The curtain During the literary season, a significant part of the discussion usually boils down to the fact that great books are no longer written in Russia - the only question is when this well has dried up. Without entering into a dispute that has lasted more than one decade, we turned to the school curriculum and decided to remind what its key characters are glorious. At the thought of school years, most of us still tremble: half of what the literature teachers tried to cram into us, we did not understand, and for the other there was simply no time or desire. Here's what you can read on the coming holidays if you want to catch up or see the classics from an unexpected angle.
Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin
Pushkin is an image in national culture, if not Christological, then of a completely comparable scale: in the end, it was he who made the most grandiose revolution in language. He gave it a modern secular look and almost single-handedly compensated for the centuries-old lag of Russian literature from its more developed Western European cousin. A contemporary of Byron and Scott, Pushkin rethought both romantic poetry, discovering fat and shortness of breath faster than others, and a historical novel, which in his hands became a serious sociological tool. You can endlessly enumerate the regalia of the author of "Belkin's Tales" and "Little Tragedies" - the local literature is still feeding on the fruits of his works.
"The Bronze Horseman" and "Boris Godunov" accumulate the main theme of Russian literature - the relationship between personality and power, and "Eugene Onegin" opens a brilliant gallery of Russian novels - even if it is written in poetry.
Among other things, Pushkin was an amazing polemicist: the "Refutation to Critics and Comments on His Own Writings" created in Boldino shows how easily he got up into a wrestling stance and did not leave the ring until the triumphant gong.
Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol
The main plot of Gogol's biography is a striking transformation of his humor: after the change of registration, the laughter of the first great Russian satirist acquired a tragic dimension, which bought him a place in eternity. Russian history has also tried, whose cyclical nature, among other things, did not allow Gogol to find himself on the literary periphery: there has always been a demand for anti-corruption invectives and the three-Russia. However, the author of "The Nose" and "Old World Landowners" owes his greatness not to his hateful politics. The core of his dazzling (even against the background of Pushkin and Lermontov) talent was still an amazingly plastic language, with which Gogol was able to draw such dizzying fugues that Stern himself would have envied them.
: "The Overcoat", "The Inspector General", "Dead Souls" - this brilliant, without exaggeration, triptych learned to write all Russian literature from Herzen to Sasha Sokolov.
The final chord of Gogol's work "Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends" is either a chronicle of the disintegration of an ingenious mind, or the last truth formulated by a man who once invented Russia, from which he never recovered.
Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky, forced to constantly work under conditions of severe time pressure and financial uncertainty, rarely managed to put his works in a neat look. Nabokov is rather right when he says that the author of The Demons was much better at creating dynamic action than polishing the style. The exalted manner of speech in which the heroes of his books - disheveled God-seekers rushing from vice to holiness - communicate, were adopted by the central characters of 20th century literature: Stephen Daedalus and Ivan Karamazov are equally present in the genesis of Faulkner's Quentin. Another significant invention of Dostoevsky is the metaphysical detective genre, where the investigation of the circumstances of the crime is replaced by a theological dispute of increased intensity that can explain what happened much more accurately.
"Crime and Punishment", of course, has no place in the tenth grade curriculum due to the almost sadistic ecstasy felt in the description of the murder of Alena Ivanovna. In addition, the complex of moral and ethical dilemmas considered in the novel, the teenager, I would like to believe, is not close. On the other hand, the same novel is analyzed by their American peers in Freaks and Geeks and Utopia.
Dostoevsky invented existentialism a hundred years before Sartre and Camus: the state of a hunted and poisonous mind in Notes from the Underground is recorded much more faithfully than in the pages of Nausea or The Myth of Sisyphus, not to mention the fact that it is brilliant literature …
Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy
“Nothing seems to elude him. Nothing will flicker unnoticed,”Virginia Woolf said enthusiastically about Tolstoy. For his contemporaries (like Joyce, who considered the story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" conventionally called "realistic storytelling." Tolstoy composed several mind-blowing fairy tales, written out with such devastating persuasiveness that we take them as the most reliable cut of reality - neglecting to what extent this is the product of one powerful, unparalleled imagination.
Trilogies "Childhood", "Adolescence", "Youth" and "Sevastopol Stories", the second of which fell into the spirit of the times along with Aksenov's novel "The Island of Crimea".
"War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" are the Old and New Testaments of Russian culture and must be the highest achievements of Russian prose that can hardly be surpassed. As an option - the late Tolstoy, who despises all social institutions ("The Kreutzer Sonata", "After the Ball", "Resurrection").
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
During his lifetime, Chekhov was blamed for the absence or, at best, ambivalence of the worldview: his stories are really irreducible to rigid ideology or unambiguous interpretation - at least in the sense in which it is customary to read other Russian classics of the first row. The uniqueness of Chekhov's perspective - merciless and merciful at once - was immediately appreciated in the West: his nurturing of the smallest details and subtle details is inherited by the best North American novelists from Hemingway to Munroe. At home, from Chekhov, they began to sculpt an apologist for selfless labor, forgetting about the airy, almost imperceptible preaching of creative idleness in the "House with a Mezzanine".
: The school curriculum turned out to be the most important things of Chekhov: the first ever mini-series "Ionych", the best Russian story "The Lady with the Dog" and the comedy "The Cherry Orchard" that defined the theater of the 20th century.
In Chekhov's case, the passion of Russian writers for risky adventures took the form of a reckless but necessary trip to Sakhalin Island: the book of the same name cost the writer his health and gave Russian society the darkest non-fiction of the 1890s.
