Russian Literature Challenge 2020

Russian Literature Challenge 2020

Well, I didn’t think this would be the first challenge I signed up for in 2020, but I was anticipating its announcement.  Keely at A Common Reader is hosting a Russian Literature Challenge for 2020.  Yay!  I signed up for her Ancient Greek Challenge in 2016 and it was a great success.  I can’t wait for the chance to read some more Russian Literature to add to that which I’ve already read.

There are a number of Russian books I want to read and since her challenge is virtually rules-free, I’ll list some of the possibilities here:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
  • Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekov
  • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Cancer Ward by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  • The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova
  • Sketches from a Hunter’s Album by Ivan Turgenev
  • Diary of a Superfluous Man by Ivan Turgenev

Although I have no Tolstoy on my list, I’m contemplating doing the read-along of War and Peace hosted by Nick at One Catholic Life.  One chapter a day is all that is required to make your way through this stunning masterpiece.  I’ve read it once but I’d love to read it again!

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1884) Nikolai Ge
~ source Wikiart

Here’s a list with links to some of my reviews of Russian literature that I’ve read to-date and may explain some of the ones left off my list:

So please join in on this wonderful opportunity to challenge yourself to read more Russian Literature in 2020!  I can’t wait to begin!

Russian Literature Challenge


40 thoughts on “Russian Literature Challenge 2020

  1. I don’t think I want to tackle a Russian Literature Challenge. 🙂 However, if I did, I like the way this one is structured. I may end up trying to tackle Anna Karenina this year. We’ll see….And I do plan to finish The Brothers Karamazov soon.I read War and Peace last year and I didn’t like it. *gasp* I don’t think I could stand spreading it out over a whole year. 🙂 Of course, I think it would be hard for me to spread any book out over a whole year…..

    • Anna Karenina is great! I’d love to read it again but I couldn’t commit until I know how I feel after these Homer read-alongs. Ah, The Brothers Karamazov ….. I’m glad I read a good amount of Russian literature before tackling this one. Russians are so different; they have different thought processes that are Eastern-oriented and sometime it’s hard for our Western minds to “get” them. But it means I can read them over and over and still pick up things that I missed!

      I know what you mean about spreading things out over too long a period. It worked with Dickens (O’s 2 year read-along of The Pickwick Papers) but I’m a little apprehensive of spreading books out for too long. However, I think the War and Peace read-along will work; it’s consistent; you’re picking it up everyday so the story will remain in your head. I loved the book when I first read it (I have a soft spot for Tolstoy) so I hope to love it even more after this read-along.

      • The Brothers Karamazov was actually my first ever Russian novel I tried to read. I really think that at some point, I want to start it over and read it again from the very beginning. In fact, I have considered doing that instead of finishing that last 1/4 of the book that I have left to finish because I started it probably 2 years ago and it has sat on the back burner for so long. Plus, I have read a couple of other Russian authors since then. One of the things that I kept getting hung up on with The Brothers K was all the names – pronunciation of the names and also the fact that one person had what seemed like 5 different names and I kept getting confused as to who people were. I’ve since then learned a couple of tricks: keep a main character list with the various names for each character and pronounce a shorten version of the more difficult to pronounce names to make reading a bit smoother.

        Ok. So I have to tell you. I’ve been thinking about the War and Peace read-along today and will admit I may be just a tad bit tempted to give it another try since it will be short readings each day and because I wonder if by reading it with others in a read-along if I would enjoy it more. Oh….I don’t know. My list of reads continues to increase and I don’t want to overload with how much to read at one time. I may just follow Nick’s posts initially and then see if I want to jump in and read it. 🙂 You make a good point about how reading a chapter a day over the year is consistent work with the novel and keeps the story in your head….

        • The Brothers Karamazov was your first? Oh my! It took me awhile to even get used to Dostoyevsky (whom I now love!). I read one of Joseph Frank’s biographies on him (he has several), The Mantle of the Prophet, to understand him better. What I did read, was very imformative.

          Russian names can be difficult but when you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. You’ll find similar struggles with the Greek names in Homer!

          I do hope you read War and Peace again. A chapter a day is not much and I know that people have enjoyed his read-alongs. I’m looking forward to it. I just hope that I can keep up!

  2. maybe… what with reading Chapman, which i haven’t started yet, i don’t want to be drowned in bookish swamps w/o some rubber boots or a lifeline even tho i’ve enjoyed quite a bit of Russian lit in the past… we’ll see, he said, wryly…

    • I’ll be interested in what you think of Chapman …..

      I tend to get into bookish swamps so I admire your restraint. The good thing with this challenge is that you can read one book and you’re good. I like a challenge with very flexible rules.:-)

  3. We’d love to have you join the War and Peace Chapter-a-Day Read-along if you can fit it into your schedule. Thanks for spreading the word about it and for introducing me to the Russian Literature Challenge. I may have to join that one!

