Russian writers, that is. Way back in the day when I was still in high school, we had to compile what was called a documentation folder for our Dutch class (I went to school in the Netherlands). Basically, you had to come up with a subject, a few statements about the subject you wanted to investigate and then you had to write almost a very scaled-down thesis on that subject. This thesis would then be backed up with LOTS of quotes from different sources, mostly books, on that subject, which you would have to properly reference. I really enjoyed doing that project. I had to do two, one in each of the last two years of high school. The first one I did about porcelain, which I am still interested in, although I don’t actually own any; and the second about Leo Tolstoy. At 16 I was probably too young to really understand what Tolstoy did and what he stood for, but I did enjoy reading Anna Karenina and (parts of) War and Peace. I also read some of his political writings, although I have to confess I don’t remember much about that anymore. During that time of my life I became very interested in Russian writers, although, again, I think I was a bit too young to really understand and appreciate everything.
When I was on holiday in the Netherlands just recently, I watched the movie The Last Station, which is about the last period in Leo Tolstoy’s life. It is a very good movie, with excellent performances by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren and it really got me excited about re-reading Tolstoy’s work again. When I got home, I first considered reading Anna Karenina, but then I discovered that I have The Gulag Archipelago in my bookcase, which I had not read yet. So I have finally taken it off the shelf and started reading it. It is a very big book and I was a bit concerned it would be dry, as it is essentially non-fiction. However, Solzjenitsyn writes with surprising humour, keeping me very interested in what was quite a horrific time in Russian history. I am not very far advanced in the book yet, as I have also started studying which takes up most of my evenings, but so far I am fascinated, horrified and very interested. And I have rediscovered how much I like Russian history and Russian authors. Next on my list is definitely Anna Karenina and I may even attempt War and Peace again.
And finally, a shout-out to blogger Julian Froment and his blog Julian Froment’s blog where he writes (among other things) about his reading challenges. Those blog posts have inspired me to tackle books that are a bit more challenging than my normal reading material and so far I am happy I have decided to do so. In due course I will write a review of The Gulag Archipelago, but that may take a while.