Since I love discussing books, people often ask me what Russian literature I recommend.

So here are some of my favourite writers and their masterpieces.

Feel free to share your impressions after reading!

  1.  "Eugene Onegin" (1833) is a novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin.
    The story of a young, bored dandy is full of deep irony and philosophical interludes, presented in a facile way. 
    At that time the language of culture in Russia was French, so Pushkin's poetry was revolutionary  out of a heavy, clumsy language he had formed the flexible Russian we speak nowadays.
  2. "Oblomov" (1859) is a novel by Ivan Goncharov. 
    Described there life of a daydreamer, suffering from laziness, is the finest "portrait" of a Russian man I have ever seen. The comparison with Oblomov's antipode, his German friend, most accurately shows the contrast of mentalities.
  3. "Cynics" (1928) is a novel by Anatoly Marienhof.
    Reflecting revolution in the everyday life of a young intellectual couple, it is full of sharp irony. His other work, "A Novel without Lies", is a tender recollection of his youth spent together with the famous poet Sergei Yesenin, a husband of Isadora Duncan. 
  4. "The Master and Margarita" (1940) is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. The breathtaking mystery play is intertwining Yershalaim ruled by Pilat and Moscow of Stalin's time. Warning: hard to get back to surrounding reality after reading.
  5. "Speak, Memory" (1951) is a memoir of Vladimir Nabokov.
    Ironic boyhood stories from pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg are wreathed by fascinating descriptions of nature. Among Nabokov's other masterpieces I find especially delightful "Mary", "The Defense", "The Gift" and "Invitation to a Beheading".
  6. "The Kolyma Tales" (1973) by Varlam Shalamov narrate about labour camp life in USSR. The heartbreaking facts and perceptive observations are wrapped in a genuine writing manner. 
  7. "Chik and his Friends" (1983) is a selection of stories by Fazil Iskander. Telling about childhood in Abkhazia, it revives the spirit of old traditions, laced with native scents and authentic tastes. His saga about Caucasus, "Sandro of Chegem", is a unique evidence.
  8. "Suitcase" (1986) is a book by Sergei Dovlatov, which collects tales about artefacts he took with him to exile in USA. An absolute master of sarcasm, he makes you laugh until you cry. Another recommendation is his novel "Pushkin Hills".
  9. "Watermark" (1989) is an essay on Venice by Joseph Brodsky. Densely filled with deep thoughts, his essays allow one to touch the wisdom. Among others, my favourite ones are "Less Than One", a retrospect from exile, and "To Please a Shadow", a dithyramb to W.H. Auden.

P.S. I believe that each person would benefit from reading Brodsky's Nobel Lecture.