Interesting Questions, Facts, and Information
Isadora Duncan. Esenin married Isadora Duncan in 1923. After realizing that Esenin could not speak English and Duncan could not speak Russian, they divorced in 1924.
3. The four brothers are Alyosha, Dmitri, and Ivan. Smerdyakov may be a half brother, but this is not certain.
Poor Folk. "Poor Folk" was the breakthrough novel for Dostoyevsky.
|I know it is getting gloomy, but one last tragedy (there could be dozens more). Which poet hung him or her self after returning to the Soviet Union from abroad in 1941?||Russian Literature Quiz
Marina Tsvetaeva. Tsvetaeva fell into dire poverty and insanity after her return to the Soviet Union from Prague. She committed suicide. Her status now is, along with Akhmatova, Mandelshtam and Pasternak, as one of the greatest 20th century Russian poets.
|Which poet died in a Soviet concentration camp for writing about Stalin- "His fat fingers, like grubs, are greasy/His cockroach moustache sneers/ His boot rims shine." ?||Russian Literature Quiz
Osip Mandelshtam. Mandelshtam is one of the more famous of the writer/victims of the Soviet GULag system, in most part due to his widow's memoirs. This poem, which he read only in private to "friends" was reported to the police and he was arrested and sent to the camps, where he died.
|Who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, but was unable to accept it for five years?||Russian Literature Quiz
Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the prize but he could not go to Sweden to accept it. At the time it was too dangerous for him to have his works published abroad and so it was not until "Arkhipelag GULag" was brought out with his permission (1973-75) did he accept the award.
|Who refused the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 for a work that was banned in the U.S.S.R. ?||Russian Literature Quiz
Boris Pasternak. Pasternak rejected the Nobel Prize after an onslaught of negative press campaigning by the Soviet government. He never lived to see his winning novel, "Doctor Zhivago", published in his home country. It was withheld from publication in Russia until after the fall of the U.S.S.R.
A train station in Astapovo. Both Tolstoy and his most famous heroine, Anna Karenina, would die at a train station. He in a comfy room, she under wheels of a train.
Dostoyevsky. They all spent time in prison, Mandelshtam and Babel never returned. Dostoyevsky was in a Siberian prison in the 19th century and wrote about it in his novel "The House Of The Dead". The rest were inmates of Soviet prisons.
Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo. The Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo was housed in the Tsarskoye Selo palace in St. Petersburg and was the home of Catherine the Great.
|Who was the important 18th century prose writer that devoted over twenty years to writing his "History Of The Russian State" ?||Russian Literature Quiz
Karamzin. Karamzin's 12 volume "History Of The Russian State" launched a new era in Russian literature by setting down the principles of Russian prose style that are maintained to this day.
Lermontov. Mikhail Urievich Lermontov was born 1814 in an aristocratic family in Moscow. By the late 1820's, he was publishing long poems heavily influenced by Lord Byron (e.g. "Prisoner of the Caucus"). Shocked by the 1837 death of poet Pushkin, Lermontov wrote a powerful elegy, portraying the court aristocracy as villains. Nicholas I promptly had him exiled to the Caucasus. There, Lermontov met Decembrists and Georgian intelligentsia, greatly broadening his perspective. Allowed to return to St. Petersburg, Lermontov soon became a de facto Pushkin successor as the poet of freedom. His poem "Demons" expands on Romantic themes with fantastic images. Finally, in 1840, Lermontov published the novel "Hero of Our Time", who hero Pechorin exemplifies the cynicism of the time. Soon after, authorities used a pretext of the poet's duel to again exile him. In 1842, Lermontov died in a duel. He is often regarded as the most influential Russian poet after Pushkin.
Krylov. Ivan Andreevich Krylov was born in a poor family in 1769. He dabbled in various writing styles until, in 1805, he started translating Le Fontaine's fables into Russian. He soon discovered he wanted to alter them and make them his own. In all of his fables, animals exhibit behavior that is ridiculous, yet can be recognized as very human. Most of the best recognized fables deal with common human faults such as greed, laziness, and vanity. His lesser know works, though, dealt with politics, mocking Alexander I and Paul I. Krylov lived to old age to die in 1844. Today, his fables are a standard reading familiar to all Russian children.
