Some New Russian Literature

Some of my favorite books are by Russian authors. Most of these are written by authors long deceased and epically revered: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekov. While these are obviously classics that everyone should have the privilege to read, I have lately been excited to discover some new Russian literature that is in keeping with the tradition of these late greats.

Two of these books are:

“There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried to Kill her Neighbor’s Baby”

by: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya


“The Sacred Book of the Werewolf”

by: Victor Pelevin

These books are both amazing. “There Once Lived a Woman who Tried to Kill her Neighbor’s Baby” is a collection of Russian Fairy tales written by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers. Honestly, this is by far the scariest book I have ever read. I italicize that for emphasis–because I really cannot emphasize it enough! It is beautifully written and very distinctly Russian in it’s tone, and completely unlike anything I have ever read before.

“The Sacred Book of the Werewolf,” by Victor Pelevin is masterfully written as well, and also has a very distinctly Russian tone to it’s prose. This book was a New York Times Book Review notable book of the year, and their review calls it “Racy, thought-provoking, and preverse…A joy to read.” The plot involves a two-thousand year old werefox who hypnotizes men for money in modern Russia. It is both incredibly insightful and outrageously funny. In a book that starts out with a sentence like this in the first paragraph: “ I had a dreary, depressed feeling so deep in my soul that I was almost ready to believe I had one” is enough to hook me from page one.

I hope you give these books a shot, they are well worth it! These books prove that Russian literature is still at the top of its game.




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6 responses to “Some New Russian Literature

  1. Great listings of your favorite books. Really Russian literature are quite impressive to read. You mentioned Fyodor Dostoevsky as one of your favorite authors, well I suggest you read Crime and Punishment. I’m sure you would like it.

  2. Bonnie

    Crime and Punishment is great, especially with all this snow, a fur hat, and some good vodka.

  3. Only just finished The Sacred Book of the Werewolf and I also really enjoyed it.

    I often feel that Pelevin is taking the piss, but I enjoy his games, as there’s real intelligence there and a breathtaking array of influences seeded into the writing for readers to follow up on.

    • Bonnie

      Well said!! I agree with everything you’ve articulated in your blog about Pelevin and how you interpret his writing. It was devastating to learn that some Russians equate him with Will Self though!Brutal.

      Have you read any of Tatyana Tolstaya’s work?

      • I haven’t actually. I wonder if she is available here in Ireland.

        I hasten to add that the ‘Pelevin = Will Self’, was a promotional blurb for the English edition of his book. To my knowledge it is not a comparison that has been made in the Russian media.

  4. Bonnie

    Haha sorry….I re-read your blog again after I wrote that and realized that wasn’t what you wrote at all. My mistake! But still, any comparison to Will Self is still devastating to me, even if it is from his own misguided promotional team.

    I would be interested to see what you thought of Tatyana Tolstaya’s writing. I am only about 2 stories into her collection of short stories “White Walls” and so far I think it’s amazing.

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