1. “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. A mystical novel about the battle between Good and Evil, which takes place right beside us. The author also raises the question of “what is truth,” where truth is, and where lies are.
Interesting facts about the novel:

– In the first version of the novel, there was no Master and Margarita. The writer burned this version and included these characters in the new novel.

– Bulgakov had various title options for the novel: “The Black Magician,” “Satan,” “Woland’s Tour,” “The Black Theologian.”

– The prototype for Margarita was Bulgakov’s wife, Yelena Sergeevna, who indeed had many witch-like qualities.

Author’s biography:

Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov (1891–1940) was a Russian writer, playwright, director, and one of the best authors of the first half of the 20th century.

Childhood and education:

He was born on May 3 (15), 1891, in Kiev, into the family of a teacher at the ecclesiastical academy, Afanasy Ivanovich Bulgakov.

In 1909, he graduated from the First Kiev Gymnasium and entered the medical faculty of Kiev University.

Creative path:

In 1921, Bulgakov moved to Moscow, where he began systematic literary activities.

In 1929, all of Bulgakov’s plays were banned.

From 1928 to 1940, he worked on the novel “The Master and Margarita,” which was only published in the journal “Moscow” in 1966.

Later years:

In 1930, Mikhail Afanasyevich personally wrote a letter to Stalin asking for permission to leave the USSR or to earn a living. After that, the writer managed to get a job as an assistant director at the Moscow Art Theater.

In 1934, Bulgakov was accepted into the Soviet Union of Writers.

Death:

On March 10, 1940, Mikhail Afanasyevich passed away. He was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

 

  1. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. A novel that can be read in one breath. The author touches upon the issue of poverty that drove Rodion Raskolnikov to murder an old pawnbroker.
Interesting facts about the novel:

– Initially, the author wanted to write the novel in the first person. Then the work would be read as a confession. But later he changed his mind and decided that through the voice of the author, the reader would better understand the psychology and inner conflict of Rodion Raskolnikov.

– The novel includes references to addresses where the main characters lived and where the events took place. Such houses do exist in St. Petersburg. For example, Raskolnikov lived at Grazhdanskaya Street, 19 (Stolyarny Lane, 5).

– More than 25 films have been made based on the novel. The first silent film was released by Robert Wiene in 1923. There are Soviet, British, American, Japanese, and even Indian adaptations.

 

Author’s biography:

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821–1881) was a Russian writer, thinker, philosopher, and publicist.

Childhood: He was born in Moscow into a noble family and a merchant’s daughter. He suffered from epilepsy from childhood.

Education: From 1834, he studied at a Moscow boarding school and from the age of 16 at an engineering school. In 1843, he completed his course and joined the engineering team in St. Petersburg.

Beginning of literary career: In 1844, Dostoevsky’s first book, “Poor Folk,” was published.

Arrest and years of hard labor: In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested on political charges for participating in M.V. Petrashevsky’s circle and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress. He faced the death penalty, which was commuted to four years of hard labor.

Creative peak: In subsequent years, the Dostoevsky brothers founded several literary journals that established them in the literary field.

Most significant works: “Crime and Punishment,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” “The Idiot,” “Demons,” “The Gambler.”

Death: He passed away in St. Petersburg on January 28 (February 9), 1881.

 

  1. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy. This epic novel was written between 1863 and 1869. The work describes Russian society during the War of 1812.

    Interesting facts about the work:
  • Leo Tolstoy spent six years writing this epic. It took him a year to write just the first chapter. He rewrote it 15 times, but there are episodes in the book that were rewritten more than 20 times.
  • In those times, books were written by hand. Leo Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia, helped him with this, as she was also his editor and proofreader.
  • The author did not immediately decide on the title of the work. Initially, there were several options: “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “1805,” “Three Times.”
Author’s biography:

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) — one of the most famous Russian writers and thinkers, one of the greatest novelists in the world.

  1. He was born at the Yasnaya Polyana estate in the Tula Province into a large noble family. After the death of his parents, his aunt took care of Leo, his brothers, and sisters.
  2. In 1844, Leo entered Kazan University but did not graduate and returned to Yasnaya Polyana to continue his studies independently.
  3. In 1851, together with his brother Nikolai Tolstoy, he went to serve in the Caucasus. There he wrote the story “Childhood,” dedicated to the first years of life.
  4. As an officer, Tolstoy visited the besieged Sevastopol, where the main events of the Crimean War unfolded. He wrote several works about this called “Sevastopol Sketches.”
  5. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophia Andreevna Bers. She became his main assistant in his literary work and the mother of 13 children.
  6. During his years of family life, Leo wrote numerous stories, novellas, and novels. The most famous of these is “War and Peace.”
  7. Leo Tolstoy wrote not only fiction but also philosophical works. He wanted to understand what truth is and how a person should live on Earth.
  8. Tolstoy lived a long life and passed away on November 20, 1910. He is buried at Yasnaya Polyana.

 

  1. “Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev. A cult novel written in the 1860s.
Interesting facts about the novel:
  • The characters do not have an exact age. Possibly, Turgenev wrote this work hastily.
  • The plot of the novel is not too complex; it is easy to follow, but Turgenev gradually reveals the background of his characters, making the reader reflect on the history of the characters and the reasons for their disagreements.
  • The rough manuscript of the novel was considered lost until the mid-1980s when English antiquarian Lord Parmoor found it in Paris. The unique autograph turned out to be in the Pushkin House in St. Petersburg, where it is still kept.
Author’s biography:

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818–1883) — a Russian realist writer, poet, publicist, playwright, prose writer, and translator. One of the classics of Russian literature who made a significant contribution to its development in the second half of the 19th century.

He was born on October 28 (November 9), 1818, in Oryol into a noble family.

He spent his childhood at the family estate Spasskoye-Lutovinovo. Later, the family moved to Moscow, where he studied at private boarding schools and at the age of 15 entered the faculty of philology at the university. A year later, he transferred to St. Petersburg University.

After completing his studies in Russia, he traveled around Europe, continuing his education in Berlin.

The peak of Ivan Turgenev’s creativity began in 1847 when the first chapters of “A Sportsman’s Sketches” were published in “Sovremennik.”

In 1863, the writer went to Germany, where he met Western European writers, promoted Russian literature, engaged in translations, and worked as an editor.

In 1882, the writer started to suffer from serious illness.

He passed away on August 22 (September 3), 1883, in a suburb of Paris. The writer was buried in St. Petersburg at the Volkov Cemetery.

  1. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. The work describes the tragic love story between the officer Vronsky and the married Anna Karenina.
Interesting facts about the work:
  • The prototype for Anna Karenina was Maria Alexandrovna Hartung, the eldest daughter of Alexander Pushkin. Tolstoy met her in Tula five years before writing the novel.
  • Tolstoy chose the Moscow railway station Obdorsk as the setting for Anna Karenina’s suicide. At that time, the Nizhny Novgorod Railway was one of the main industrial routes, often frequented by heavily loaded freight trains.
  • In the initial version, the main heroine was named Tatiana Sergeyevna Stavrovich. Tolstoy wanted to create a contrast to the heroine of Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin.”

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