The Greatest Dutch, Russian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

    "Life and Fate" is a sweeping epic that explores the human condition during the Siege of Stalingrad in World War II. The novel delves into the lives of a wide range of characters, from soldiers and scientists to children and victims of the Holocaust, providing a stark and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war, the brutality of totalitarianism, and the resilience of the human spirit. At the same time, it also examines themes of love, loss, and the struggle for freedom and dignity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

  2. 2. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

    "The Discovery of Heaven" is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between mankind and the divine. The story revolves around two friends, an astronomer and a philologist, who are manipulated by heavenly forces to father a child who is destined to return the Ten Commandments to God. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes such as friendship, love, art, science, and the existence of God, presenting a thought-provoking analysis of the human condition.

  3. 3. Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin

    "Summer in Baden-Baden" is a unique blend of fact and fiction that intertwines the author's own travels to Leningrad with a reimagining of Fyodor Dostoevsky's summer in Baden-Baden, Germany. The narrative shifts between the two journeys, exploring themes of obsession, identity, and the power of literature. The author's fascination with Dostoevsky serves as a lens through which he examines his own life and experiences as a Jew in Soviet Russia, while also providing a fresh perspective on the famous Russian author's life and works.

  4. 4. All Souls' Day by Cees Nooteboom

    "All Souls' Day" is a novel about a Dutch documentary filmmaker, who, after losing his wife and daughter in a car accident, moves to Berlin to escape his grief. The protagonist becomes entangled in a series of romantic relationships while struggling to come to terms with his loss. The book blends narrative with philosophical musings on memory, loss, and the nature of time, using the city of Berlin as a backdrop to illustrate the protagonist's internal journey.

  5. 5. The Clay Machine-gun by Victor Pelevin

    "The Clay Machine-gun" is a surreal and complex novel that explores the nature of reality and illusion. The story is set in post-Soviet Russia and follows a protagonist who has multiple identities, including a poet in 19th-century Russia, a 20th-century psychiatric patient, and a 21st-century advertising executive. The narrative moves between these identities and realities, blurring the lines between them and creating a layered and philosophical exploration of Russian society, identity, and the human psyche.

  6. 6. Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov

    "Happy Moscow" is a satirical novel set in the Soviet Union during the height of Stalinist rule, following the life of a young woman, Moscow Chestnova, who is named after the capital city. Despite the harsh realities of life under an authoritarian regime, she maintains a positive and optimistic outlook, symbolizing the Soviet Union's propaganda that promoted an image of a happy and prosperous society. The novel, through its characters and their experiences, explores the paradoxes and contradictions of the Soviet society, challenging the official narrative of happiness and prosperity.

  7. 7. Rituals by Cees Nooteboom

    "Rituals" is a philosophical novel that explores the lives of three men, each dealing with existential crises in post-World War II Netherlands. The narrative delves into their individual searches for meaning and purpose, their struggles with societal norms, and their attempts to establish personal rituals as a way to create order in a seemingly chaotic world. The book is a profound meditation on the human condition, examining themes of time, death, and the nature of reality.

  8. 8. Soul and Other Stories by Andrey Platonov

    "Soul and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that delve into the human condition and the struggle for identity in a world filled with political and social upheaval. The stories are set in a variety of contexts, from the harsh landscapes of Central Asia to the chaos of the Russian Revolution. The characters are often faced with existential crises, grappling with questions of purpose, meaning, and morality. The narrative is marked by a unique blend of philosophical inquiry, poetic prose, and a deep sense of empathy for the human plight.

  9. 9. Gimmick! by Joost Zwagerman

    "Gimmick!" is a novel that explores the life of a young artist in the Amsterdam art scene during the 1980s. The protagonist is caught in a world of excess, parties, drugs, sex, and betrayal while trying to find his place and make a name for himself. The story delves into the struggles of artistic life, the lure of fame and the pitfalls of success, providing a raw and gritty depiction of the times.

