Yale Glee Club Alumni Chorus

Moscow Tour

April 2003

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Russian Literature: the 19th Century.

The Golden Age of the national literature, when Russian literature obtained the tradition, history and interesting language: "the century of classics."

Griboedov, Alexander Sergeevich, 1795-1829
The hope of Russian diplomacy, a brilliantly educated person, the author of the famous play Gore ot Uma (The sorrow by the brains). He could have been the country's intellectual leader, but he was killed during a riot, when Russian Embassy was attacked in Persia (Iran). His only play is performed in repertoires of most Russian dramatic theatres. Gore ot Uma about a character who is mulling over his own existence and the way he can improve himself and society. Thus the hero is a rich noble and the action takes place in the 19th century the story of the individual who can't follow the beaten way of life is still interesting for modern people.

Recommended Books by Griboedov and about Griboedov:

Gore ot Uma
Murder of Griboedov: New Materials

Pushkin, Alexander Sergeevich, 1799-1837
There is a Russian proverb "Pushkin means all for us." He addressed poems not only to emperors and noblemen, but also to the average man (on topics of everyday life). Some of his works make use of new poetic forms, and have been set to music in the form of songs and operas. He also wrote brilliant lyrics, interesting stories, and even historical research on Pugachev.

Recommended Books by Pushkin:

Pushkin: A Biography
The Queen of Spades and Other Stories...
Alexander Pushkin: Selected Novels
Pushkin: The Bronze Horseman
Eugene Onegin (Penguin Classics)
One of the most famous and cited Pushkin's works.
Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse...
A brilliant translation by Vladimir Nabokov - highly recommended!
The Bridegroom: With "Count Nulin" and...
The History of Pugachev

Lermontov, Mikhail Ureyvich, 1814-1841
Lermontov explored the Russian soul: love, pain, suffering, existence. His lyrics and his novels are devoted to characters who can feel much and act as they like, who accept the pain and responsibility for their actions.

Recommended Books by Lermontov:

A Hero of Our Time (Penguin Classics)
Perhaps, the most important work of Lermontov, a deep study into the human nature...
Lermontov: Demon
Mikhail Lermontov: Major Poetical Works

Gogol, Nikolai Vasilevich, 1809-1852
My favorite! Although considered part of the classical canon of Russian literature, Gogol broke with stylistic traditions. He used unusual language, experimental typography, and a magical mix of strange and lost Russian and Ukrainian words. Furthermore, he declined to follow the realism so popular in nineteenth century, but proclaimed his own vision of indeterminate, mystical life. His main novel, Dead Souls, his autobiographical stories, his funny and simple play (The government inspector), his unique tales add a surreal and zany element to Russian literature.

Recommended Books by Gogol:

Dead Souls (Penguin Classics)
A beautifully written prose and an ironic portrait of 19th century Russian province.
Diary of Madman and Other Stories...
The typography goes crazy as the main character looses it.
The Government Inspector (Methuen Modern)
The Complete Tales of Nikolay Gogol
"The Overcoat" and Other Stories...

Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich, 1818-1883
Turgenev was a realist and describes a determined life. Both Rudin and Fathers and Sons portray typical ideological conflicts of the time. If you want to get familiar with life of common people you better read Sketches from a Hunter's Album, First Love, or The diary of a Superfluous Man. Several composers have set Turgenev's writing to music, and many Russians can recite his words.

Recommended Books by Turgenev:

Fathers and Sons (Oxford)
Sketches from a Hunter's Album
"Rudin" and "On the Eve" (Oxford)
First Love and the Diary of a...

Goncharov, Ivan Andreevich, 1812-1891
Goncharov was interested in the concept of the typical Russian as "lazy, different, other...," and wrote his Oblomov trying to find and define this specific difference. This is a great psychological survey of Russians and their types, but also it is very interesting saga about two friends, their friendship and their life going on. If you like his style, continue with Goncharov's other novels: Obyknovennaya istoria (can be translated like A Common Story or Same Old Story), and Obryv.

Recommended Books by Goncharov:

Same Old Story
A Common Story: A Novel: A Novel...

Ostrovsky, Alexander Nikolaevich, 1823-1886
A famous playwright, responsible for the often-programmed Groza (The Storm) and Les (Forest). Most of the plays are about money, its distracting power and influence over human feelings. The historical context of the 19th century, when ambitious Russian businessmen became the leading class, makes these eternal themes quite interesting.

Recommended Books by Ostrovsky:

A Family Affair (Absolute Classics...
The Forest: The Forest
Ostrovsky: "The Storm" (Russian Language...
Plays by Alexander Ostrovsky

Nekrasov, Nikolai Alekseevich, 1821-1877
Nekrasov was concerned about the social problems and unfair state policy.His lyrics and most well known poem Komu na Rusi zit horosjo (Who can be happy and free in Russia) are more manifestos than works of literature. For this reliable social position, he attained status as an important national writer.

Recommended Books by Nekrasov:

Who Can Be Happy and Free in Russia

Dostoevsky, Fedor Mikhailovich, 1821-1881
Dostoevsky - you can either like his novels, his philosophy and his religious feeling, or dislike his style, language and attitude to people. He teaches that you will get feedback for any action your commit, so you have to be responsible every minute of your life. The stories are full of emotional extremes, and have served as the models for many Romantic Russian operas.

Recommended Books by Dostoyevsky:

Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics)
The Idiot (Wordsworth Classics)
The Brothers Karamazov
Devils (Oxford World's Classics)
"The Eternal Husband" and Other Stories
Notes from Underground (Norton Critical...
The Gambler
An online book -- you can download it.
Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky
Poor People

Leskov, Nikolai Semenovich, 1831-1895
This talented journalist hoped that Russia would find its own way and that it shouldn't copy western models. He also believed in individuals who would give up their own happiness for the motherland.

Recommended Books by Leskov:

On the Edge of the World
The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories
Stories and Tales

Tolstoy, Lev Nikolaevich, 1828-1910
The count Tolstoy proposed his own philosophy to Russian society and it was quite popular in Russia. War and Peace is one of the best known books of the nineteenth century. Tolstoy brilliantly describes context, and when you are reading his books you have a rich picture of that time. The plots of his novels are very dynamic.

Recommended Books by Tolstoy:

Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics)
A beautiful novel about love and relationship.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories
War and Peace (Wordsworth Classics)
A great influental literature and historical work with an exciting plot, where Tolstoy explicitly expresses his philosophy.
Childhood / Boyhood / Youth (Wordsworth...

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904
A doctor, who explored both Russia (he traveled even to Sakhalin island) and the Russian mind. His brilliant stories and plays are all focused on everyday life, but provide surprising insights into character's motivations. A fascinating adaptation of one of his most lauded stories is available for rental (1990s film): Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street.

Recommended Books by Chekhov:

Plays: Ivanov / The Seagull / Uncle Vanya
The Lady with the Little Dog and Other...
" Peasants" and Other Stories
The Three Sisters (Dover Thrift Editions)
Platonov (Faber Plays)
"The Steppe" and Other Stories (Oxford...
" Ward Number Six" and Other Stories...

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