Ready or Not, Here I Come Dostoevsky!

When I tell Russians that I love Fyodor Dostoevsky and that my favorite novel is The Brothers Karamazov, they usually ask me, “Have you read it in Russian?” Until now, my answer has always been, “Нет, я не готова читать Достоевского.” (I’m not ready to read Dostoevsky). I can’t count the number of times that I have said those three words, “I’m not ready” when referring to reading Russian literature, Dostoevsky in particular. I usually smile and say that I can read some Chekhov (who is known at being the easiest for a second language learner to understand), but I always have balked at the thought of reading my favorite author in the original, always putting it in the “someday” category.

But I recently decided that I am never going to be “ready” to read Dostoevsky. No matter how long I wait, I’m still going to open The Brothers Karamazov and find quite a few new words and tricky philosophical ramblings. So I’ve decided that the only way to become “ready” to read Dostoevsky is to do it.

Now, I knew that to jump right in after not having any formal instruction since last summer might be a bit overwhelming, so I decided to warm up by reading a few детективы, or Russian detective novels that I picked up in Kazan a few years ago.

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The above book was called “Piercing for an Angel.” It had absolutely nothing to do with piercings or angels (other than the love interest was described as “an angel in the flesh,” go figure…), but it was a good read.

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The above book I finished this morning and I liked it even more than the first one. The premise is that a female secretary at a previously male-only private detective agency begins to help them solve murders using her “женская интуиция” (woman’s intuition) as her primary tool. A little cheesy, and not PC by from an American point of view, but a great language-learning tool!

Some of the favorite words I learned from this book were

Сюсюкать (Syu-syu-kat’)- to lisp (how’s that for onomatopoeia!)

Подсознание (Podsoznaniye)- subconscious (n.)

and Предательство (predatel’stva)- treachery

The detective novels were a perfect way to build confidence in reading something of substantial length in Russian. There were plenty of words I didn’t understand, but I found that I could usually figure out what was going on.

So tonight, although I am not “ready,” I am going to begin reading The Brothers Karamazov in the original. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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3 thoughts on “Ready or Not, Here I Come Dostoevsky!

  1. Wow. I could have written this blog post, at least the first half. I’ve been saying the same thing for years about mastering Russian and reading Brothers Karamazov in Russian, my favorite Dostoyevsky novel. My Russian though is still at a basic level, so I read the novel in English(at least English is Indo-European like Russian, I frequently reassured myself!). If I could get to an intermediate level of Russian, I might try it out.

    I doubt I would be able to appreciate the philosophical depth of the book though; even many native born Russians who are lacking in education can’t fully appreciate this masterpiece I’ve been told.

    Good luck with your travels and studies. You rock, Hope.


    1. Thank you for your encouragement! And I also am unsure if I’ll be able to appreciate the philosophical depth of the book in Russian right now, but my goal is to read it this summer then read it after my year in Russia to see how my understanding has improved.
      And it is so great to find another Dostoevsky-lover and Russian enthusiast! I’ve read your blog too and I think what you do is really cool. I juggle too (although not while running). I grew up in a performing family (my dad was a professional magician) and my Mom, brother and I would juggle with my Dad in shows sometimes.


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