I also chose it because I admire Saint Hyacinth of Poland. The last (and most boring) reason I chose it is because I simply just like the name lol. I'm not familiar with the connection to Greek mythology though, but I'd love to learn about it (thank you for the compliments on my name and layout btw):D

by Hyacinth; ; Report

i guess i’ll check the books and the movie! thank you for the recomendations ! never heard about that saint, thank you for telling, because it sounds very interesting! i can tell you the greek mythology story, if you want, im very familiar to it :)

by jan; ; Report

yeah, that'd be awesome! I don't know a great deal about Greek mythology, so I'd be interested in hearing the story

by Hyacinth; ; Report

isadora :)

isadora :)'s profile picture

on russians ive only read "the death of ivan ilitch" by tolstoi so far, and i loved it (and highly recommend)

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thank you for your recommendation! ive heard a lot about it, but havent read..

by jan; ; Report