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The Influence of Russian Literature on Your Work

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Michael Bunker 2 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #868

    Rob McClellan
    Keymaster

    @michaelbunker, I know you’re a big fan of Russian literature. I was wondering how you first started reading it and why, and how you feel it influences your writing.

  • #870

    Michael Bunker
    Participant

    I stumbled upon Russian Literature when I was about 19 or 20. I bought a used, worn out copy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and I was just fascinated. It was non-fiction, for me just a history book, but in it Solzhenitsyn mentions a lot of the history of Russia and talks about the literature of Russia. Of course I’d heard of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky but I’d never read any of it. Pretty soon I was picking up anything I could find. I loved it because the “stage”… the scale is so broad. This was a culture that had survived pretty well intact for a thousand years, so it wasn’t like our little 200 year American experiment. The whole thing was just huge, and it had ever conceivable thing that would interest someone (the history did)… Royalty, rebels, intrigue, serfs, villagers, war, extravagance, romance, etc. So from there I got into reading a lot of Russian short stories and studying the history and the writing elements that are very peculiar to Russia.

    As far as how it influences me, it really influences me in every way. I tend to deal with themes of culture and society and how cultures embrace or reject change. I very much use a Russian tendency to focus on how large, nameless-faceless entities effect the people who really have the least to do with them. In Russian lit, there are these big forces (like the French army or the Bolsheviks or the Golden Horde) who are rampaging “over there” causing havoc. But the enemies are really just a force. Not so much a very particular thing. Sure, you have Napoleon invading, but even Napoleon is a symbol and a force more than he is a person. But this force (change, bad ideas, revolution, invasion, whatever) is coming and it is forcing people to decide what they’re going to do and how they’re going to deal with it. So I really use those concepts in my writing. My dream writing gig would be to do an American Archipelago or kind of a War and Peace in America. That’d be more fun than it would be work, and I’d love to see people’s faces when they see that I’m asking them to buy a 980 page book 😉

    Michael

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