The Irresistible Lure of Russian Literature

Recently, a curious thing happened in the Library’s beloved Peak Picks collection (still very much available at a curbside location near you, by the way); we featured a not unscholarly explication 19th Century Russian literature. Admittedly, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, in which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and life is by the hugely popular, iconoclastic American author George Saunders. Still…

I couldn’t be more thrilled. My own love affair with Russian literature goes back over thirty years, when a bored teen somehow managed to draw inferences about his banal suburban angst from the inky depths of Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man. From that sub-basement up to the peaks of War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov, summited alone or read aloud with my wife, the great Russian authors have remained for me a source of awe, inspiration and rewarding perplexity. Clearly I’m not alone, to judge from the wealth of excellent books inspired by the varied and enigmatic genius of these writers.

My own favorite book on this topic – and probably the funniest – is The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, in which Elif Batuman depicts the colorful ranks of besotted Russophile readers with an antic drollery worthy of Gogol himself. A great follow up to this is Sarah Wheeler’s Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia With Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age, a vivid, lighthearted travelogue in quest of the Russian soul in its natural habitat, amidst the worst depredations of Russian life. Continue reading “The Irresistible Lure of Russian Literature”

Dina Rubina, Napoleon Wagon Train – Дина Рубина – «Наполеонов обоз»

If the name Dina Rubina sounds strange to an American ear, to a Russian it’s a house-hold name. The author of over fifty books; thirteen novels, twenty-nine collections of short stories, and twelve collections of essays, not to mention eight movie scripts is Rubina’s impressive accomplishment.

The Seattle Public Library has thirty-seven of Rubina’s books, are all in Russian. The library has just received the third volume of her second trilogy, Napoleonov oboz: Angelskii rozhok.

(Napoleon Wagon Train: Angel’s Horn); the first volume goes under the title Riabinovyi kiln (Rowan Wedge), and the second is called Belye loshadi (White Horses). Napoleonov oboz is this author’s second trilogy; the first one was Russian Canary (Russkaia kanareika), also offered by our library.

Following The White Dove of Cordoba and Russian Canary, Napoleon Wagon Train is Dina Rubina’s third and most successful foray into a full-fledged romance-adventure thriller genre. Lovers of Rubina’s work need no encouragement to get lost in her new trilogy while a few hesitant readers might consider five major reasons why Napoleon Wagon Train is worth a read. In fact, it will reward its reader with much delight and amusement. Continue reading “Dina Rubina, Napoleon Wagon Train – Дина Рубина – «Наполеонов обоз»”