15 Books

Fridrikh Gorenshtein

Fridrikh Gorenshtein

In response to a challenge, Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes I massively overstepped the time limit and also decided to limit myself to novels, since with a non-fiction work it’s not clear whether you’re talking about the book or the subject-matter.

Anyway, here are 15 novels I find myself quite often thinking about when I try to understand things.

1. The Book of Illusions Paul Auster
2. Skin Lane Neil Bartlett
3. Villette Charlotte Bronte
4. The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
5. The Magic Toyshop Angela Carter
6. Youth J M Coetzee
7. The Brothers Karamazov F. M. Dostoevsky
8. Psalm Fridrikh Gorenshtein
9. Forever Flowing Vassily Grossman
10. Platform Michel Houellebecq
11.  Clay Machine Gun Victor Pelevin
12. The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath
13. The Plot Against America Philip Roth
14. Torrents of Spring Ivan Turgenev
15. A Handful of Dust Evelyn Waugh

I wonder what that means?

The leading themes here appear to be: someone facing complete annihilation (10.5  instances–1, 2, 3, 4?, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15–taking doubtful cases as 0.5); severe sexual difficulties (6 instances–2, 3, 5?, 6, 10, 12, 15?);  total cynicism/rejection of the world (5 instances–1,9,10,11,15); Russia (5 instances–4,7,8,11,14); Judaism (3 instances–7?,8,9?,13).

That does sound a little grim, or at least extreme:

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

As for Russia and Judaism particularly, in his works generally Dostoevsky was surely trying to simultaneously show the action of the NT taking place on Russian soil and the grievous effects of neglecting its teachings, while Gorenshtein’s book is (among other things) a reply to Dostoevsky doing the same for the Torah.


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