  10. 10. The Laws by Connie Palmen

    "The Laws" is a philosophical novel that follows the life of a young woman studying philosophy who becomes intrigued by the concept of laws, both societal and personal. Over the course of seven years, she engages in relationships with seven different men, each representing a different aspect of her studies including a priest, a physicist, an artist, a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a biologist, and a writer. Each relationship provides a new perspective on her quest to understand the laws of the universe and human nature.

  11. 11. The Twins by Tessa De Loo

    "The Twins" is a poignant narrative about twin sisters, separated at a young age due to the Second World War. One sister grows up in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation, while the other is raised in Germany as part of the Hitler Youth. After six decades of separation, they meet again and begin to share their experiences, discovering the impact of the war on their lives and the stark differences in their upbringing. The book explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the long-lasting effects of war on individuals and families.

  12. 12. The Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin

    "The Life of Insects" is a surreal novel that explores the complexities of post-Soviet Russia through the lens of a bizarre seaside community of humans who transform into various types of insects. The narrative unfolds through a series of interconnected stories that delve into the characters' struggles, dreams, and fears, serving as a metaphor for the human condition. The book provides a satirical commentary on society's ills, touching on themes of capitalism, corruption, and the search for identity in a rapidly changing world.

  13. 13. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

    In a 1950s Soviet Union gripped by fear and paranoia, Leo Demidov, a dedicated officer of the state security agency, is faced with a chilling reality: a series of brutal child murders that the government refuses to acknowledge. As Leo defies his superiors and embarks on a dangerous investigation, he becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue and personal danger, risking everything to uncover the truth and protect those he loves. "Child 44" is a gripping thriller that explores the dark underbelly of a repressive regime and the resilience of one man determined to bring justice to a society plagued by secrets.

  14. 14. The Zone by Sergei Dovlatov

    "The Zone" is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of a writer who is confined to a Soviet labor camp. Through a series of vignettes, the protagonist reflects on his experiences in the camp, the absurdities of the Soviet system, and the struggles of maintaining his identity and integrity in the face of oppression. With dark humor and sharp observations, the book offers a poignant and satirical portrayal of life in the Soviet Union.

  15. 15. Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov

    The book is a tragicomic novel that follows the story of an unsuccessful writer and divorced father who takes a summer job as a tour guide at the rural estate of a famous Russian poet. As he immerses himself in the petty concerns and daily life of the museum staff and local villagers, the protagonist grapples with his own literary ambitions, the complexities of his personal life, and the cultural legacy of the poet whose memory he is charged with preserving. The narrative is infused with sharp wit and a deep sense of irony as it explores themes of artistic integrity, cultural heritage, and the absurdities of Soviet life.

  16. 16. On The Golden Porch by Tatyana Tolstaya

    "On The Golden Porch" is a collection of short stories that delve into the lives of various characters in Soviet Russia, exploring themes of memory, history, and the complexities of human experience. The narrative weaves through the mundane and the extraordinary, painting vivid portraits of individuals as they navigate the peculiarities of their existence. With a blend of magical realism and sharp social observation, the stories capture the essence of Russian culture and psyche during a time of great change, revealing the resilience and richness of the human spirit in the face of the absurdities of life.

  17. 17. Medea And Her Children by Lyudmila Ulitskaya

    "Medea And Her Children" by Lyudmila Ulitskaya is a powerful and emotionally charged novel that delves into the complex relationships between a mother and her children. Set in Soviet Russia, the story follows the lives of three generations of women as they navigate the challenges of love, sacrifice, and the oppressive political climate. Through vivid and compelling storytelling, Ulitskaya explores the universal themes of family, loyalty, and the enduring strength of a mother's love.

