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New Literature: Love Stories from Russia

Posted on February 14, 2017

We’re very happy to announce that, just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ve completed our first collection of theme-based literature from Russia—Love Stories—along with exciting new resources and teaching ideas.

In this literature, you’ll find four stories of love in different times, places, and forms.

  • Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich said of her work: “I want to emancipate my hero from the big ideas. And to discuss with him things life is built on. And there are only two: love and death.” For a story that touches on both love and death, read “The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt” in which a widow tells about her complicated, yet true and lasting love for her her husband. The story opens:

    Letting someone into your world with so much baggage—twelve years in Stalinist camps, they took him as a boy, sixteen years old. . . . With the burden of that knowledge . . . the differences. That's not what I'd call freedom. What is it? What's the point? Admit that I only pitied him? No. It was love, too. That's exactly what it was: love. 
  • Marina Tsvetaeva’s “To kiss a forehead is to erase worry” is a soliloquy with cadences that for some readers may seem melancholic, whereas for others sound “partly hysterical, near the fall into tears or laughter” (Vladimir Khodasevich). Read more of Marina Tsvetaeva’s love poems, and watch one of her poems in song form, from the classic Russian movie “The Irony of Fate.” 

    (Watch the video on YouTube.)

  • In “Hello?” we see inside the mind of a witty passenger on a crowded bus, whose stream-of-consciousness mental monologue reveals both his thoughts on love and his observations of the crowd on the bus:

    We have been worn out by love, the immensity of which has filled us to overflowing, which is why we take up so much space. If we didn’t know love we would have withered and there would be plenty of room for everyone in the bus, which is actually quite spacious.
  • And in “Petroleum Venus,” we see two kinds of love: a teenage boy falls for the subject of a painting—“A naked blonde, her upturned face registering pleasure,” while his father experiences a cinematically-induced love of country:

    “My nose is stinging. I unobtrusively wipe tears from my eyes. It’s just love. I love this whole appalling shambles. I am a part of it. I don’t need any order beyond this chaos, beyond this indefinableness. Thank you, Russia, for the passion, for the atrocities, for your loveliness, for our suffering.”
We hope you find these love stories as intriguing as we do, and keep on the lookout for the next theme from Russia: Leaving Home.