May 05, 2009

Must See Films, Must Read Fiction

In our 100th issue, we have a long feature, "100 Things Everyone Should Know About Russia," with loads of factoids, notes, lists and essays. We figured our list of the "must read" fiction and "must see" movies would be a bit contentious (and certainly foreshortened). So we are posting the lists here for reader comment and supplementation...

10 Must Read Novels

Everyone knows Lev Tolstoy's War and Peace and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. But here are ten lesser-known works of Russian fiction that are essential (not listed in any order of precedence).

  • A Hero for Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov
  • Yevgeny Onegin, Alexander Pushkin
  • The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Zone, Sergei Dovlatov
  • Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
  • House on the Embankment, Yuri Trifonov
  • The Twelve Chairs, Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn[1]
  • Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov[2]
  • Moscow to the End of the Line, Venedikt Erofeyev

10 Essential Short Stories

  • Heart of a Dog, Mikhail Bulgakov[1]
  • Hadji Murat, Lev Tolstoy[1]
  • The Overcoat, Nikolai Gogol
  • Envy, Yuri Olesha[1]
  • Gooseberries, Anton Chekhov
  • The Elagin Affair, Ivan Bunin
  • The Nose, Nikolai Gogol
  • Life with an Idiot, Viktor Erofeyev
  • Sonechka, Lyudmila Ulitskaya
  • The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea, Nikolai Leskov

[1] Technically, these are novellas, or povesti, but we classified them as we thought of them.
[2] Yes, this was written in English, but we felt it essential to have a Nabokov contribution on the list.

20 Must See Films

There are hundreds of excellent Russian films that are invaluable for understanding Russia, for picking up on important cultural knowledge. Every film lover will have their own list. These are 20 that we feel every Russophile should see. The choice is limited to films that are available with English language subtitles.

  • Aelita, by Iakov Protazanov (1924)
  • Battleship Potemkin, by Sergei Eisenstein (1925)
  • The Circus, by Grigory Alexandrov (1936)
  • The Fall of Berlin, by Mikhail Chiaureli (1949)
  • The Cranes are Flying, by Mikhail Kalatozov (1957)
  • Andrei Rublyov, by Andrei Tarkovsky (1966)
  • Diamond Arm, by Leonid Gaidai (1968)
  • White Sun of the Desert, by Vladimir Motyl (1970)
  • Belorussky Train Station, by Andrei Smirnov (1970)
  • Gentlemen of Fortune, by Alexander Sery (1972)
  • 17 Moments of Spring, by Tatyana Lyuznova (1973)
  • Irony of Fate, by Eldar Ryazanov (1975)
  • Slave of Love, by Nikita Mikhalkov (1976)
  • Mimino, by Georgi Daneliya (1977)
  • The Assent, by Larissa Shepitko (1977)
  • An Ordinary Miracle, by Mark Zakharov (1978)
  • >Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, by Vladimir Menshov (1980)
  • Repentance, by Tengiz Abuladze (1984)
  • Brother, film by Alexei Balabanov (1997)
  • Gloss, Andrei Konchalovsky (2007)
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A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

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White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
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The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.

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