What are these maps?
They represent readers of this blog during the last months. I looked at my blog stats and saw that a large proportion of its readers were in Russia. When this first happened, I thought it a fluke. A blog last fall contained an excerpt from Tug of the Wishbone. Maureen, the protagonist, discussed Russia with a boyfriend who traveled there.
My book, The Swan Bonnet, has characters with mixed heritage. I arrived at that from the history of Russians in Alaska.
How interesting, was my initial reaction, to be read where there is a high standard for published writing. Though I couldn't think of any Russian women authors in that history.
The subject of Russian literature really gets me going.
|Modern Library edition, from Amazon.com|
I read Anna Karenina as an adolescent and afterwards felt that the book set up a formidable standard for adult literature. Thomas Hardy stood up to the adultery, illicit love issue but I began to class many adult books as simply being about adultery. Anna Karenina was a much bigger book than that. It had quite an effect on me, choosing to identify with Kitty in the secondary plot.
I was not so happy with film versions of Anna Karenina. I couldn’t understand why there was sympathy for Count Karenin. At thirteen, my understanding was that the government official Karenin bought the most beautiful young aristocratic woman, Anna, and made her live an austere, loveless existence until she had a son. Nineteenth century literature often challenged the compatibility of the marriage match. It questioned the institution’s integrity.
Lately, I was involved with a discussion among Facebook writers about tense. We agreed that writers these days usually write in one tense and that the present tense throughout a book could feel uncomfortable. I furnished an example from Tolstoy, his long short story, The Snowstorm, in which he moved from past to present tense in a natural way and to step up the pace during a very long sleigh ride. Dickens also used this technique, evident in the first chapters of Our Mutual Friend, where it gave immediacy in a dining room with many characters. Why these techniques are not used so much among authors today could point to the difference between the old masters and other authors, we concluded at the discussion.
Crime and Punishment, I think, was the most compelling book I ever read. However, some years ago a freshman composition student took me off-course, asking if I had read The Brothers Karamozov. She was so enthralled with it. I began reading the book and couldn’t get involved. Just before the 2016 election, I picked it up again from my used book stock. The elder Karamozov, repeatedly referred to as a buffoon, caught me this time. I struggled with the book because I felt that Dostoyevsky didn’t have the editing that he had for Crime and Punishment. It was worth the struggle.
|The Brothers Karamozov, International Collectors Edition, from Amazon.com|
When I felt ennui at the adultery problem in adult novels, I read Cancer Ward. Solzhenitsyn had accomplished a grand Russian novel with that as the setting. Later, I read his short story work, and then looked at The Gulag Archipelago. The pages I read of that book stunned me so much that I put it off for another time.
In the 1980’s, I concluded that Sigrid Undset, author of Kristin Lavransdatter, was the only woman who had written a Russian novel. (Maybe I’ll get some blog readers from Norway now.)
I suppose I have spent more time with Russian literature than with learning about the Cold War.