Category: Russia

Dec 07 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Not every fantasy features swords and sorcery, though most of them involve a mythical creature of one sort or another. Amor Towles names his in the title: A Gentleman in Moscow. In midsummer 1922, following a brief trial, Count Alexander Rostov is not ordered immediately shot as a class enemy. It seems that senior Bolsheviks …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/12/07/a-gentleman-in-moscow-by-amor-towles/

Dec 02 2018

Night of Stone by Catherine Merridale

“We made the journey in 1997, at the end of October. The winter had set in early that year, and even St Petersburg had its first covering of snow. Outside the city, and especially as we travelled north, the snow had taken over the landscape completely, levelling the gentle contours of the forest floor and …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/12/02/night-of-stone-by-catherine-merridale/

Oct 21 2018

Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917-1991 by Malte Rolf

Every now and then, I like to read a book that is of interest mainly to specialists. Malte Rolf’s work uses the parades and other mass events in the Soviet Union as a lens for examining how that society developed over the course of its existence. Celebrations reveal a great deal about a society — what …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/10/21/soviet-mass-festivals-1917-1991-by-malte-rolf/

Jul 24 2018

The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich

I can’t even imagine the amount of work Svetlana Alexievich put into writing this book: not just tracking down, transcribing and editing the testimonies of these brave, undervalued women, but also the sheer weight of bearing witness to so much courage and heartache. The Unwomanly Face Of War is an exceptionally moving historical document written …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/24/the-unwomanly-face-of-war-an-oral-history-of-women-in-world-war-ii-by-svetlana-alexievich/

Jun 14 2018

The Royal Art Of Poison by Eleanor Herman

I’m one of those overwhelmingly practical (some would say dull,) people who, when asked which historical time and place I’d most want to live in, answers “Right here and now is just fine.” Don’t get me wrong, like any other closet romantic, I have a fancy for the decadent trappings of bygone Europe, with the …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/14/the-royal-art-of-poison-by-eleanor-herman/

Jun 10 2018

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

Everything I said here about the greatness of the first half of Life and Fate holds true for the second. What strikes me most is how consistently he captures the contradictions of humanity, in situations both mundane and extreme. Some people are pitiless one moment and turn around and show great compassion the next; they …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/10/life-and-fate-by-vasily-grossman/

May 12 2018

The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine — Halftime Report

One of the unexpected pleasures of The House of Government is Yuri Slezkine’s occasional playful way with words. Given the subject matter, and particularly given Slezkine’s argument that Bolshevism can best be understood as a millennarian sect that gained control of the state, a reader would be forgiven for thinking that his prose would range …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/05/12/the-house-of-government-by-yuri-slezkine-halftime-report/

Feb 13 2018

The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine

When it was built, the House of Government — maybe better known in English as the House on the Embankment thanks to the book by Yuri Trefonov — was the largest residential building in Europe. With The House of Government, Yuri Slezkine gives the building, its people and its first era an equally enormous treatment. The main …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/02/13/the-house-of-government-by-yuri-slezkine/

Jan 26 2018

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Not all terrific books about Russian topics have to be gigantic. In The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes sketches the life of Dmitri Shostakovich in fewer than 200 pages, drawing mainly on three periods in the composer’s life while using those to look back on other times. In the first, it is 1937, the height …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/01/26/the-noise-of-time-by-julian-barnes/

Jan 24 2018

Goodbye, Moskau by Wladimir Kaminer

Wladimir Kaminer left Moscow for Berlin in 1990, and since then he has lived and chronicled the life of a Russian in the German capital. In roughly two dozen books, beginning with Russendisko (Russian Disco, first published in 2000), he explores with droll humor what it’s like to make a new life in a changing …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/01/24/goodbye-moskau-by-wladimir-kaminer/