Questions tagged [russian-literature]

Questions about works of literature that were originally written in the Russian language, regardless of whether they were written or published in Russia or elsewhere.

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How did Denisov reappear in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace?

In 1807 Major Denisov got court-martialed for stealing food, threatening and insulting chief quartermaster, and thrashing two officials even dislocating the arm of one of them. All of this happens ...
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Viktor Erofeyev "The Akimuds": Animal motif

In the SF/Fantasy/political satire "The Akimuds" by Viktor Erofeyev, selfsame Akimuds (sort of a stand-in for God, Jesus and the angels) claim they are ducks. Now, "doves" would ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Allusion in Nabokov's Pnin

In chapter 3, section 6 of Nabokov's Pnin, the main character is carrying a reference work "mainly devoted to Tolstoyana" across the Waindell campus when he drops it by accident: Pnin, on ...
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What was the first picaresque novel in Russian literature?

Lazarillo de Tormes, published simultaneously in Alcalá de Henares, Burgos and Antwerp in 1554, is generally considered the first picaresque novel. The Wikipedia article about the picaresque novel ...
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1 answer
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Is there a meaning to Koroviev 's nickname?

In Master and Margarita, Koroviev (or Korovyev) is part of Woland's entourage. In various scenes, he is called by his nickname - Fagot: The magician sat down. ' Tell me, my dear Fagot,' Woland ...
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What does it mean to look like "a hair-dresser's assistant"?

In the 1st Chapter, Part I of Dostoevsky's The Idiot (Eva Martin's translation) you can find the following passage, in which Rogojin is describing the first time he saw Nastasia Philipovna: I was ...
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Use of "pounds" instead of "roubles" in passage of "The Idiot"

In the 1st Chapter, Part I of Dostoevsky's The Idiot (Eva Martin's translation) you can find the following passage: These men generally have about a hundred pounds a year to live on (...) In this ...
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Why is Russian literature considered part of Western culture when so much of Russia is in the East?

Russia is a country that straddles both the East and West, and is culturally very diverse. Why and how did so much of Russian literature become part of the Western Canon? To put it another way, why ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Is there a difference between Russian and English speaking cultures in the sense of rhythm when reciting poetry?

It may a vague question, but I haven't found any data on this myself. I am Russian and I've heard a lot of reading of Russian poetry, since my childhood (poetry reading by heart is a staple assignment ...
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Why did Victor Pelevin's books fail to get such popularity as they had in Russia? [closed]

Victor Pelevin is presumably the most best-selling contemporary writer in Russia. Several of his books have been translated to English, but none of them became even slightly popular among the Western ...
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What kind of censorship was Dostoevsky avoiding by obscuring place names?

In the opening paragraph of "Crime and Punishment", two locations, S-- Lane and K--n Bridge, are identified only by their first and final letters. My translation has a footnote which says ...
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1 answer
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Why do readers dislike Vronsky in the early part of the novel?

Anna Karenina, the first novel of Count Leo Tolstoy is about the life of Anna (mainly) and her lover Vronsky (I know it is not possible to say what the novel is about but for this particular ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Why did Pierre want to assassinate Napoleon?

Pierre’s friend Andrei was shown to have great respect for Napoleon, as his view on historic events being the will of a few important people is embodied best by Napoleon. While lying wounded on the ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why is War and Peace not considered an epic?

The plot of War and Peace involves more than 500 characters. More than 200 of them are real historical figures put to life on the pages of Tolstoy’s novel. The novel is set 60 years before Tolstoy's ...
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3 votes
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What is the English title of Tolstoy's memoirs "Without love, It's easier to live"?

I am trying to find the English name of the memoirs by Leo Tostoy titled Without love, It's easier to live (original Russian title Без любви жить легче). I could not find any mention of it neither in ...
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Mystifying reference in "Anna Karenina"

I encountered this mystifying aside (bolded) in the text of Anna Karenina. I assumed it might be a biblical reference, but upon checking, it doesn't seem that the biblical Rebecca was a slave. A quick ...
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English translation of "I will not see the famous Phaedra"?

