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See note on methodology

Despite the richness of the field, there is a surprising convergence not just on the best-known book set in Russia, but on the top three spots. In order, the most widely-owned books set in Russia on both LibraryThing and GoodReads (all nineteenth-century classics) are:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

At fourth place on GoodReads (fifth on LibraryThing) is a twentieth-century magical realist satire on Stalinism, written by a Ukrainian but clearly set in Moscow:

The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

And on fourth place on Librarything (sixth on Goodreads, behind a bio of Catherine the Great) is my personal favourite work of Russian literature, though I suspect that its sheer size puts some readers off:

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.

Bubbling under: Solzhenitsyn, Zamyatin, Gogol, Nabokov.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2015 08:00 pm (UTC)
Wot no Chekhov?
Feb. 3rd, 2015 10:56 am (UTC)
Plays don't generally do well in these lists, unless by Shakespeare (see Scotland, and a couple of smaller countries in due course).
Feb. 2nd, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
I wonder if A Young Doctor's Notebook has progressed far up the lists since the TV adaptation?
Feb. 2nd, 2015 09:31 pm (UTC)
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Feb. 2nd, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
We have the 12-word toddler version of War and Peace. Surprisingly moving for a 12-word book. But also rather severely abridged....
Feb. 3rd, 2015 12:23 pm (UTC)
I'm curious - is it literally 12 words long, or does it employ a vocabulary of only 12 words? There is, of course, a famous six-word-long story ("For sale. Baby shoes. Never used."), but I'd struggle to imagine how anything approaching War & Peace could be conveyed in a total of only 12!
Feb. 3rd, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC)
Literally twelve words. Twelve different words. Most of the story is told through felt figures - twelve photos of vignettes, each with a word.

Edited at 2015-02-03 01:06 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2015 01:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I suppose I see how that could work, accompanied by a lot of talking about what was going on in the pictures. It sounds cute, anyway!
Feb. 3rd, 2015 03:39 am (UTC)
I too am surprised that Chekhov isn't in he top list
Feb. 3rd, 2015 04:23 am (UTC)
Russian non-fiction
I know your list is for fiction, but I am reading "Former Lives" on the story of the White Russians and what happened to them from Revolution to the Stalinist purges at present, and am gripped. Alva
Feb. 3rd, 2015 08:49 am (UTC)
the difference between the Russian novels and the UK/Irish novels is that these have already gone through a process of selection. English-language readers only see the novels that have been translated, and all of these would appear on university reading lists.
Books set in Ireland don't have those gatekeepers, and so you see any old shite on the list. :)
Feb. 3rd, 2015 10:58 am (UTC)
Well, it's novels set in Russia rather than Russian novels per se; so it's more that none of the "any old shite" novels has been set there. You'll see some interesting cases of the latter phenomenon in future posts...
Feb. 3rd, 2015 01:35 pm (UTC)
I'm sure there are plenty of terrible Russian novels (written by Russians and set in Russia) that are never translated, and so they won't end up on Librarything or Goodreads.
In the same way that when we think of Russian cinema, we think of the movies that get subtitled or dubbed and released here in arthouse cinemas, not The Irony of Fate: Continuation or Black Lightning
Feb. 3rd, 2015 01:21 pm (UTC)
Mildly surprised that no Soviet era literature other than Bulgakov makes it. There are at least 3 Nobel winners that don't figure.
Julian West
Feb. 4th, 2015 12:38 am (UTC)
Russian Novels
I'm surprised not to see Dr Zhivago there. It won the Nobel Prize, after all. The Master And Margerita was a lot more obscure. (Thought that's the one I've read!) ALso Turgenev, Gogol.

Of non-Russian books set in Russia - Obviously From Russia With Love has Russian scenes. Quiller has a couple of missions in Russia.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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