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Posts Tagged ‘The Anna Karenina Fix’

I discovered Viv Groskop’sThe Anna Karenina Fix : Life Lessons from Russian Literature‘ while browsing in the bookshop and couldn’t resist getting it. I thought it was time to read it now.

Viv Groskop’s book has eleven essays on Russian classics. In each of the essays, Groskop picks one Russian classic, discusses the plot and the characters, and talks about the insights and life lessons that the classic has to offer. She covers many of the great 19th century writers (and some 20th century writers) but Leo Tolstoy gets the pride of place by having two of his books featured in the list. My favourite essays in the book were those on Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ and Solzhenitsyn’s ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’.

Throughout the essays, Groskop weaves in her own story and experiences and describes how the classics impacted her and helped her. Groskop’s style is breezy, charming, conversational, filled with humour and is a pleasure to read. The book suspiciously resembles Elif Batuman’s acclaimed book ‘The Possessed : Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them‘. But I haven’t read Batuman’s book yet, and so I can’t really complain.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Anna Karenina Fix‘. It is a beautiful, charming love letter to Russian literature. It is also a great introduction to Russian literature. If you love Russian literature, you will enjoy reading this.

I am giving below two of my favourite passages from the book to give you a feel for Groskop’s style.

“The Russian classics are, admittedly, not the most obvious place to look for tips for a happier life. Russian literature is full of gloomy people wondering how on earth they have ended up in the appalling predicament in which they find themselves, looking around desperately for someone else to blame and then realizing that, in fact, they were right in the first place : life really is extremely inconvenient and annoying, and we are all just waiting to die. But they also teach us that it can, crucially, be survived. And it can be enjoyed, beautifully.”

“A few weeks after…we moved on to Pushkin. If I thought the parrot was a bad idea, this was an even worse one. It’s like giving someone a two-week course in English and then saying, ‘And now we’re going to read Othello.’ It’s fairly typical of the teaching of Russian though. They like to throw you in at the deep end. And they like to make sure you remain completely intimidated by the language for as long as possible. That way, if you pass on to the other side and actually do learn to speak it, you’ll maintain the age-old myth that it’s difficult to learn and pass that on to other people so that the Russian speakers can remain in their own special and secret club. Having to read Pushkin several weeks into a ‘Russian from scratch’ course is a sort of hazing you never recover from. It is specially designed to make you want to haze others so that they will suffer as you have suffered. To quote Pushkin : ‘I want to understand you. I study your obscure language.'”

Have you read Viv Groskop’s book? What do you think about it?

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