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I go on with reading and listening Anna Karenina in English. Everything written below should be preceded with the slang word IMHO – (In My Humble Opinion).

I read books and like certain of them, but I know my impression of even a good book would usually change and erode with time. It did not happen, however, with some books, as it does not happen with Tolstoy or Balzac. And I use it like my “internal definition” for a great author. Tolstoy is a great writer + he is good for language learning. Turgenev is good for language learning, IMHO, period.

I once asked myself what Russian authors after Tolstoy’s death, actually the Soviet authors, have made that kind of non-eroding impression on me. I named myself two writers. Only one features a simple and modern Russian. His name is Vasily Grossman and he is famous for “Life and Fate” (Жизнь и Судьба). Here is the link: Vasily Grossman - Wikipedia.

I could not have said that War and Peace is better then “Life and Fate”. The two novels are of the similar genre, by the way. A big difference is that Tolstoy had been rich and could publish novel after novel over his long live. Grossman was poor, had no any chance to publish his epic masterpiece and died relatively early in terrible pain. He seemed to die from the disease described by Tolstoy in “Death of Ivan Ilich”( It is my favorite story of Tolstoy. There seem to be no sign of the false or pretentious feelings in it).

I started to look for e-text or an audio-book of “Life and Fate” in Russian, to may be recommend them to you, Steve, or any other serious Russian learner. And there seem to be nothing, paid or free. What injustice, if you compare to availability of Tolstoy.

I once asked my friend, a Russian author, what he thinks of a level of Grossman. It occurred that he had thought like me (I could not predict it). Then I asked why then, Grossman is not ranked in Russia as he seems to deserve. This his answer I had already expected: “Partly because he was a Jew.”


I recently read “A Writer at War” by Vasily Grossman, edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova. Very interesting. I will continue working on my Russian and when I have more vocabulary I will read Life and Fate in the original. On the other hand if you find an e-book I will do it on LingQ. By the way we are putting out your discussions with Max on our RussianLingQ podcasts.


I am afraid my guess was true: “Life and Fate” does not exist in the form of an audio-book or e-text in Russian. At least I have found none. I consoled myself with reading through my first discussion with Max on RussianLingQ.

I appreciate the work of a transcriber at you paying for it and many other transcriptions.

You know, I read again your phrase “I tire of Tolstoi at times, as people are forever sighing, crying, changing their minds, worrying, finding religion”, and I think you are right. At least with regard to those heroes whom Tolstoy seemed to like himself, as Levin, as Pier Bezukhov.

However, Tolstoy, I think, was truly himself of that folks. One can see it from his diary. And from the way he had died one might suspect he eventually got mad along this way. When you mentioned “false and pretentious feelings”, did you mean Tolstoy as well?

No Ilya, I mean that Tolstoy, like many 19th century writers described the feelings of people, many of whom had nothing much to do besides think about themselves, the aristocracy. There is a certain self-obsession, even with people like Levin, not to mention Anna Karenina. I do enjoy Tolstoy, his observations and his language. At times I tire of it and need a break.

Right now I am listening to and reading ( in LingQ) Приданница by Островски . I have watched and really enoyed жестокий романс, the movie based on the play.

I meant бесприданница

We were obliged to read бесприданница at school, at the same age (about 15) we were obliged to read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I remember Островски did not impress me as much as did Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Of Dostoevsky it was “Crime and Panishment”. I remember myself having, by coincidence, a high temperature flue while reading it, and clearly seeing Raskolnikov listening to those footsteps on the staircase, after killing the old woman and her sister. My heart was beating with those footsteps.

Back to school after getting better with my fewer, overflowed with Dostoevsky, I was amazed to find out that apparently nobody else from my class had finished the obliged book, nobody did really like it. Later I read that Hemingway had envied those who were reading “The Crime and Punishment” for the first time.

I did enjoy that movie бесприданница. I like the director of the film, Eldar Ruazanov, and especially I like his film “Irony of Fate”. This one was filmed 10 years before his бесприданница, and contained even a greater proportion of songs written by good poets. Were you able to enjoy songs of бесприданница?