The Nihilist Buffs His Fingernails While Society Crumbles.

in Every Russian Novel Ever, Mallory Ortberg provides chapter titles summing up the classic nineteenth-century Russian realist novel. You can take them as representing separate novels or as a single monstrous work that is to War and Peace as War and Peace is to a Pushkin short story. Anyway, it’s funny as hell. (To save you wading through the comments, the only decent suggestion there is “Friends Swindle You While You Lounge on a Couch.”)

Comments

  1. Rodger C says:

    “The manservant dies alone” is a play, not a novel. Unless it’s a novel too.

  2. I presume you’re thinking of Firs in The Cherry Orchard; he doesn’t die, he just lies there by himself. In any case, even if it was inspired by Chekhov it could certainly represent a chapter in a Russian novel (and probably does).

  3. Is each name in the list intended to suggest a particular existing work, or are they representative of types? I’m asking because #10 (“400 Pages Of A Single Aristocratic Family’s Slow, Alcoholic Decline”) immediately reminded me of The Golovlyov Family — but perhaps that’s just because, being not very knowledgeable about Russian literature, I’m only familiar with one example out of many.

  4. That’s probably what she was thinking of, but I’m guessing she didn’t have rigorous criteria — if it sounded funny and reasonably accurate, she went with it.

  5. I think maybe your familiarity with the topic is obscuring the appeal of some of the other suggestions, particularly “Wait, Is That His Third Official Nickname or Some Other Nickname or Is That a Different Character Entirely?” and “So Many Different Diminutives for Just One Character”. (Both equally applicable to Heian literature of course.)

    Did you read some of the related links? I almost always enjoy Ortberg’s literature-related posts, e.g. How To Tell If You’re In A Thomas Hardy Novel (“Your pure and radiant beauty is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.”)

  6. I think maybe your familiarity with the topic is obscuring the appeal of some of the other suggestions, particularly “Wait, Is That His Third Official Nickname or Some Other Nickname or Is That a Different Character Entirely?” and “So Many Different Diminutives for Just One Character”.

    I don’t think it’s my familiarity with the topic so much as my appreciation for consistency. The ones you quote, while funny, do not fit in with Ortberg’s, which are humorous plot summaries rather than just “dude, Russian literature is weird.”

  7. Rodger C says:

    @Hat: Well, he lies there by himself in a house that the owners have just closed up for the season without realizing he’s still in it. This is not good.

  8. Not good, no, but he’s a Russian peasant, he’s dealt with worse. He was probably out selling the samovar the next day.

  9. I don’t think it’s my familiarity with the topic so much as my appreciation for consistency.

    Typical editor! Always identifyin’ infelicities of construction that diminish the impact of the whole.

  10. Now I want to find some Goths and start a band just to use “The Countess Attempts Suicide”. Are there still Goths?

  11. Not since the 16C or so, and then only in Crimea, which is overrun with Russians these days, I’m told.

  12. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If we believe Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_of_the_Goths) the King of Sweden was still claiming to be King of the Goths until 1973. It doesn’t say whether they stopped then because there weren’t any more Goths to be king of. Gothenburg still exists, however. I went to a meeting there a few years ago, at the beginning of which the local organizer said that it was obviously the most important city in Sweden as it was the only one with a name in English different from its name in Swedish.

  13. J. W. Brewer says:

    Not much of a chronological gap between the abandonment of the Swedish monarchy’s claim to sovereignty over the Goths and their reemergence in London circa 1980. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goth_subculture

  14. John Emerson says:

    Chapters 1-8: A man thinks about getting out of bed.
    Chapter 9: A man almost gets out of bed.
    Da capo.

  15. John Emerson says:

    The Swedish Rosicrucians were big on the Goths, as was Karl XII.

Speak Your Mind

*