Thank you for the radishes: Edmund Wilson in dialogue with Helen Muchnic
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
  In 1942, the literary critic and Princeton graduate, Edmund Wilson, then forty-seven, made friends with a scholar of Russian literature slightly younger than himself, Helen Muchnic. Born in Baku in 1902, Helen  emigrated to the US as a child; after an intensely illustrious academic career, she was teaching at the elite Massachusetts women's college, Smith. Wilson did not usually like academics, but he took a shine to Muchnic. They started exchanging letters - about Gogol, Pushkin, Turgenev, everything and anything to do with Russian literature - as they would continue to do for t ..read more
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Friedrich Schiller's "Dmitry": The Executed Elephant
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
A long time ago on a famous writer's estate far, far away, I opened two attractive Russian hardback books I had just bought in Moscow. One was The Aviator by Evgenii Vodolazkin, a lyrical, elegiac, richly evocative and thoroughly enjoyable novel which would inspire me to write several articles and reviews about its author in the years to come. The other was Yuri Buida's The Fifth Kingdom, which could hardly have been more different - although also a historical novel of sorts, it was told by multiple narrators, set in the early seventeenth century, and bulging at the seams with homunculi ..read more
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Visiting Vilnius: Pushkin and the Crack'd Mirror
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
On the edge of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a lovely forest park called Markučiai. It smells excitingly of moss and pine needles: as you wander across its intricate, sloping paths, you discover fishing lakes, a tiny chapel surrounded by a handful of graves, and a museum dedicated to Aleksandr Pushkin. This last might well give the visitor pause. Was Pushkin ever in Vilnius? No, although his celebrated great-grandfather was (see more below). Then why a museum in his name? I went inside to find out. At first sight, the museum appeared to be closed, and the information boards arranged ..read more
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A brave statement from author Anna Starobinets
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
 As a translator of Russian literature, I'm used to silence. My work is rarely published, my few readers rarely cite my words, and if they do, they might not credit me: if I've done my job right, they forget I exist.  But now, for the first time, I have reason to be silent; to be ashamed, even afraid of admitting what I do. Because of the tragically misguided decision of the current Russian government to invade Ukraine, and the war crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's orders even as I write this, 'Russian' is becoming a pariah word. Now is not the time to talk about Russian literatur ..read more
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Punishing the Hunter - Not the Reader
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
Yulia Yakovleva is one of the most entertaining and deft contemporary writers working in Russian today: she hops with agility between YA literature (we loved her The Raven's Children, which was longlisted for the 2020 Read Russia Prize) and adult detective thrillers like Punishment of a Hunter (Pushkin Vertigo, 2021) - although both titles we've so far have been set in the early Soviet period. There's plenty of political idealism, casual animosity, frustration, and filth to enjoy - I particularly appreciated the details in Punishment of a Hunter about the sheer difficulty of ..read more
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White Magic - timely tales for Halloween
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
My readers know I hate to blow my own fog-horn. I prefer to hide behind my human avatar everywhere except in the pages of this blog and my safe places in a few famous libraries. But since it's Halloween once again, time of creepy pumpkins, bewigged vampires and prancing werewolves, I should share with you my own contribution to the annual Danse Macabre: a baker's dozen of scary stories, White Magic: Russian Emigré Tales of Mystery and Terror, most - if not all - translated into English for the first time.   You'll find two vampires (maybe three?), several ghosts, Edgar Allan Poe in ..read more
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New kids on the bloc: the rise of Novichok fiction
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
It's intriguing to note the rise of the Novichok novel, especially given that the first high-profile Novichok poisoning case - the attempted murder of ex-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the quiet English cathedral town of Salisbury in March 2018, by two clandestine Russian operatives - skirted so close to fiction. There was the tragically inept administration of the poison, which ultimately affected two innocent bystanders - of whom one died - and a serving police officer. There followed the tragicomic denials on prime-time Russian TV made by the two operatives, who express ..read more
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Kissing Tolstoy, or Dammit, Dostoyevsky!
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
Regular readers will appreciate that although my posts are often pretty highbrow, I'm most interested in how what's currently perceived as "high culture" gets recycled by so-called "low culture". Hence I've blogged about Poldark and the Brothers Karamazov; why James Norton doesn't speak Russian; and even about how the BBC uses Great Russian Novels to finger TV villains. There is, however, endless fun in exploring how one of the lowest genres of all - so low you need a bathysphere for access, or at least a bath with lots of scented bubbles and pink prosecco - interacts ..read more
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The Fact That... (Or, Dinosaurs, Newburyport)
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
The fact that it isn't possible to read anything these days without finding a reference to a major Russian writer, the fact that I was reading Ducks, Newburyport the other day and I really thought I was safe for once with all those cinnamon rolls and Obamacare but then the narrator segued into talking about Solzhenitsyn, the fact that she was remembering her beloved mother and then bam! Solzhenitsyn just pops up out of nowhere like this: [...] Mommy smoking, the fact that she used to lie on a towel on the beach and read a book while we swam, book, sunglasses, and I thought she ..read more
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Nothing but spiders: Bobok in the bathhouse
Russian Dinosaur
by Russian Dinosaur
7M ago
Russian culture has no shortage of spooks – and I don’t mean Stirlitz. It’s that time of year when we creep into the cobwebby bathhouse with Pushkin’s Tatyana, organize a BYOB barbecue for the local skeletons (Pushkin again – Belkin Tales), or daringly defy vampires (Tolstoy – not the cranky one, but Aleksei Konstantinovich). If you really want to make music with the children of the night, you can hardly do better than reading Dostoevsky: FMD is reliably Gothic and ghastly, if not always ghostly. Never forget that there are actual ghosts in Crime and Punishment: Svidrigailov, not a man to sti ..read more
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