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Adrian

The Kreutzer Sonata

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How do you people read this stuff? I found this quite a chore to read, not helped in the slightest by what felt like a translation by machine (actually David McDuff for Penguin Classics). I liked the story within a story, and especially setting it all on a train, but the writing style I felt was quite jarring

 

The grey haired man began to laugh again. 'First you tell me that marriage is founded on love, and then when I express my doubts as to the existence of love apart from the physical kind you try to prove its existence by the fact that marriage exists. But marriage nowadays is just an deception!'

 

It reads like I'm being lectured at by a divorced, drunken Russian philosophy student in a dodgy bar in Omsk. And it's barely a hundred pages long. I'll think I'll stick to Dostoevsky.

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Guest John Self

In that case I'm definitely a Tolstoy man, having loved Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich but never being able to finish a Dostoevsky (even the teeny Notes from Underground).

 

Adrian, I'm not sure who "you people" are but I quite enjoyed The Kreutzer Sonata. Not as much as the others though, and not as much as Turgenev's First Love which I read as part of the same Penguin Great Loves series. If this was your first Tolstoy, I'd recommend giving The Death of Ivan Ilyich a go before abandoning him completely.

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Hi John_Self, it was undoubtedly a link to a link to a link to your post on The Kreutzer Sonata that made me pick it up. I haven't yet read your full review on it, but I will definitely pick up the Turgenev, though I can't promise to actually read it.

 

The "you people" line wasn't aimed at anyone in particular, just at anyone who isn't me. "How can you like this stuff? I mean, come on! Etc, etc..."

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Tolstoy is one of those authors for whom I'm happy to read the shorter works. I remember trying War And Peace years ago - well before I was ready for it - and giving up after about six pages. The only one I've read is The Death Of Ivan Ilyich.

 

I do intend on sampling another member of the family shortly, in Tatyana Tolstoya. A descendent of some sort.

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To elaborate on my earlier post: There is a school of Russian literary criticism which holds that Tolstoy and Dostayevski had such differing writing styles and such different world views that readers end up strongly favouring one over the other.

 

I suspect that many, if not most, Russians actually like both, but this maxim appears to be widely known and has been repeated to me on a number of occasions with a wry smile. Of course, these are the same people who have claimed that ‘my car is followed by KGB,’ ‘my father has seen UFO over his datcha’ and ‘you are English Gentleman’; none of which can be proved scientifically.

 

I’ve not read Tolstoy’s longer work, but of the rest I found Hadji Murat to be the stand out. If you want to give him one last go, that may be the place.

 

Interesting to hear John praise First Love as it rather passed me by. Perhaps finding the ending predictable skewed my view? Turgenyev is not someone I’ve read extensively. I really liked Fathers and Sons, a book that seems to divide opinion, whilst I limped through First Love and Home of the Gentry. Perhaps I’ll have better luck with On the Eve and Sketches from a Hunter’s Album both of which sit patiently on my TBR shelf.

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Guest John Self
Interesting to hear John praise First Love as it rather passed me by. Perhaps finding the ending predictable skewed my view? Turgenyev is not someone I’ve read extensively.

Oh well I can go one better than that: Turgenyev is not someone I've read at all! (Apart from First Love...) I think I liked it because it was, frankly, quite 'modern' - more like Stefan Zweig's 20th century Europeanness than Tolstoy or Dostoevsky's knotty 19th centuryness. And yes I do realise that's a pathetic reason. I also didn't find the ending predictable; I thought I'd got it, and then it went and wrong-footed me! Clever, those Russians.

 

Hadji Murat I've seen praised elsewhere so I will have to get on to that.

 

Incidentally, KS, you say "I suspect many, if not most, Russians like both" - do you know how widely read these Big Russians actually are these days in their home country? My feeling is that in the UK, reading the classics is very much a minority sport (like most sports, I don't have much time for it myself); do the Russians do better?

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Turgenyev is not someone I’ve read extensively. I really liked Fathers and Sons, a book that seems to divide opinion,

 

I am on other the side of the divide, I absolutely hated Fathers & Sons, actively hated it. Once I was done with it, I ripped the book apart and threw it out. Regular BGOers who know my zero-tolerance approach to book vandalism will appreciate how much that means.

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Once I was done with it, I ripped the book apart and threw it out. Regular BGOers who know my zero-tolerance approach to book vandalism will appreciate how much that means.
Hazel, I am absolutely horrified.:yikes:

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Incidentally, KS, you say "I suspect many, if not most, Russians like both" - do you know how widely read these Big Russians actually are these days in their home country? My feeling is that in the UK, reading the classics is very much a minority sport (like most sports, I don't have much time for it myself); do the Russians do better?

I can’t really claim to be a spokesperson for the Russian education system. All I can say is that the Russians I know seem to have a good grounding in their classics. I suspect that the old Soviet system promoted certain books for political and patriotic reasons, although I believe some western authors like Dickens were also taught, as their work was seen as having an acceptable message. Whether this still holds true I’m not sure.

 

I’ve also been quite impressed by seeing large, full bookshelves in small soviet style apartments. But I’ll not comment beyond that, in case I wander into I’m Alright Jack “all cornfields and ballet in the evening" style generalisations.

 

I absolutely hated Fathers & Sons, actively hated it. Once I was done with it, I ripped the book apart and threw it out.

And yet, somewhere on earth, there will walk a child, conceived whilst in the background gently played the F&S audio book. Not my child - I’m strictly a Marvin Gaye man.

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I hijacked a rather silly email conversation I was having with a Muscovite friend of mine about stupid pet names to ask him about the issue of teaching classics in Russian schools. Here's what he said:

 

Q: Do Russian children get taught many of the classic books in school now? Tolstoy, Dostoyyevski etc

 

A: Yes, they do. But, for example, I haven't read all of Leo Tolstoy myself - only Peace & War and two or three other things, and I have never completed anything by Dostoyevsky. So as far as I understand, almost nobody reads Peace & War nowadays, and I doubt it very much that Dostoyevsky is in better position. Pushkin and Lermontov are more popular with the young

 

I think he's saying that they read the classics in school, but not by choice afterwards.

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Thanks Kenny. That would be pretty much like most British people then I guess.

Perhaps. Although if you translate:

 

"Pushkin and Lermontov are more popular with the young"

 

into a roughly equivalent British version

 

"Byron and Milton are more popular with the young"

 

then I'm not so sure...

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