• Read “Black Snow” by Mikhail Bulgakov

    Skylight Diner

    From Goodreads: A masterpiece of black comedy by the author of The Master and Margarita. When Maxudov's novel fails, he attempts suicide. When that fails, he dramatizes his novel. To Maxudov's surprise - and the resentment of literary Moscow - the play is accepted by the legendary Independent Theater, and Maxudov plunges into a vortex of inflated egos. Each rehearsal sees more and more sparks flying higher and higher, and less and less chance of poor Maxudov's play ever being performed. Black Snow is the ultimate backstage novel, and a masterly satire on Mikhail Bulgakov's ten-year love-hate relationship with Stanislavsky, Method acting, and the Moscow Arts Theater.

  • Read “How the Steel Was Tempered” by Nikolai Ostrovsky

    NOTE: Some editions consist of two separate short parts. If you encounter that, we’ll be reading Parts 1 And 2 From Goodreads: A classic novel arising from the Soviet Union in the thirties, How the Steel Was Tempered is a fictionalized account of author Nikolai Ostrovsky's experiences in fighting for the Bolsheviks during the Civil War and his difficulty in overcoming crippling injuries after the war ended. Centering on a young man named Pavel Korchagin, How the Steel Was Tempered follows his journey from ill-mannered malcontent through to disciplined soldier of the revolution, in the process coming to epitomize the ideal of the New Man. How the Steel Was Tempered is presented here as a special edition by author J.T. Marsh as a means of preserving and disseminating a classic piece of working class literature. As part of the rich history of such literature, How the Steel Was Tempered is invaluable in embodying the constant struggle of the working class to be the masters of their own destiny.

  • Read “The House of the Dead” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    NOTE: This is a week earlier than usual because the last Monday of Sept. is the start of Rosh Hashanah. If there is strong preference for Sep 30, I will re-schedule. From Goodreads: Accused of political subversion as a young man, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to four years of hard labor at a Siberian prison camp — a horrifying experience from which he developed this astounding semi-autobiographical memoir of a man condemned to ten years of servitude for murdering his wife. As with a number of the author's other works, this profoundly influential novel brilliantly explores his characters' thoughts while probing the depths of the human soul. Describing in relentless detail the physical and mental suffering of the convicts, Dostoyevsky's character never loses faith in human qualities and the goodness of man. A haunting and remarkable work filled with wonder and resignation, The House of the Dead ranks among the Russian novelist's greatest masterpieces. Of this powerful autobiographical novel, Tolstoy wrote, "I know no better book in all modern literature."

  • Read “Golden Calf” by Ilya Ilf, Eugene Petrov

    Skylight Diner

    NOTE: This is the sequel to “The 12 Chairs,” which was one of the best-received books we had read. From Amazon: Ostap Bender, the "grand strategist," is a con man on the make in the Soviet Union during the New Economic Policy (NEP) period. He's obsessed with getting one last big score—a few hundred thousand will do—and heading for Rio de Janeiro, where there are "a million and a half people, all of them wearing white pants, without exception." When Bender hears the story of Alexandr Koreiko, an "undercover millionaire"—no Soviet citizen was allowed to openly hoard so much capital—the chase is on. Koreiko has made his millions by taking advantage of the wide-spread corruption and utter chaos of the NEP, all while serving quietly as an accountant at a government office and living on 46 rubles a month. He's just waiting for the Soviet regime to collapse so he can make use of his stash, which he keeps hidden away in a suitcase.

  • Read “The Life of a Useless Man” by Maxim Gorky

    Skylight Diner

    From Goodreads: This book was begun by Maxim Gorky in 1907, less than two years after the unsuccessful armed rebellion on Bloody Sunday, with which he had been closely involved. Frail, battered and orphaned, Yevsey Kimkov creeps through the undergrowth of life; his intelligence remains observant, but his will is cowed, and his is easily coerced into spying for the military in support of the Tsar. He makes some friends who are capable of defying oppression, and his heart responds to them - but it is this association which is going to brink him to the terrible crisis of his life, which coincides with the insurrection and its suppression.

  • Read “Definitely Maybe” by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

    NOTE: This is earlier in the month than usual so we don’t bump up against the holidays, but the book is pretty short. Boris and Arkady Strugatsky were the greatest science fiction writers of the Soviet era: their books were intellectually provocative and riotously funny, full of boldly imagined scenarios and veiled—but clear—social criticism. Which may be why Definitely Maybe has never before been available in an uncensored edition, let alone in English. It tells the story of astrophysicist Dmitri Malianov, who has sent his wife and son off to her mother’s house in Odessa so that he can work, free from distractions, on the project he’s sure will win him the Nobel Prize. But he’d have an easier time making progress if he wasn’t being interrupted all the time: First, it’s the unexpected delivery of a crate of vodka and caviar. Then a beautiful young woman in an unnervingly short skirt shows up at his door. Then several of his friends—also scientists—drop by, saying they all felt they were on the verge of a major discovery when they got . . . distracted . . . Is there an ominous force that doesn’t want knowledge to progress? Or could it be something more . . . natural? In this nail-bitingly suspenseful book, the Strugatsky brothers bravely and brilliantly question authority: an authority that starts with crates of vodka, but has lightning bolts in store for humans who refuse to be cowed.