Tag Archives: Dostoyevsky

A Little Heartbreak, A Dose of Literary Reality

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I’m hoping this was just a speed bump on the road called Jack Reacher.

I just finished Lee Child’s latest addition to the Jack Reacher series, Past Tense, and was…What’s the word…Saddened? Untitillated? Underwhelmed?

JR is once again the middle of Nowhere, USA. He’s kinda/sorta looking for his father’s birthplace. He gets into a few fights. He wins them all handily. The end.

Of the roughly 3,454 books I’ve read by Mr. Child, this was the first time I felt let down, something many of us have experienced at one time or another with authors/artists we love. We are, after all, human. No artist can remain at the top of their A game forever (although a solid argument could be made for Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, Mr. Picasso’s baptismal name).

I remember the first time this happened to me as a reader of fiction, feeling somewhat crestfallen, that is. I fell in love with Tolstoy at a young age, starting with War and Peace, moving onto Anna Karenina (which his old comrade Dostoyevsky called “the greatest love story ever written”), and culminating in his last novel, Resurrection, in 1899, which had a great premise but ultimately fell flat.

Then it happened with Murakami Haruki. I loved A Wild Sheep Chase. What followed (in English translation) was Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood, Dance Dance Dance, South of the Border, West of the Sun, and then his opus, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. From there, things went south for me (but not west of the sun), including Murakami’s choice for his new translator. It began with Sputnik Sweetheart and Kafka on the Shore, and then — contrary to what some believe — 1Q84.

Alternatively, there are some “red wine” authors that seem to get better with age, like Ayn Rand (I know, I know…This will be controversial with certain readers), who went from We the Living (amazing, with a terrific ending) to The Fountainhead (profound, nearly led to a complete nuclear meltdown for Ms. Rand) to her true opus, Atlas Shrugged (which had a profound influence on philosophy, politics and social movements). The same could be said of Somerset Maugham, who started relatively early with Of Human Bondage, then The Moon and Sixpence and then, at the tail end of his career as a novelist, his opus, The Razor’s Edge.

Finally, there are the yo-yos of the literary world. Take Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He broke out to wild acclaim in 1846 with a novella called Poor Folk, and didn’t get 15 minutes of fame; he got, quite literally, 15 days of being what Guardian contributor Daniel Kalder called a “cause celebre.” It would be 20 years (of being pissed on and heckled) until Fedya D regained his rightful place as a master of fiction after the release of Crime and Punishment in 1866. His last novel, seen by many to be his opus, was The Brothers Karamazov.

As a final note, and as it pertains to the genesis of this post, 61 Hours and Worth Dying For are my two favourite Reacher novels to date.

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Russian Storytelling

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As many of my friends and followers will know, I am a big fan of Russian literature. From Pushkin, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky to Tolstoy, Turgenev and Bulgakov, the country has long seduced me with its books from a young age.

Now Karl Ove Knausgaard over at the New York Times has penned a great piece titled “A Literary Road Trip into the Heart of Russia.”

If you like/love Russian literature, read this piece. It goes out to my friend elisabethm at A Russian Affair.

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Quote of the Day

I loved you; and perhaps I love you still,
The flame, perhaps, is not extinguished; yet
It burns so quietly within my soul,
No longer should you feel distressed by it.

Silently and hopelessly I loved you,
At times too jealous and at times too shy.
God grant you find another who will love you
As tenderly and truthfully as I.
— Alexander Pushkin, “I Loved You”

 

Although most readers are familiar with the Russian Literary Triumvirate that is Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in many ways Pushkin is seen as the mack daddy of Russian literature. No small feat, indeed.

Today, he is probably most famous for the novel Eugene Onegin, but Pushkin – aside from being considered the father of his nation’s canon of modern literature – is better known inside the frozen borders of that limitless country as its greatest poet. The poem I chose today for the QOTD is one example of his brilliance, though you’ll see countless translations of the same poem all over the interweb.

Per the Wiki entry on this:

“I Loved You” is a poem by Pushkin written in 1829 and published in 1830. It has been described as “the quintessential statement of the theme of lost love” in Russian poetry, and an example of Pushkin’s respectful attitude towards women.

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