By Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin.
An intimate portrait of a declining family after the abolition of serfdom. Parts of the action and the characters keep appearing in my mind even after the novel has been read. The inability to truly communicate and feel empathy seems to be the most recognisable common trait among the characters.
By Umberto Eco.
Quite a pleasant read. I learnt much about schisms and intrigue in the middle age church. The dominant version of Christianity that survived seems quite random. It could have been very different if one of the sects had taken control.
“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”
By Maxim Gorky.
This was quite a nice edition to read. However, the fairly obvious political subtext was a little tiring and there was not enough of the unexpected. Possibly worth my time given my interest in Russian literature. Otherwise… no.
By Maxim Gorky.
This was not a great book. It held my interest and there were less obvious political connotations than I thought there would be. A nice snapshot of the merchant class after the abolition of serfdom.
By Feodor Sologub.
This was very enjoyable. It reminds of Deal Souls and other novels in the Russian literary canon. Dead Souls is more amusing, possibly. The novel feels more random and fragmented and dispassionate.
“Indeed a lie is often more plausible than the truth. “Almost” always. The truth, of course, is never very plausible.”
By Varlam Shalamov.
This a powerful collection of stories. Part of the intensity is given by the seemingly objective and non-involved narration. Shalamov did this on purpose – there is no moralising by the writer – he lays everything out. The message that good can come from hardship is not present. There is just hardship.
“Friendship is not born in conditions of need or trouble. Literary fairy tales tell of ‘difficult’ conditions which are an essential element in forming any friendship, but such conditions are simply not difficult enough. If tragedy and need brought people together and gave birth to their friendship, then the need was not extreme and the tragedy not great. Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friends.”
By Romain Rolland.
Comprising ten novels:
L’Aube (“Dawn”, 1904)
Le Matin (“Morning”, 1904)
L’Adolescent (“Youth”, 1904)
La Révolte (“Revolt”, 1905)
La Foire sur la place (“The Marketplace”, 1908)
Dans la maison (“The House”, 1908)
Les Amies (“Love and Friendship”, 1910)
Le Buisson ardent (“The Burning Bush”, 1911)
La Nouvelle Journée (“The New Dawn”, 1912)
This is a very impressive work. It feels slightly dated – though this could be the translation. I don’t understand how Rolland could have been marginalised as much as he has, being a Novel Prize winner. Perhaps because his preoccupations with pre-WW1 Europe have been forgotten to an extent. There’s a great amount here about creativity and art – the novel(s) are really an excuse for his musings on these.
By Yasushi Inoue.
A great short novel. It can be read in an intense single sitting. It has all the elements of fine 20th century Japanese Literature.
By Honoré de Balzac.
Another in-depth study of humanity by Balzac. Lacks the intensity of Cousin Bette of which it is a partner.
By Stefan Zweig.
Two longer novels by Zweig. Both very melancholy but sensitive and interesting. The Post Office girl was published after his death.