    • Sorry, Nick, but my blog threw your comment into spam and I didn’t see it until now. Thanks so much for hosting the War and Peace read-along! I’ve seen your other read-alongs and was very impressed. I do hope that you join The Russian Literature Challenge. I joined one a number of years ago and it helped me to read so much wonderful literature. Happy reading in 2020!

  4. Cleo!!! You have forced me to consider taking on a challenge when I was thinking I really shouldn’t do one this year. To put it bluntly and truthfully, I usually only complete a little over half of each challenge I set out to do.
    But best of all, you’re thinking of joining Nick for the War and Peace read-a-long. Now that I know you are interested, I really want to do it. I have read it before, when I was seventeen for a senior year high school project. I adored it (except for the battle scenes, which I found to be boring and unrelated to the most important themes in the rest of the book–at least that’s how it seemed to me at 17.) I hate to say it–that was 49 years ago. (!)
    I have always been a Russian Lit addict and have read a great many over the years.

    • Ha, ha! I often convince people to do things they weren’t considering but hopefully they’re better for it, lol!

      The battle scenes I did enjoy but I gave myself some background information first. One of Tolstoy’s themes, if you can call it that, is that people react in battle based on rules but often based on instinct. We tend to glorify certain people after the fact as heroes but his point is that no one is trying to be a hero at the time and the actuality is much simpler. He exemplifies this theory in his battle scenes so if you can see it from his point of view, it makes it more interesting. I hope that helps.

      In any case, it’s good to hear from you again! Just to let you know, on some of the blogger blogs it’s very difficult for WordPress people to comment if you don’t have a pop-up window which is the case with your blog. I know some don’t like to do that because you can’t respond specifically to each comment, but it does make it easier for readers to comment. When I want to comment on your blog now, I have to go to a completely different browser. By all means, don’t change it just for me, but I thought you might like to know! 🙂 Take care and wishing you a wonderful new year’s all the way through! 🎉💙

  5. What an exciting list!! I have Cancer Ward on mine as well (technically as a stretch goal), and now I’m pondering adding “One Day in the Life…”, too, since it’s short. Should be fun…

    • Yes! I’m so glad that you’re joining! I’m definitely going to read “One Day ..” Perhaps we can get together for a buddy read. Russians, here we come!

  6. It would be this totally embarrassing list of all the Russian books I own and haven’t read…The Master and Margarita and Bely’s Petersburg are probably highest. Grossman’s Stalingrad. The unread Solzhenitsyn I have is The First Circle.

  7. I’m really limiting my challenges/goals in 2020 as I just need some time away from “obligations” hanging over my head – enough of that at work – so I won’t be joining in the fun. That said, I still haven’t read any Russian lit. *Hangs head in shame.* One of these days….

    • You’re so well-read that I can’t believe that you haven’t read any Russian lit! Shocked, in fact! But I know sometimes work takes over and even if I did nothing, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day for all the challenges I’d want to do. It’s good to have restraint!

      • Sometimes I don’t feel very well read – I keep looking at my list of never-read classics that it seems like everyone else has read (and forget the ones I HAVE read already…). But alas, no Russians yet. I have several on my shelves though, so it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.

  8. I decided, on a whim, to read most of the Russian “classics” last year from April-Dec 2019.
    The following is my summary:
    Best book (ever written imo) – War and Peace
    Favorite book (of all time) – Karamazov Brothers
    Amazing and Unforgettable – Anna Karenina; Crime and Punishment; Dead Souls; Phin, Lolita; The Master and Margarita
    Most Disappointing – Fathers and Sons; The Idiot
    Others recommended – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Gulag Archipelago, Eugene Onegin, Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov.
    Still To Read – A Hero of Our Time; And Quiet Flows the Don; The Funeral Party; Notes from the Underground, The Death of Ivan ILych

    • Hi Alan and welcome! Ha, my list would look very much like yours except I loved Father and Sons. It’s actual part of a three-way conversation between Turgenev (Fathers and Sons), Chernyshevsky (What Is To Be Done?), and Dostoyevsky (Notes From The Underground) which is just fascinating. Here is a link to my Fathers and Sons review if you want to learn more and there’s a link to the other reviews at the bottom:

      Good for you to get through the Gulag Archipelago …. I have to try again with that one. With The Idiot, I sensed a brilliance but I don’t think I got it. I’d like to read it again. I’m not sure if I could read Lolita because of the content, but I will read another Nabokov. I haven’t read A Hero of Our Time or The Funeral Party but I really enjoyed Quiet Flows The Don, Notes from the Underground (when I understood the connection) and The Death of Ivan Ilych is brilliant!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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