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Features

A Different Story: Russian and English Novels
By Ekaterina Yuvasheva
Mar 16, 2014 - 12:17:02 AM

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I noticed something about the Russian and English literary works when I went on vacation recently. Since flying places is a boring pastime -- unless one is in the pilot's seat -- I took one of the Russian books off my shelf, one I have not picked up for many years. It was a pleasure to revisit the story I was enthralled with as a child. But when the last page was turned, the last word read, a simple thought came to my mind. "This book would be impossible to film."

Oh, the book itself was thrilling enough. There was a set of three or four interconnected mini- novels which described the lives of regular children who lived in parallel universes yet managed to communicate with each other and be friends despite the unimaginable distance between them. These children's experiences were described vibrantly and vividly enough to keep the reader interested. The reason I thought that book could not be turned into a movie had nothing to do with the plot. It had everything to do with the emotional context of that story.

I do not mean to say that American or British books lack emotion, of course. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Chronicles of Narnia, Azimov's creations... the list of my favorites goes on and on, and none of them can be described as detached. But when I compare these books to the Russian novels I've read so far, I cannot help but notice how much more action-driven they are. The Russian literature is, by comparison, a lot tamer, a lot less "active"... but then, it focuses a lot more on the character's emotions and perceptions versus their tangible experiences. It almost feels as though the English-speaking novelists use emotions as a spice, something to be added in minute quantities to enhance the flavor of their creations. The Russian authors, by comparison, are much like the Japanese sushi chefs, offering the wasabi and the ginger slices in significant quantities to "cleanse the palate" between the bites.

Emotions aren't just the "seasoning" for the Russian writers -- instead, they are the "sauce" in which the action parts of their stories seep before they come to mean anything. They are just as important to the story as the "action" is.

Of course, I have no good means to prove my point. Few Russian novels seem to be translated into English, and those that are end up on the reading lists of Russian Literature courses. I have not seen -- thus far -- any new novels translated from Russian. So why do the Russians focus so much on feelings in their literature?

To me, the answer is simple. We do not get the chance to express - or face -- our emotional reactions to the situations in which we live. I do not know whether the government, the social norms, or the internalized fear of speaking out is to blame. All I know is that, since the days of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, the Russians aren't very vocal in their political statements, choosing instead to hide their opinions in the current literary works and express their feelings through the passions of their characters.

Ekaterina Yuvasheva
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Ekaterina Yuvasheva was born in Rostov, Russia a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union. A bookish kid, she let her imagination run wild, which became an important part of understanding the world around her.

At fifteen, her family moved to America where she graduated college, then Temple University Pharmacy school and become a Pharmacist.

She recently published a 470 page novel titled: "I Am Angelo: Sense of Direction." Many aspects of the story -- from her character's loneliness and opportunities at the School to his choice of a Healer career -- are drawn from experience.


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