Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top ten books of Russia

James Meek worked in Moscow as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian from 1991 to 1999, and has won several awards (including Foreign Correspondent of the Year) for his reporting from Iraq and Guantanamo.

His books include the novels We Are Now Beginning Our Descent and the Booker-longlisted The People's Act of Love, which is set in Siberia in 1919 and tells the story of an obscure Christian sect and a stranded regiment of Czech soldiers.

In 2005 he named his top ten books of Russia for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, 1842

A novel of comedy and shame.

"Chichikov saw that the old woman was far from grasping the issue, and that he needed to make it clear. In a few words he explained that the transfer, or purchase, would take place only on paper and that the souls would be registered as if they were living.
'And what good are they to you?' asked the old woman, her eyes bulging.
'That's my business.'
'But, really, all the same, they're dead.'
'Who said they were alive? You're losing money because they're dead: you're still paying for them, and I'm offering to rid you of all these bills and bother. Do you understand? Not just rid you, but give you 15 roubles into the bargain. Is that clear?'
'Really, I'm not sure," said the proprietress hesitantly. "I've never sold dead people before, you know.'"
Read about all ten titles on Meek's list.

--Marshal Zeringue