Russian Reading Update: How has it taken me so long to learn of Leskov?

bookshelf_banner Continuing with my ongoing Russian reading project, I’ve been fortunate enough to discover Leskov, a writer I’d never even heard of before this year.  He’s become a part of my plan to read the Russian classics in chronological order.  Yes, I’ve read the most famous of them individually as great novels in their own right, but this project is about finding the connections between them and seeing how they fit into my rather superficial understanding of Russian history.

Leskov wrote novellas and short stories.  His longest work is ‘The Enchanted Wanderer’ and follows the picaresque travels of an unrepentant adventurer (adventure number 1, killing a monk, adventure number two, nearly being killed himself by runaway horses, adventure number 3, battling his mistress’s pet cat and so on).  There’s a lot of suffering in all of the stories, including shocking details of life in a serf theatre on a large estate in ‘The Toupee Master’ .  Leskov also has an eye for joy though, and for what makes life worth living, even for those on the very fringes of a vicious society.  Basically, I really enjoyed reading his work; for more details, go to the Russian Reading page where I explain how Leskov is a superb writer and, as far as I’m concerned, an unacknowledged Russian Harper Lee.

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4 Responses to Russian Reading Update: How has it taken me so long to learn of Leskov?

  1. I found a lovely old edition of ‘The Enchanted Wanderer’ a few weeks ago, so I’m delighted to know that you thought so well of Leskov.

    • He feels like such a new voice in my Russian reading so far! I hope you enjoy the story; I tried a translation by Ian Dreiblatt first which really didn’t work for me but then I encountered Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s wonderful edition of ‘The Enchanted Wanderer & Other Stories’ and realised what I’d been missing.

  2. Ste J says:

    I saw Leskov’s complete stories in Waterstones and have been undecided but next time I go I will pick it up now. You’ve set yourself one heck of an epic challenge with the Russian authors, you’re in for a treat with Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment is up there with War and Peace and it’s hard to pick a winner in my opinion.

  3. If this is the collected stories trans by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky I can’t recommend it highly enough. I wax lyrical about it on my Leskov page
    https://shoshibookblog.wordpress.com/russian-literature/leskov-1831-1895/
    When it comes to the Russian giants, I spent pretty much the whole of February and March reading Dostoyevsky. He is incredible, but what I’m loving about this project is learning how many other authors match D&T, but are just less well known outside of Russia. Leskov for example, or Goncharov, or Satykov-Shchedrin…

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