If you’re learning Russian and you’re looking to dip into Russian literature to get some practice, you are lucky. Not only is the Russian literature very rewarding, but Russian has a lot of short classical stories suitable for language learners. This is because Russians had mastered the art of novellas (повести). Novellas are nearly perfect for language learners, because they are short: a typical novella is around ten to forty thousand words. This is definitely less intimidating than having to read War and Peace. This article introduces to you five Russian novellas to read in Russian.
5. The Queen of Spades (Пиковая дама) by Alexander Pushkin ≈ 7,500 words
We absolutely have to start this list with Pushkin, who is considered by many to be the founder of classical Russian literature. Made into a few operas, known universally, this short story is perhaps even too short to be properly called a novella, but it is nonetheless a very good introduction into Pushkin. It is also a good introduction into the themes of the XIXth century in Russia: gambling, obsessions, human avarice, and so on. Oh wait, did I actually need to say in Russia? Oh wait, did I actually need to say in the XIXth century..? ### 4. The Overcoat (Шинель) by Nicolai Gogol ≈ 10,000 words
“What a woman is to Dostoyevsky, an overcoat is to Gogol.” This is a famous phrase among the studies of Russian literature, and this essential short novella is a must if you want to understand this phrase. Gogol was deep, funny and very creative, and this novella is a great way to get an introduction to him. Despite its very short length, the novella has also significantly influenced later Russian literature: Fyodor Dostoevsky is quoted as saying: “We all come out from Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’.” ### 3. First Love (Первая Любовь) by Ivan Turgenev ≈ 20,000 words
Ivan Turgenev was very important in the Russian realism. He wrote Fathers and Sons. He wrote other important works of realism. And he wrote this short novella, which is still very well known. Moreover, being very autobiographical, this story is a good way to learn about Turgenev himself, so you hit two birds with one stone by reading it. ### 2. The Kreutzer Sonata (Крейцерова соната) by Leo Tolstoy ≈ 25,000 words
Leo Tolstoy wrote not only War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he also wrote a bunch of short stories, of which The Kreutzer Sonata is a good choice. The book talks about sexuality and about emotional excesses, discussing them from the first person perspective. This was probably too much for Russian authorities of the XIXth century, as the book was banned. It’s not banned anymore, and you can enjoy it – at this length, it is a nice introduction to Tolstoy. ### 1. Notes from the Underground (Записки из подполья) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky ≈ 40,000 words
Dostoyevsky‘s story about the Underground man is excellent: it’s brief, deep and it discusses many themes that Dostoyevsky discusses in his longer books. Dostoyevsky should generally be on any reader’s list, especially Russian reader’s, and Notes from the Underground is just a terrific way to start. Don’t be surprised if you move onto his longer books, though – Dostoyevsky is really captivating.### Still not confident you’ll understand? — Try our Interlinear translation of The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Смерть Ивана Ильича) by Leo Tolstoy ≈ 18,000 words
Obviously, we are biased here. Still, you should also try another story by Tolstoy. Perhaps the most famous of his novellas — The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which is available in our Interlinear translation. You can also read more about this particular Interlinear translation. Interlinear translations is our way of making literature accessible to language learners, and we want to encourage you to try this one. If you don’t choose to read one of the novellas listed above on your own, that is. Or, better yet — feel free to do both.
- New Interlinear Translation from Russian: “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy
- Digest of our Free Interlinear stories on the Blog
- Top five most popular free Interlinear texts of 2015
- Releasing the Spanish Interlinear Translation of “The Colloquy of The Dogs” by Cervantes, the Father of Modern Spanish Literature
- Pūga Kalnuose by Jonas Biliūnas: Lithuanian translation to English as a free online Interlinear book!