6 Amazing Russian Classics You Should Read Before Your Trip to Russia

XcelTrip|6 min read|Sep 28, 2019

There are certain books that are always on lists of “books you must read” and the like, and these books are generally two things: old and complex. After all, this week’s hot new bestseller is often an easy read for the simple reason that it’s part of the current zeitgeist — you don’t have to work very hard to get the references and understand the relationships more or less intuitively. Even the most ambitious books on the store shelves right now are easy enough to "get" because there are familiar aspects to the style and ideas, the sort of subtle stuff that marks something as fresh and current. Here are 6 Russian Classics that you must read before your trip to Russia, they are sure to give you a feel for their culture, traditions and somewhere along the way they may impact your life, positively too.

6 Amazing Russian Classics You Should Read Before Your Trip to Russia

"The Brothers Karamazov," by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The argument over which novel is Dostoevsky’s greatest can stretch out to insane lengths, but "The Brothers Karamazov" is always in the running. Is it complicated? Yes, there are a lot of threads and subtle connections in this sprawling tale of murder and lust, but ... it’s a tale of murder and lust. It’s a lot of fun, which often gets forgotten when people discuss the amazing way Dostoevsky combines philosophical themes with some of the best-drawn characters ever put to the page.

"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

From its evergreen opening line about happy and unhappy families, Tolstoy’s novel about the romantic and political entanglements of three couples remains remarkably fresh and modern. Partly, this is due to the universal themes of social change and how people react to changing expectations — something that will always be meaningful to people of any era. And partly it’s due to the fundamental focus the novel has on matters of the heart. Whichever aspect attracts you, this dense but beautiful novel is well worth exploring.

"War and Peace," by Leo Tolstoy

You can’t really discuss Russian literature without mentioning Tolstoy’s masterpiece. Modern readers often forget (or never knew) that this novel was an explosive event in literature, an experimental work that shattered many previous rules concerning what was or wasn’t a novel, what was or wasn’t allowed. You might think this story set during and after the Napoleonic War — a war that saw Moscow come this close to being seized by the French dictator — is an example of stodgy old literature, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It remains a bracingly inventive book that has influenced almost every major novel written since.

"Crime and Punishment," Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky’s other incredible classic is a deep-dive study of Russian society that remains surprisingly timely and eternally genius. Dostoevsky set out to explore what he saw as the inherent brutality of Russia, telling the story of a man who commits murder simply because he believes it to be his destiny — then slowly goes mad from guilt. More than a century later, it’s still a powerful reading experience.

“The Master and Margarita”, by Mikhail Bulgakov

Consider this: Bulgakov knew he could be arrested and executed for writing this book, and yet he wrote it anyway. He burned the original in terror and despair, then re-created it. When it was finally published, it was so censored and edited it barely resembled the actual work. And yet, despite the fearful and claustrophobic circumstances of its creation, "The Master and Margarita" is a darkly comical work of genius, the sort of book where Satan is a main character but all you remember is the talking cat.

"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov

Everyone is familiar with the basic plot of this book, still often considered pornographic or at least morally bankrupt today. What’s fascinating about this story of a pedophile and the insane lengths he goes to in order to possess a young girl he nick-names Lolita is how it offers insight into how Russians saw the rest of the world, especially America, while also being a brilliant novel whose uncomfortable subject matter resonates and disturbs precisely because it’s easy to imagine it actually happening.

Read these classics before your trip to Russia this autumn, book your tickets on XcelTrip and receive a cool 15% off on all your reservations. If you would like to visit destinations based on the authors and classics click here and add the places mentioned there on your travel itenery.




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