Tag Archives: Russian Classics

The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop

The Anna Karenina Fix Title: The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature
Author: Viv Groskop
Publisher: Fig Tree, Penguin UK
ISBN: 978-0241308639
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction, Memoirs
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I am a sucker for Russian Literature. I have read Anna Karenina twice and the Brothers Karamazov about two and a half times (I dropped it half-way the third time, because it was getting too much for once to handle) and not to forget Master and Margarita about twice as well. There are many more Russian works of great significance and most of it is classical or semi-modern. What I also love is books about books and “The Anna Karenina Fix” merges these elements beautifully. It is a book about books but Russian Literature and how it can save your life (well in more ways than one) and also how one can actually learn from it.

“The Anna Karenina Fix” by Viv Groskop is a handy guide to life as learned from the works of Russian Literature. Be it Chekov or Turgenev or Akhmatova, every book or author chosen by Groskop in this book has had a role to play in her life – in making her live it day after day, month after month and year after year. It is a warm and fuzzy (well, not so fuzzy) book about humans, their frailties, passions, desires and weaknesses when it comes to that.

The book charts the author’s relationship with everything Russian – language, art, culture and how she weaves her memories with the classics is something any reader who loves books will enjoy. At the same time, Groskop introduces the Russian classics to you if you hadn’t heard of them and does a very good job of that. Also, even though there are spoilers, but that will not take away from the experience of reading these Russian books if you want to at some point.

“The Anna Karenina Fix” is a solid book about living life and how to actually go about it through some Russian books. It is sublime, lucid and provides a great reading list as well. She also could have gotten preachy about the life lessons, however that doesn’t happen at all. If anything, it is all about what you can take away personally from these books and apply to your life (if you want to, that is).

Academic research material is not heavy-handedly used in the book. If anything, the language is extremely simple, just as it should be. “The Anna Karenina Fix” is the kind of book that creeps up on you unexpectedly and stays long after. It is also the kind of book that will make you read other books, which is a double-win if you ask me. So, go, read this book!

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Book Review: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read them by Elif Batuman

The Possessed by Elif Batuman Title: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Author: Elif Batuman
Publisher: Granta Books, Penguin
ISBN: 9781847083142
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is something about Russian classics which has always been quite of a challenge for me to read. It is a different thing that I have grown to love them over time, however getting acquainted with them was a bit of a challenge. The dreariness of plots, the numerous characters in almost every big Russian novel and I guess that is why I did not learn to appreciate it at the beginning. At the same time, there are other Russian books which are not as well-known or authors who have not got their due, however that I will pick up sometime later and devour them, page by page. For now, I must talk about “The Possessed” by Elif Batuman.

“The Possessed” is unlike any other book I have read. Going by the cover, I honestly thought that it would be a serious book on Russian classics and the people who have read them, however I was in for a surprise. “The Possessed” is a funny book. It is not direct humour; however there are moments of extreme laughter, and joy that come across quite unexpectedly. It is sort of a love affair of Batuman with Russian classics and how along the way she interacted with people who loved those classics as well. At the same time, there are undertones of politics (but of course) and personal opinions to people and how sometimes art imitates life and vice-versa.

There are times I felt the book to be more of a personal memoir and less of a book on Russian literature, however that opinion changed as I went further into the book and turned the pages. The references that are most close to me in the book were the ones made to Tolstoy (well there is a whole chapter on him and with good reason) and Pushkin (I guess almost every Indian child born in the 80’s grew up on his fairy tales). The writing tends to get a little academic to begin with, more so with the chapter on Babel; however it eases into the book and converts to being simple as the chapters run along.

The book alternates between Batuman’s perception and the incidents that took place with her during the course of meeting people and knowing more about the Russian masters. “The Possessed” is a good start to familiarize yourself with the Russian classics in bits and pieces if you do not know anything about them. The other part which I loved the most in the book was the summer the author spent in Samarkand – it is a pretty intriguing read. There is a lot to learn about cultures in the book and the context in which they can be sensed or used. The book was an eye-opener for me to learn more about my favourite Russian authors and in context to human nature more so. I would only recommend this read if the long gone and not-read Russian Classics interest you. The book is then almost written for you.

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