Ilf. Ilf was a pseudonym of Ilya Arnoldovich Faynzilberg, born into a poor Jewish family in Odessa in 1897. In 1920s, Ilf went to Moscow to work as a journalist; there he met Yegveny Petrov (real name Kataev), with whom he formed a unique literary partnership. Their most important novels, "Twelve Chairs" and "Golden Calf" introduce a rogue hero Ostap Bender, and ridicule the life in Soviet Union under NEP. Ostap Bender has remained one of the most easily recognizable figures of Russian literature even since, proving that the Ilf and Petrov's satire goes far deeper than the NEP. Ilf died in 1937 of tuberculosis.
|This 19th century writer laid the foundation of Russian realism. He is famous for the satirical "Dead Souls", short story "The Overcoat", and a narrative of Cossack life "Taras Bulba". Who is this famous writer?||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Gogol. Nikolay Vasilievich Gogol was born in Ukrainian Gentry family in 1809. His early work, "Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka", evoke beautiful romantic images of Ukrainian folklore intermingled with anecdotes from the present. His next major work, "Taras Bulba", continued the folkloric theme by depicting the boisterous Cossacks. In a dramatic shift, by the 1830's Gogol moved to the pessimistically satirical depiction of life around him, as in the stories "Diary of a Madman" and "Nose". The satire culminated in "The Government Inspector", making a laughing stock of the corrupt bureaucrats. In 1842, Gogol published "Dead Souls"; the novel extends previous themes to highlight conditions throughout Russia. The same year, "The Overcoat" came out. While a minor story on its surface, it's brutal realism provided a foundation for Russian writers for generations to come. In the next ten years Gogol saw his muse desert him. He became a religion fanatic, and finally died a virtual madman in 1852.
|Remaining in the 20th century we get to the ardent Communist. His early works sing the praises of Bolsheviks in the Civil War. After World War II, he became the general secretary of the Writers' Union; at the same time, he published his most famous novel, "Young Guard", describing Ukrainian guerilla fighters during the war. He finally committed suicide after the denunciation of Stalin. Who was this man? ||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Fadeev. Alexander Alexandrovich Fadeev was born in the Ural Mountains in 1901. He joined the Communist party in 1918, and participated in the Civil War. He wrote most of his fiction in 1920's and 30's; much of it deals with the Civil War and the Bolsheviks. His most famous novel, "Young Guard", was published in 1946 and describes the heroism of Ukrainian guerilla fighters during World War II. In 1946 Fadeev became the general secretary of the Writers' Union, and it is in this dubious role that he was most influential. He fervently supported Zhdanov's cultural purges, and personally attacked Pasternak and Zoshchenko. After the official denunciation of Stalin, Fadeev started drinking heavily and finally committed suicide in 1956.
|Now we get back to early 20th century. This poet came from a simple peasant background. His most recognizable poems describe Russian nature and village life. Perhaps most widely read is his "Letter to Mother". Having embraced the Russian Revolution wholeheartedly, he later became disillusioned with it. That, together with alcoholism and personal failures led to his suicide in 1925. Who was this "prodigal son" of Russian poetry?||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Esenin. Sergei Alexandrovich Esenin was born in 1895 into a peasant family of Old Believers. As a teenager he moved to Moscow and then Petrograd. His early poems describe nature romantically and melancholically. He pined for the Russia of old, exemplified in his 1916 "Commemoration of the Dead". Esenin saw the 1917 Revolution as the liberation of all peasants and the oppressed; he embraced it without reservation. His later work, "The Stern October Has Deceived Me", shows the depth of his later disillusionment. By early 1920s, Esenin was heavily into drinking and debauchery. 1924 "Moscow of the Taverns" reveals both the vulgarity and the anguish within the poet. In that period, when Esenin returns to the theme of Russian nature, it is increasingly with a sense of hopelessness, as in "Letters to my Mother" in 1925. A battle with depression led to the poet's suicide at a Leningrad Hotel d'Angleterre in 1928 at the age of 37 (same age as Pushkin). Throughout his life, Esenin had been married to most remarkable women, among them American dancer Isadora Duncan and Lev Tolstoy's granddaughter Sofia. Esenin's duality of romantically sentimental approach to nature coupled with wild debauchery makes him symbolic for all Russia.
|Going back even further, we find this 19th century novelist who delved deep into people's psychological reasons for doing right and wrong. His works include "Brothers Karamazov", "The Idiot", and "The Possessed". Who is he?||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Dostoevsky. Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born on November 11, 1821 to a rather simple family. His first novella, "Poor Folk" examines poverty from a psychological rather than purely material perspective; it quickly brought him notoriety within St. Petersburg literary circles. Strong disapproval of serfdom led Dostoevsky to join a revolutionary circle; he was arrested, and subjected to a mock execution. He was consequently sentenced to hard labor in Siberia and army conscription. His novel "House of the Dead" speaks to the harrowing experience. Getting back to St. Petersburg, he was now not only weary of governmental repression, but also disdainful of what he saw as the condescension of revolutionary intelligentsia. Some of Martin Luther King Jr's writings bear a striking resemblance to Dostoevsky's notes of this period. In 1866, he published "Crime and Punishment", a striking study of good and evil. In the next 15 years he published "Idiot", "The Possessed", "Brothers Karamazov", and many other works. Dostoevsky died in 1881 of hemorrhage.