Is there is any professional English translation of "I will not see the famous Phaedra" (Я не увижу знаменитой «Федры») by Osip Mandelstam. Can anyone provide a link where it can be found.
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11 votes
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Original Russian text of this review of Crime and Punishment

In the introduction to Constance Garnett's translation of Crime and Punishment, she quotes this Russian critic: In the words of a Russian critic, who seeks to explain the feeling inspired by ...
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The Brothers Karamazov - Why does Dmitri use "Bernard" as an insult?

"Bernard" is first mentioned in Book XI. Ivan, Chapter IV, in an exchange between Dmitri and Alyosha: “Ethics?” asked Alyosha, wondering. “Yes; is it a science?” “Yes, there is such a ...
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The Brothers Karamazov - ladies of the eighteen stone?

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Book XI, Chapter IX The expression "eighteen stone" is mentioned 3 times in the whole book, all in same chapter: What I dream of is becoming ...
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The Brothers Karamazov - What is "The Bell"?

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Book X, Chapter IV Long will you remember The house at the Chain bridge. Do you remember? It's splendid. Why are you laughing? You don't suppose I am ...
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6 votes
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The Brothers Karamazov - When was Russia saved before?

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Book VI, Chapter 3 And how suprised men would be if I were to say that from these meek monks, who yearn for solitary prayer, the salvation of Russia will ...
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The Brothers Karamazov - What is the "Chain bridge"?

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Book X, Chapter IV I say this only to you. I am not at all anxious to fall into the clutches of the secret police and take lessons at the Chain bridge. ...
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In the Brothers Karamazov, did Dostoyevsky take those characters out of real life?

In the novel The Brothers Karamazov, did the writer take those characters out of real life? Or did he just build the characters with time?
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why is the Lady "a suffering soul in some page of Dostoyevsky"?

In An Enigmatic Nature, Anton Chekhov writes: "I am a suffering soul in some page of Dostoevsky. Reveal my soul to the world, Voldemar." and "Happiness comes tapping at my window, I ...
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Why does Groholsky head toward the water barrel?

In A Living Chattel, Anton Chekhov writes: [Impersonal Witness] I pressed Groholsky's hand, and got into the train. He bowed towards the carriage, and went to the water-barrel—I suppose he was ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Did the Tsar's secret police search the apartment of one of Dostoevsky's neighbours?

The Wikipedia article about Fyodor Dostoyevski contains a section about the author's death that begins with the following statement: On 25 January 1881, while searching for members of the terrorist ...
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13 votes
1 answer
536 views

What does Dostoyevsky mean by 'propaganda' in Crime and Punishment?

I am wondering about what Dostoyevsky means by the word 'propaganda' in part six, chapter four of Crime and Punishment. None of the meanings that I understand make sense in the context of the book. ...
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7 votes
1 answer
238 views

Use of the word 'aesthetic(s)' in this passage from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

I am reading Crime and Punishment, and as you might expect am really enjoying it. Fascinating book. But there is one passage that is a little confusing to me, in particular the use of the word '...
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7 votes
1 answer
124 views

How do Pierre and Natasha "lie to each other" in 'War and Peace'?

Simone de Beauvoir writes in The Second Sex (emphasis mine) Lawrence adds that to merit this devotion, man must be authentically invested with a higher purpose; if his project is but a sham, the ...
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3 votes
0 answers
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Dostoevsky's attitude towards Sonya Marmeladova

Note: The question concerns a somewhat touchy topic - prostitution. I am not a native English speaker, therefore, I cannot be sure which terms are suitable for a discussion. I am using words of the ...
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3 votes
2 answers
484 views

Relationship between title and protagonist's fate in Tolstoy's God Sees the Truth, but Waits

I went through Tolstoy's story God Sees the Truth, But Waits but I wonder what the title suggests and how it suits the story in regard to the protagonist Aksionov. A good innocent man is wrongly ...
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4 votes
1 answer
214 views

What is the exact social status of Alexei Vronsky?

Alexei Vronsky is first mentioned by Stepan Oblonsky, in Part One chapter XI. This is how he is presented there by Stiva (Pevear translation): Vronsky is one of the sons of Count Kirill Ivanovich ...
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1 answer
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Why are only some characters in Petrushevskaya's Hygiene given names?