The XX century can be safely called the century of life-creation: not only the Symbolists dabbled in the transformation of their biography into an action-packed novel - historical perturbations made of every artist a hero of a first-class thriller. The fate of Alexei Peshkov, who has gone from a provincial bourgeoisie to a Soviet patrician, seems fabulous and for that non-poor era for stunning careers in which he happened to live. A thoughtful reader of Hamsun and Nietzsche, Gorky instilled in Russian literature a taste for everything superhuman - without his intellectual tramps and indefatigable merchants, it is impossible to imagine either the Babel cavalrymen or the people from the Strugatskys' "Waves extinguish the wind".
Together with "Makar Chudra" and "Old Woman Izergil" - early, but already promising stories that introduced hitherto unseen titanic figures into Russian prose - the play "At the Bottom" also belongs to the textbook Gorky - a thing that was so successful also because was written in defiance of Tolstoy-Luka.
Despite the authorship of the famous aphorism of the Stalinist era "If the enemy does not surrender, he is destroyed", Gorky was not always a supporter of the Bolsheviks: for "Untimely Thoughts", a collection of articles from 1917-1918, exposing the bloody sides of the Russian revolution, a writer with less literary weight was probably given to the wall.
Ivan Alekseevich Bunin
In an unofficial competition for the right to be considered the most caustic Russian classic, Ivan Bunin would have won without stepping into the ring: his memoirs and diaries have preserved many insults against prominent contemporaries ranging from Mayakovsky to Blok. He can be understood: born in a decade that was not suitable for his temperament (later than Chekhov, but before Bely), Bunin found himself in the position of the keeper of tradition at the time when they began to wipe their feet about it, and could not overcome its inertia. Another thing is that modernist poetics, from which he declaratively fled all his life, eventually overtook him. In particular, the later "Dark Alleys" are built on an ominous interweaving of the psychoanalytic categories of "eros" and "thanatos".
School Bunin is, first of all, "Mister from San Francisco", a story of rare power that manifests Bunin's disgust for modernity with its cruise ships and other bourgeois entertainments, and "Clean Monday", whose deceptive simplicity hides a multi-layered cultural subtext.
"Cursed days", perhaps, should not be taken as the only document about the Russian 1917 - Bunin goes overboard on every second page - but it is also not recommended to bypass it: about how people of a certain warehouse survive a catastrophe - and this is a good half of the emigration, - this book says better than anywhere else.
Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakov
Bulgakov is accustomed to being ranked as, if not fronds, then "fellow travelers": who else with such frenzy sneered at the lumpen proletariat in "Heart of a Dog" and painted a sympathetic portrait of the officers of the pre-revolutionary model in the "White Guard". Another common idea about the author of The Life of M. de Moliere is associated with the regrettable popularity of The Master and Margarita - as if there is no more visionary and subversive work in Russian literature. It so happens: not his best thing, repudiating the humanistic line of the last century - when the "little man" aroused sympathy in the writer, not contempt, overshadowed the very real Bulgakov's merits: the complication of the post-Chekhov theater and the incrustation of Gogol's surrealism into the body of old-fashioned prose.
Bulgakov made his debut with enchanting stories: “Notes of a Young Doctor” had already been written with enviable skill and naturalism. You can not deny the pictorial power and "Morphia", largely based on the real Bulgakov's experience.
In difficult times, the creator of "Theatrical Novel" was saved by the stage: he was probably conceived as a playwright at all - "Days of the Turbins", "Run" and half a dozen other excellent plays are the surest confirmation of this.
Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov
Sholokhov is perhaps the most discussed writer of Soviet literature - from debates about the authorship of Quiet Don (usually witty, but not completely exhaustive of the problem) to his - even by the standards of that time - a very odious social position. Few people in 1966 would have dared to call Sinyavsky and Daniel "thugs with a black conscience" and hint at the execution. Nevertheless, Sholokhov's place in the pantheon of "red classics" is not entirely indisputable: looking back at "War and Peace" from the formal point of view, he did not give up Tolstoy's complexity either - just try to figure out who he sympathizes with more in "Quiet Don". At least the atrocities of the belligerents are shown in equal proportions in the book.
: The epic about the Cossacks, whatever one may say, his opus magnum, which also found itself in the school curriculum, rather through thoughtlessness: this in many respects unbearable (by the concentration of violence on a page of text, consider it a champion) novel tells too much about the national character unflattering.
Trying to crank something similar on the material of the Great Patriotic War, Sholokhov stumbled: if "The Fate of a Man" can still be considered a creative half-luck, then from the unfinished "They Fought for the Motherland" only a good basis for the picture of Bondarchuk Sr.was obtained - which, however, is not so few.
Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn
Probably the most significant confirmation of Solzhenitsyn's greatness should be considered his yielding to all those temptations that have always tempted great Russian writers. The author of In the First Circle and The Red Wheel did not shy away from political activism or a preaching cassock, simultaneously restoring the hallmark of Russian literature - a spacious novel of ideas - and playing an important role in overthrowing a powerful political regime. And while the trajectory of his views (from the orthodox communism of the 1930s to nationalism almost in the Black Hundreds of the 1990s) is justly bewildering, Solzhenitsyn is the last truly recognized Russian writer in the world to appear, among other things, on the cover of TIME.
: Reading "One Day in Ivan Denisovich", it would be good to keep in mind that this story was approved by Khrushchev, who had a hand in more than one verdict. The story of the Gulag Archipelago is a different story: Shalamov, who wrote no fewer pages on the same topic, called Solzhenitsyn a “businessman” for a reason, collecting “memories for personal purposes,” - extra-literary ambitions are painfully prominent here.
The ups and downs of the struggle of the "underground writer" with the Soviet regime are highlighted in sufficient detail in the autobiographical collection of essays "Butting a Calf with an Oak" - an extremely subjective book, whose pathos can knock down at least Voinovich's "Portrait against the Background of a Myth", giving the same events a more ironic backlight.