Russian Reading Update: Andreyev in America

bookshelf_bannerIt feels a bit odd to be continuing with my Russian Reading when on holiday in America (so much of my American reading has been informed by the Cold War).  I’ve decided not to let prejudice get in the way of my Russian Project though, and it’s paid off because the wonderful Leonid Andreyev was hugely influenced by none other than Edgar Allen Poe!

It feels like one of those pairings that has been written out of history, but I’ve been spending quite some time during the last few months marvelling at similarities between Southern and American Gothic novels and the literature produced in Russia during the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century.  It is true that both literary cultures are imbued with

  • a sense of isolation compounded by the vastness of an (untamed) country
  • a strong oral folk tradition
  • an important religious identity, intertwined with lots of superstitious beliefs, possibly not shared by all of the more educated members of society
  • a guilty and complex relationship to slavery (which ended in 1861 in Russia and 1864 in America)
  • a sense of being on the outside of, and possibly inferior to, other more industrialised cultures (Western Europe etc).

Both cultures also produced the most fantastic fiction and Andreyev is now officially one of my top Russian Reads.  His short stories are hypnotic, demented and compulsive, dealing with sexuality, war and madness in a way which is reminscent of American and Russian classics, but is also wonderfully fresh and exciting.  I have written in more detail about which of his stories I love most on my Andreyev page and please, if you know of any new translations pass on the word.  He is a writer who is more than due for re-discovery.

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9 Responses to Russian Reading Update: Andreyev in America

  1. bookarino says:

    Interesting parallels! I’ve read a few novels that could be classed as Southern Gothic, but Russian lit is rather unfamiliar ground for me. Who or what would you recommend from the turn of the 20th century? (Aside from Andreyev who I shall definitely look up!)

    • For the late 1880s I’d definitely recommend Leskov’s short stories and Saltykov-Shchedrin’s ‘The Golovlyov Family’, both of which I’ve raved about on my Russian Literature pages. As for later on in the 20th century – I’ll keep you posted. Very excited about what it will bring!

      • bookarino says:

        Thanks! I think someone has previously also recommended Leskov to me, because the name sounds rather familiar, but Saltykov-Shchedrin is one that I haven’t heard before. Looking forward to your 20th century post!

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Fascinating stuff! And I find I have an Andreyev book on my Russian shelves which is even more exciting!

  3. What an interesting observation Shoshi (American Gothic/Russian writing)

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