Love Hard, Drink Harder: 11 Things Only Russian Lit-Lovers Know
You know what it is to love with passion, to drink with abandon, to weep as you laugh, to laugh as you weep — and you understand the glory and goodness of an excellent, excellent mustache. You are a lover of Russian literature, and you are volatile. Join the club.
Maybe you found Russian literature as a theater nerd with an undying love for Chekhov. The sweet empathy he has for all his characters, good and bad, makes for such achingly pleasurable tragedy. Plus he wrote some of the best parts for women, maybe ever. Or perhaps you came to it as an angst-ridden teenager who just needed to enjoy being miserable — and no one understood how good it felt to feel bad like Dostoevsky did. Or maybe you're that Harvard guy who saw me reading Lolita and said, "Dude, those prose are like, dense," and are blessed with a heightened sense of the craft of writing. Dude.
It doesn't matter. What matters is that clearly you have a subtler sense of the world around you. That you are open to big ideas and even bigger feelings. That you'll suffer ice and cold (fictionally speaking) for a moment of pure truth. Truths such as these.
You gotta love a little foot
With Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin proved to the world that a man with a foot fetish could communicate in iambic tetrameter. And very nicely, too.
Don't trust men whose first and last names are the same (especially if that name is Humbert)
And here is another tip from Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita, even if you do trust him (don't), you cannot let your daughter sit on his lap. He'll solipsise all over her.
Think really carefully before you take a basement apartment
Just ask Fyodor, you do some grim thinking when you stay down there too long. Notes from the Underground is not about gardening and the power of positive thinking, if you know what I mean.
Talking with strangers is forbidden
Poor Mikhail Bulgakov. When he wrote The Master and Margarita, everything was forbidden. In this novel, he fantasizes about the devil wreaking havoc in communist Moscow and just ripping everything to shreds. You know a man is desperate when he thinks a visit from Satan would be a good thing. His book was published posthumously, as satire was also forbidden.
All unhappy families are different and all happy families are the same: Christian
In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy reminds all women that they'll be happiest at home popping out kids, praying, and agreeing with their husbands. Failure to domesticate will result in abandonment, disillusionment, despair, and should that fail to finally nail us, a big, swift, train-to-face collision.
Communism is not so good
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is one of those great novels that involves, whores, scars, forbidden love, and frozen mustaches. And they're all caused by communism. Which is not so good.
Just because you wrote a long book and you're Russian, it doesn't mean we should listen to you
Dostoevsky preached love of all men (and women!); Tolstoy wanted social reform. Turgenev warned against the dangers of nihilism. Ayn Rand, having defected, came away preaching selfishness (take that, communal farming!). And for young Republicans to thump her book as they decry the welfare state. Atlas is shrugging? Yeah, well so am I.
Never have an actor for a mother
In Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, a son is slowly driven insane by his cloying (yet self-involved), aging starlet of a mother. And you thought Jenny McCarthy's kid had it bad.
Sometimes a nose can be a real dick
We all have traumatizing memories of our noses betraying us in puberty. They grew three times their size in what seemed a timespan no greater than 15 minutes or they donned themselves in a constellation of glorious, shiny pimples. But hell, at least yours never walked off your face, as Mayor Kovalyov's does in Nikolai Gogol's The Nose, only to become a civil servant with a higher rank than yours.
Big Brother wasn't watching George Orwell closely enough
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is about a man in a futuristic communist state who lives under the watchful eye of a malevolent ruling party. He keeps a journal, falls in love with a rebel, and things don't work out so well for either of them. Sound familiar??? Let me ask you something George, how does plagiarism rank as a thought crime? My guess is not so good.
Poems are nice… Russia
Okay, you caught me. I'm not so familiar with poetry. But if you appreciate Russian lit and have a broader scope than I, you probably have something very witty you could say about Anna Akhmatova's works. I've got nothing. I just didn't want to write an article in which womankind is represented by Ayn Rand. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go read some poems. Russia.