HYGIENE, By Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, in There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, published this fall by Penguin. Translated from the Russian by Keith Gessen ...
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9 votes
1 answer
239 views

Is this mistake in Tolstoy's original, or just this translation?

I am reading the Vintage edition of War & Peace with the translation by Pevear & Volokhonsky. In Volume II, part I, chapter 11, the farewell dinner for Nikolai at the Rostov's is held on "the ...
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3 votes
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What does “lying is a delightful thing, for it leads to truth” mean in "Crime and Punishment"?

From part II, chapter IV of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett: Zossimov looked curiously at Raskolnikov. He did not stir. “But I say, Razumihin, I wonder at ...
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4 votes
2 answers
235 views

Brodsky's "two-liner" in his essay "Less than One"

In his 1976 essay Less than One, Joseph Brodsky writes: For the beginning I had better trust my birth certificate, which states that I was born on May 24, 1940, in Leningrad, Russia, much as I abhor ...
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4 votes
1 answer
530 views

Significance in Raskolnikov's name in Crime and Punishment?

The protagonist/antihero of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. As it says on Wikipedia: The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic"...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Alyona Ivanovna apartment layout

I am stuck trying to figure out something from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. In the following passage: The young man stepped into the dark entry, which was partitioned off from the tiny ...
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5 votes
0 answers
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Does Countess Natalia Rostova let Prince Andrei die so Nikolai could inherit all of Marya's wealth?

Natasha's mother, Countess Natalia Rostova, seems to dislike her daughter's affections for Prince Andrei when they meet again at his (eventual) deathbed. At this point in the story, she's also been ...
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5 votes
1 answer
481 views

Is there any special significance in Dr. Rutenspitz's last words to Mr. Golyadkin?

Throughout The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, there had been hints that maybe Mr. Golyadkin Jr., the double, was a product of Mr. Golyadkin Sr.'s imagination — and that it was either a way to signify ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Russian children's book about a boy's first train journey

This is probably a Soviet-era children's book. It is about a boy's journey by train. As I remember it, not much happens plot-wise, but the boy's sense of wonder makes everything he encounters (The ...
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2 votes
1 answer
116 views

Does someone know the "Moment of Ljewin" in Anna Karenina?

I'm visiting my girl this week (long-distance relationship, different country) and at some point she told me about being a big fan of Anna Karenina. However, the copy she had read was old and falling ...
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1 answer
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How did Pilate order Judas' death in Master and Margarita?

After several reads I am still struggling to understand the events around Judas' death in the Pilate story. On the face of it, the following things occur: Pilate has dinner with Aphranius (head of ...
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  • 143
3 votes
1 answer
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About the role of Lizaveta in Crime and Punishment

I just finished Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and I loved it (of course). I would like to bring into analysis the role of Lizaveta, the pawnbroker's half sister who is accidentally killed by ...
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4 votes
1 answer
338 views

Description of a character in 'War and peace'

In the book 'War and peace ' , the characters seem to mention the name of a person ' countess Apraksina ' with a tone of respect and concern in chapter 10. This character 'countess Apraksina' is not ...
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In War and Peace, why do all the generals and Kutuzov consider it "impossible" to defend Moscow?

After the battle of Borodino, in which the Russians apparently did well, why did the French simply advance to Moscow and why was it considered inevitable that Moscow would be abandoned and the army ...
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6 votes
1 answer
113 views

What is the text Ivan refers to in the preface to the Grand Inquisitor

Before declaming the Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov, Ivan refers to a poem with the virgin Marie visiting Hell and begging God for mercy for its inhabitants. Is this a real poem? If so, ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What is "the light by which she had read the book" in "Anna Karenina"?

What does the following sentence from Anna Karenina mean? And the light by which she had read the book filled with troubles, falsehoods, sorrow, and evil, flared up more brightly than ever before, ...
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2 votes
2 answers
289 views

What led Tolstoy to depict that a person would have a change of heart after throwing themselves under a train?

After having read a few different works by Tolstoy, I have come to the conclusion that his main goal is to accurately depict what goes through a person's mind in various situations. One of the most ...
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