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Must-Read Russian Books: Bulgakov, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy Top the List
February 20, 2012 12:39

A Cover of 1968 edition of Master and Margarita

Earlier this month we decided to explore, what books you would recommend to someone uninitiated in the Russian prose to read to start their acquaintance with the mysterious world of Russian literature. Our readers and visitors responded, and here is what they had to say...

Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita      Votes: 40(9%)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot      Votes: 39(9%)
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace      Votes: 39(9%)
Nikolai Gogol, The Dead Souls      Votes: 39(9%)
Mikhail Lermontov, Hero of Our Time      Votes: 33(8%)
Mikhail Sholokhov, Quiet Flows the Don      Votes: 33(8%)
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich     Votes: 32(7%)
Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, Twelve Chairs     Votes: 32(7%)
Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades     Votes: 31(7%)
Ivan Turgenev, First Love     Votes: 31(7%)
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago     Votes: 29(7%)
Ivan Bunin, The Dark Alleys     Votes: 28(6%)
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov     Votes: 27(6%)

Apparently, there were no surprises. We tried to only include one work by each author, and obviously we could not include all novels and stories Russian authors had written. The list was based predominantly around the 19th c. literature. As with British literature, you would rather recommend someone reading William Shakespeare than Joanne Rowling (if only because everyone seems to be reading JKR these days).
The struggle in the top 3 was so tough, we were really impressed. In the end, it was decided that the romance intertwined with the story of Jesus's last days and Woland's visit to Moscow in 1930s - conventionally known as Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - deserved to be the first must-read Russian novel. It is followed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace that topped many other Russian literature polls was eventually squeezed out to the third position.
We look forward to receiving your comments, and if you have other, specific recommendations to Russian Literature fans and students, why not let us know in comments? 
Julie Delvaux.
Image courtesy: Master and Margarita.


Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian culture Russian literature Mikhail Bulgakov Fyodor Dostoyevsky Leo Tolstoy 

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