Book Club: Reading the Russian Revolution

book club

2017 marks the centenary of Russia’s February and October Revolutions – and that means I’m going to spend this year reading classic Russian novels. I planned to do something to commemorate the topic of my undergraduate thesis and Penguin’s “Reading the Revolution” post is just the kind of challenge I was looking for. Now if I could just get my hands on those redesigned covers!

The Penguin Challenge:

January – March War & Peace
April – May Anna Karenina
June – July Crime & Punishment
August – September  (empty)
October – November Doctor Zhivago
November – December The Master & Margarita

Penguin lists Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate as one of its six greatest novels, but doesn’t include it in the “challenge”.

My Challenge: 

February – May  War & Peace*
June – August  Doctor Zhivago
September – October  The Master & Margarita
November – December  Anna Karenina

I’m leaving out the only Russian author I’ve ever read – Fyodor Dostevesky off this list. Thanks to a very ambitions high school teacher, by graduation I read both Crime & Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov. I’ve also read Notes From the Underground and a selection of short stories. Earlier this year I (finally) delved into Pushkin with The Queen of Spades and Other Stories. I plan on adding Eugene Onegin to that mix at some point. 

Thanks to said teacher I became really interested in Russian history. My undergraduate career focused on Russian and Eastern European history. Out of about 26 students, only 4 were European focused and I was the only REE student (the others were England, France and Ireland). While I’ve read excerpts and I know the general gist of these stories, I’ve never sat down and read one. At 1,100+ (depending on the publication) War and Peace has always been a daunting task. Last year a close friend finally read it and I think it took her a good 9 months to finish it. I’m hoping to really get into it starting the 1st of February and sticking with it for the next 4 months. 

As for the others – Doctor Zhivago, The Master & Margarita and Anna Karenina – I’m hoping to get those read this year as well. Look for more book club posts via the book club page, and posts detailing my experience with the authors, the history and of course the book! Feel free to join me and let me know your progress with any of the Russian literary giants! 

*I’m starting War and Peace now, at 1,300 pages I’m really hoping to read this by May! 


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