|Moving back in time to the late 19th century, we find this writer and playwright. He perfected the form of short story, injecting it with humor and realism. His most recognizable works are his plays, such as "Seagull", "Three Sisters", and "Dyadya Vanya". Who is this remarkable playwright? ||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Chekhov. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (not to be confused with the Star Trek Checkhov) was born in 1860 to a small shop keeper father. In 1884 he obtained a medical degree, enabling him to support his now bankrupt family. All the while, he wrote short comic stories to rival future O. Henry's ones; "lowbrow" magazines gladly published them. Toward the late 1880's, Checkhov began exploring deeper darker themes (e.g. "Dreary Story"). While politically uncommitted, he was vocal in support of Dreyfus. In 1890's, Checkhov started publishing plays, including a masterful depiction of the aimlessness of manor house aristocracy "Uncle Vanya". His prose from that period also includes "Peasants", showing rural life in all its brutality. In 1897, tuberculosis forced Chekhov to sell his house and move to Crimea. There, he continued on the theme of landowner culture in decline in works such as "Three Sisters" and "Cherry Orchard". While the best Russian directors staged his plays, the author complained that they failed to see the comedy of his works. Checkhov died in 1904. Now, a century later, his plays continue to be the favorites of repertory theaters throughout the world.
|This poet of the second half of 20th century spent the latter part of his life in the United States, and was even the poet laureate of the United States in 1991-92. Despite writing about the heaviest subjects of life, death, and the meaning of life, he believed strongly in the universal appeal of poetry. His poetry collections include "A Part of Speech", "History of the Twentieth Century", and "To Urania". Who is this poet?||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Brodsky. Joseph Brodsky was born in a Jewish family in Leningrad in 1940. A high school dropout, he started writing poetry while working odd jobs. His decidedly independent poems led to his conviction of "social parasitism" in 1964, with a sentence of five years hard labor. The sentence was commuted following international pressure, and Brodsky was finally urged to immigrate to US in 1972. In the US, his works quickly found critical recognition; he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. As Poet Laureate, Brodsky acted on his belief that any person, no matter what their level of education, can appreciate poetry. One of his projects included putting free poetry collections in hotel rooms around the country. Brosky died in 1996 of a heart attack.
|This 20th Century poet started off mainly writing about love; for a while, she was a member of the Acmeist group. Her poem collections from that period include "Evening" and "Rosary". She later moved on to other subject matter, including patriotism and religion. Her most dramatic poems include "Requiem" and "Poem Without A Hero". Who is she?||Alphabetical Russian Literature: A - L
Akhmatova. Akhmatova was born as Anna Andreevna Gorenko in 1889. In 1910, she married Gumilev, the founder of the Acmeist group. Denounced as "bourgeois", she was pushed into virtual obscurity from the early 1920's forward. During this period, she composed arguably one of the most heart wrenching poems of all time, "Requiem" - her reaction to the arrest of her son in 1937. The coming of World Ward II brought a need for strong figures, and Akhmatova was allowed to address the women of Leningrad on the radio, and even publish a volume of war-related poems. The end of the war, however, brought an end to her brief recognition, and she was again labeled a "harlot-nun" and expelled from the "Union of Soviet Writers". At that time she started work on her deepest and most expansive work, "Poem Without A Hero". With Stalin's death, she was slowly rehabilitated, and allowed to travel abroad to receive honors in Italy and England. Akhmatova died in 1966, when hundreds of people turned out for her memorial at the Nikolsky cathedral in Leningrad.
5. In the 20th century, there were five Russian Nobel laureates: Ivan Bunin (1933), Boris Pasternak (1958-declined), Mikhail Sholokhov (1965), Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1970), and Joseph Brodsky (1987).
|Which Soviet leader gave permission for Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" to be published in order to aid in his own denunciation of Stalin?||Introduction to Russian Literature
Nikita Khrushchev. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" details the inhumane conditions of the Soviet prison camp system during Stalin's reign.
Nobel Prize. The Pulitzer is awarded to U.S. citizens, the Hugo is an award for science fiction writing, and the Russian Booker was not established until 1991.
Anna Karenina. "The Brothers Karamazov" is a work by Dostoyevsky. The others were written by Tolstoy, but the opening line comes from "Anna Karenina," the epigraph of which is "Vengeance is mine, I will repay."
With an ax. Raskolnikov murders both the old pawnbroker and her sister, Lizaveta, with an ax.
Boris Pasternak. Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a Nobel Prize winning poet and writer. This novel established him as a successful writer. In Russia however, he remains best known for his poetry.
|Frequently called one of the greatest novels of the 20th century: "The Master and Margarita". To what wordsmith do we owe this book?||Know your Russian literature
Mikhail Bulgakov. Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) was a novelist and playwright. He had to rewrite the novel, after he burned the draft manuscript. Strange but excellent novel!
Ivan Turgenev. Turgenev (1818-1883) has also written short stories and plays. The Russian title literally means "Fathers and Children". Impressive book!
Anton Chekhov. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was a writer of short stories and plays, but he practiced as a doctor throughout most of his writing career.
Fyodor Dostoevsky. He is also the writer of the impressive "Crime and Punishment".