Four Russian Short Stories ★★★☆☆

Four Russian Short Stories ★★★☆☆
Gazdanov and Others


Genre(s) | Classic, Russian Literature 
Goodreads Rating | 3.5
Humpo Show Rating | 3.20
Published: 2018
Publisher: Penguin Modern

In these stories, four writers – all exiles from revolutionary Russia – explore four deaths in a world in which old certainties have crumbled. 

The second Penguin Modern that I have read recently has been this collection of short stories by Russian writers.

The stories include: Kunak by Galina Kuznetsova, A Miracle by Yury Felsen, The Murder of Valkovsky by Nina Berberova, and Gaito Gazdanov’s Requeim. Each of them deal with a death in differing contexts in their own unique style, and in my opinion, varying degrees of success in terms of keeping the reader interested. Felsen’s A Miracle, was in my opinion slow, uninteresting and failed to leave any lasting impact on me whatsoever- the same can almost be said of Kuznetsova’s Kunak, as it was extremely short, and it came across as nothing more than an extensive description of a scene unfolding. Given that these two stories were the first two in this short stories collection, my hopes for an interesting story was diminishing.

Thankfully, The Murder of Valkovsky is somewhat of an improvement- but it wasn’t a riveting read. The characters are more interesting, which helps for the story to have a voice which the reader can interact with, criticise or agree with. The writing is something I appreciated more in Berberova’s work as she manages to capture certain emotions more vividly, and that is perhaps the best aspect of this short story.

But by far my favourite story of this collection is Gazdanov’s Requeim. My enjoyment and appreciation of this story is largely down to the three factors that are missing from the other stories: an appealing writing style, an interesting story, and a clear message that is conveyed to the reader. The ending is moving and is the highlight of this collection of short stories. Gazdanov’s style intrigues me, and I am interested in reading more works of his- this Penguin Modern book has done its job by introducing me to a writer that I would not normally come across. Here’s to reading more Russian Literature!

8 thoughts on “Four Russian Short Stories ★★★☆☆

  1. I love the new Penguin Modern collection! I haven’t read any of them yet but I love looking at them whenever I go into a bookshop… there’s so many to choose from 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this one!

    • Me too- I’m not sure how many I will get as quite a lot are essays, speeches and philosophical thoughts (I thought I had left it all behind at uni!)- hoping to find some more fictional short stories.

  2. I love the sound of the Penguin Modern collection, but there’s so many to choose from that I literally have no idea where to even start haha. I’m sorry to hear that the first two stories weren’t as captivating as the third, but here’s to finding new authors to read up on.

    • Thanks- Gazdanov wrote in a style that I quite liked. I’ve wanted to read Tolstoy and the like, but have always been put off my the sheer size of the books! Hope you enjoy the rest of Anna Karenina 😊

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