- File Size: 1955 KB
- Print Length: 199 pages
- Publisher: Abrams Press (October 23, 2018)
- Publication Date: October 23, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07BF385S8
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,121 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$14.39|
|Print List Price:||$16.00|
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The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Viv Groskop is an award-winning comedian (Say Sorry to the Lady, Be More Margo and Anchorwoman), a crack interviewer (most recently seen on Graham Norton's UK-wide book tour), and an agony aunt for The Pool. She is the author of I Laughed, I Cried (Orion 2013), and a regular contributor to the Guardian, Observer and Mail on Sunday, as well as Front Row, Woman's Hour and Newsnight. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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‘Russian classics are, admittedly, not the most obvious place to look for tips for a happier life,’ the author adds. An example of this is the first line of Anne Karenina: ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ – and the novel is about unhappy families.
Groskop has 11 self-help themes and an associated Russian novel with each thematic answer. For Groskop’s first theme on how to know who you really are, she chooses Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878). She says Tolstoy ‘depicts people who are a mess because that’s normal, honest and real’ and, in doing so, he tells us what not to do to lead an authentic life. Groskop interprets his meaning in her analysis of Tolstoy’s book, which she does for each theme and in each different Russian classic.
She says to read Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country to survive a bout of unrequited love; Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) to learn how to keep going when things go wrong; and Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls (1842) in order to avoid hypocrisy. In Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1900), Irina, Masha, and Olga want nothing more than to go to Moscow. The novel is about the feeling that the grass is always greener where the sisters are not; no matter where they are, happiness is always somewhere on the horizon. Or as Ivan Denisovich would say in Solzhenitsyn’s novel: ‘we always think the other person is holding a bigger radish.’
I studied Russian literature at university (in the English language), and have a great love for all forms of Russian literature by all authors, so I love the way Groskop exposes her passion and the lessons she has learned from the classics.
Concluding with Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869), Groskop says that it echoed the plotline of her own life: ‘lots of bits that I didn’t want to look at or know about; lots of bits I didn’t understand until I had children of my own; lots of bits that only made sense once I had realized that life does not have to be exciting and dynamic in order to be interesting.’
Amid all of the literature analysis and self-help advice are anecdotes of her time in Moscow learning Russian. The real life examples of the themes in Russian literature are witty, comical, and beautifully told. Russian literary heroes and heroines are depicted in friends, teachers, and lovers. This book is a wonderful interplay of fiction and reality. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and now I want to re-read Russian literature all over again.
Postscript: Viv Groskop does not include all Russian novels, for as she states, she omits Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat, even though ‘it sums up Russian literature in a nutshell.’
There have been a number of such books that I've read recently similar to this - - Living with a Dead Language, for example - and for those interested in more than literary criticism as it might be offered in academic circles then this is likely to be more to your liking. Even as a broad introduction to some of the greats of Russian literature I think this is a terrific introduction and provides some background to the novels, the authors and even some smattering of history. It's all great stuff and could even serve as pre-reading before some of the novels are tackled as part of a course.
The author seems to have enjoyed putting the content together and the material never seems heavy our dour: despite the source material on occasion being exactly that. There's plenty of humour, personal anecdotes and epiphanies that often support and complement the novels and the themes being discussed. Really enjoyed my time reading this. Thanks!
Top international reviews
Buy this as a proper hardback book - it is beautifully produced with a gorgeous cover.
Viv Groskop unilaterally decided she was of Russian origin (spoiler alert: she's not), so became a Russophile to the extent of living there. She brilliantly recounts her experiences through the medium of 11 Russian classics, using them as a guide to surviving life.
It's fascinating, it's knowledgeable, and it's very funny. Chapters range from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - "How To Know Who You Really Are (Or: Don't throw yourself under a train) - to Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - "How tp Keep Going When Things Go Wrong (Or: Don't forget to take your spoon to prison with you).
She has wonderful anecdotes about the writers. Tolstoy was a vegetarian who had 15 favourite egg dishes which he ate in rotation. He only ate cake (sour lemon tart) when it was a family birthday. Groskop wishes she could travel back in time and get him to try a jam doughnut. "I feel sure he would have written more novels. The man just needed sugary carbohydrates."
Gogol got religion, and wrote to all his friends, asking them to list his deficiencies. "He found this practice so fruitful that he began to write back to his friends, listing all their deficiencies in return, even though they had not asked him to do this."
She has enormous fun with Russian names. Anna Karenina was inspired by a real incident involving an Anna Pirogova, which Groskop explains broadly translates as "Anna of All the Pies," and thinks would have been a brilliant title. Boris Pasternak's surname means "parsnip," and she reckons that no British writer could have won a Nobel prize while being called Mr Parsnip.
Viv herself falls in love with Bogdan Bogdanovich, whose name translates as "God's Gift, Son of God's Gift". Her own name is Russified to "Vivka," but her landlady mishears it as "Veepka," Little VIP. This leads to her being frequently addressed as "Vipulenka," which translates as "Dearest Teeny Tiny Little VIP."
Just one word of warning: this book may persuade you to become a student of Russian literature. If you're really opposed to that idea, avoid the enticing recommended reading list at the end.
"Classic - a book which people praise but don't read" - a Mark Twain quote starts the book in an amusing way.
The author has chosen 11 pieces of Russian Iiterature which she tells us about, touching on her link to the piece and, along the way, also telling us about her obsession with Russia.
I found that there was a lot that I could learn from this book and it expanded my very little knowledge of Russian Literature.
Viv Groskop is writing about a subject she knows well and that she clearly loves a lot. It's a delight to read about the authors and their work with the most fascinating part being finding more about VG herself with each chapter gradually unfolding her interest.
The language used makes the book very accessible, even making me want to read some of the classics discussed. VG is enthusiastic and that is contagious. I did feel slightly guilty as I was gaining knowledge of the books without actually reading them but that's research isn't it. Whilst reading I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia giving me more information about the authors which is always a good thing.
Some of the authors I'd heard of and others I hadn't but it was great to find out more about them all. After six or so they did start to merge a little but my interest was held by the authors personal story. The chapters were structured in a similar way which became formulaic but this didn't retract too much.
The references to her ancestors were very touching and I loved that the process of researching the Russian connection seems to make her very grounded.