Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Great Russian Authors, 19th Century

One of my readers requested that I make a list of whom I consider to be the most influential Russian authors of the 19th century.  So here goes!

1. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
 This one almost goes without saying.  I've made it clear that I think he is a brilliant, influential, and significant figure in all of literary history, let alone that of Russia.  You can read about my thoughts on Crime and Punishment here.

2. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
It is undeniable that Tolstoy is an incredibly significant figure in Russian literature.  He writes on an epic scale, with beautifully crafted language.  He was one of the most important figures on an international stage.  However, at the risk of offending the Russians who love him, I feel that Tolstoy is a bit more British in his style than Russian, which is a noticeable loss of flavor for me.  I added an entry about Anna Karenina here.

3.Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)
Although it is not my personal favorite, Eugene Onegin by Pushkin is undeniably an incredibly significant piece of Russian literature.  With this work, he launched Russian writing to a public spectacle and began a brilliant tradition.  He has been crystallized in Russian memory forever as a literary hero.  Even today, almost every Russian student has read Eugene Onegin and many have memorized it.

4. Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)
Primarily a poet, Lermontov produced just one novel - A Hero of Our Time, which I discuss here.  He was the first major author to emerge on the scene after Pushkin, and his themes inspired dozens of writers who followed him.  He brilliantly introduced a psychological dimension in his characters that sparked a literary movement. (I had to add him after a suggestion by Ingrid from The Blue Bookcase).

5. Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)
I am a big fan of Gogol, as you can see in my previous entry about Dead Souls here.  He captures what became an iconic writing style of wit, satire, and meaning early on in the literary tradition.  Don't miss out on Gogol!

6. Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
An outspoken fan of Gogol, Turgenev is an appropriate author to list next.  He immigrated to Europe, so his novels reached an international stage as well.  His book Fathers and Sons is often recognized on lists of popular "classics," although I feel that he too is missing a little bit of the iconic Russian flavor.

7. Ivan Goncharov (1812-1891)
Goncharov, on the other hand, absolutely embodies the Russian style.  His book Oblomov was highly popular in Russia, but it may not capture Western audiences.  In effect, it is the story of a man who never gets off the couch.  How can an entire novel revolve around this small idea?  Read Goncharov to find out.  It is full of the Russian sense of humor and narration, in which the plot itself is not the main focus.  You can read more about Oblomov here.

8. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
I cannot list important Russian authors in the 19th century without Chekhov, even though I wasn't a huge fan of his writing.  He wrote plays and short stories almost exclusively, which I feel lack some of the depth of the novels of the time.  However, the Russians loved him and he was quite popular and influential in this era.

I have merely covered the authors I consider to be the most influential in the 19th century only.  There is a great list of Russian authors during the Soviet Era as well as other times. Let me know if you think I missed anyone significant!  I would love to add another to my repertoire.

4 comments:

IngridLola said...

Excellent list! Though I think I would add Mikhail Lermontov as well.

G. Trudelle said...

This list reminded me of how much I love Russian literature. I think I'll have to pull out my copy of Dead Souls this year and give it another go!

Amy said...

Thanks for the feedback! What did Lermontov write? I'll have to look that up. And I'm so glad I have inspired you to reread Dead Souls. Let me know how that goes!

IngridLola said...

Lermontov wrote A Hero of Our Time. He came a bit after Pushkin I believe. A Romantic.