You can name many famous Russian authors that have left a notable footprint in the history of literature. We all have heard of or even read the books written by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov. Some of them are a part of the recommended literature list, others attract the attention of millions just because they are world famous. We have prepared a short list of Russian books translated into English you might not have heard of yet but which are definitely worth your attention. If you speak Russian, you will easily find the books in multiple formats. In case you don’t, you can get translated versions that are available online and in major bookstores. Here we go.
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
We’ll start off with one of the most famous and beloved Russian authors and his best novel. This book is unique in the way the reality of ordinary life merges with surreal phenomena like the devil and his retinue visiting the capital of Russia. Bulgakov gives his readers the chance to get a taste of what Moscow in 1930s looked like. You will see several parallel stories with different characters including the ones from the New Testament. As you can guess, those stories will then combine into one epic narrative. The novel is full of irony and satire that the author gracefully uses to depict human wickedness. You will come to know that even though the devil is a negative character, he says many good and just things.
The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
It will be fair to say that this is not a novel, it is a historically accurate list of crimes against humanity that took place in the Soviet Union. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spoke against the regime and honestly depicted the terrors of the labor camps system. When you read about all the humiliation and horror people had to go through during those times, your hands start to shake. Solzhenitsyn was a great novelist and won the Nobel prize but was afraid to come to Sweden to get it. Fear was the only emotion Stalin seemed to respect when it came to having total control over such a big country as Russia. If you would like to know more about those times and what people had to go through, this trilogy is truly a masterpiece that can give you all that.
The Turkish Gambit, Boris Akunin
If you enjoy reading detective stories, you will love following the adventures of the former diplomat and talented detective Erast Fandorin. The novel will take you in the times of war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Here you will see Fandorin saving the life of a young beautiful woman – Varya Suvorova – who is disguising herself as a boy to find her fiance. The historical context is rather accurate, although there are many exaggerated plot twists to make the story more exciting, of course. The writer managed to create a special atmosphere that brings you back in the time to the 19th century. It is not the first book Akunin dedicated to the escapades of the witty detective. If you like this one, you can also try reading the rest of the literary pieces written by this author.
The Twelve Chairs, Ilya Ilf, Eugene Petrov
You are about to join the quest of a rather unexpected duo – a witty con artist Ostap Bender and a former nobleman Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov. The goal of this quest is to find the jewels that cost a lot. They belonged to Ippolit’s aunt who hid them in one of the 12 chairs. The chairs now belong to the Soviet authorities and the mission of this duo is to find the right chair before their enemies will. You will witness numerous funny and tragic situations the characters get into on their way to the long-awaited wealthiness. The authors are masters when it comes to showing real human qualities through their deeds and moral principles. If you enjoy the style of Ilf and Petrov, you might also enjoy reading their earlier works dedicated to life in the US (their subjective view on it).
Night Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
If you are a fantasy fan, you will love this book. It is the first one in the pentalogy so you will have a lot to read in case the author makes a positive impact on you. You will find yourself in the contemporary Moscow surrounded by the agents of the Dark – the Night Watch – and the agents of the Light – the Day Watch. The two forces managed to maintain the balance for many years but now they have stumbled upon a threat that can destroy the balance. The consequences can be dramatic including the possible end of the world. A Night Watch agent named Anton plays a key role in the way the things will go. This is a chilling thriller that makes you want to read more and more. Luckily, Lukyanenko has dedicated five books to the topic so that you would not get bored.