  18. 18. The Time: Night by Ludmila Petrushevskaya

    The book is a stark portrayal of the struggles faced by a multi-generational family living in the cramped quarters of a Moscow apartment during the twilight years of the Soviet Union. The narrative is driven by the matriarch, a poet who is both resilient and weary, as she navigates the complexities of caring for her mentally unstable daughter and her neglected grandson. The story delves deep into themes of maternal sacrifice, poverty, and the relentless passage of time, painting a grim picture of domestic life and the burdens of womanhood in a society that is as unforgiving as it is oppressive.

  19. 19. Hurramabad by Andrei Volos

    "Hurramabad" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel set in contemporary Russia. The story follows the lives of three young men who find themselves entangled in a web of corruption, violence, and political intrigue in the city of Hurramabad. As they navigate through the complexities of power and loyalty, the characters are forced to confront their own moral dilemmas and make difficult choices that will shape their futures. With its vivid portrayal of a corrupt society and its exploration of themes such as friendship, love, and the pursuit of justice, "Hurramabad" offers a compelling and immersive reading experience.

  20. 20. Abessijnse Kronieken by Moses Isegawa

    "Abessijnse Kronieken" is a powerful and captivating novel set in Uganda during the tumultuous era of Idi Amin's dictatorship. The story follows the life of Mugezi, a young man navigating through the complexities of love, family, and political upheaval. With richly drawn characters and vivid descriptions, the book explores themes of identity, cultural clash, and the struggle for freedom in a country torn apart by corruption and violence.

  21. 21. A Dream In Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu

    "A Dream In Polar Fog" is a captivating and poignant tale that follows the journey of John MacLennan, a Scottish whaler who becomes stranded in the Arctic. As he navigates the harsh and unforgiving landscape, MacLennan encounters the indigenous Chukchi people and forms a deep bond with a young Chukchi boy named Khariton. Through their shared experiences and cultural exchange, the novel explores themes of identity, survival, and the power of human connection amidst the backdrop of the Arctic wilderness.

  22. 22. The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov

    "The Good Life Elsewhere" is a darkly humorous and satirical novel that follows a group of Moldovan villagers who embark on a chaotic journey to Italy in search of a better life. Through their misadventures, the author exposes the harsh realities of poverty, corruption, and the desperate measures people are willing to take in pursuit of a brighter future. With a blend of absurdity and poignant social commentary, the novel offers a compelling exploration of the human condition and the universal desire for a better life.

  23. 23. There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby by Ludmila Petrushevskaya

    In this collection of dark and haunting tales set in Soviet Russia, Ludmila Petrushevskaya explores the depths of human desperation and the complexities of human relationships. Through her vivid and evocative storytelling, she delves into the lives of ordinary individuals who are trapped in a web of loneliness, despair, and unfulfilled desires. With a blend of realism and the supernatural, Petrushevskaya crafts a mesmerizing narrative that exposes the raw emotions and hidden secrets that lie within the human heart.

  24. 24. Klotsvog by Margarita Khemlin

    "Klotsvog" is a poignant and introspective novel that follows the life of Maya Abramovna Klotsvog, a Jewish woman living in Soviet Russia during the 20th century. Through Maya's perspective, the book explores themes of identity, love, and the struggles faced by Jews in a society plagued by anti-Semitism. With a blend of humor and tragedy, the story delves into Maya's personal relationships, her experiences as a mother and wife, and her resilience in the face of adversity. Ultimately, "Klotsvog" is a profound exploration of one woman's journey through life and her unwavering spirit in the midst of societal challenges.

  25. 25. The Sacred Book Of The Werewolf by Victor Pelevin

    This novel introduces readers to a captivating world where ancient myth meets modern life through the eyes of a two-thousand-year-old werefox named A Hu-Li. Disguised as a teenage girl, she navigates contemporary Russia, using her supernatural abilities and seductive powers to survive in a society dominated by men. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she falls in love with a werewolf, a figure representing the novel's exploration of themes such as identity, transformation, and the search for spiritual enlightenment. Set against the backdrop of post-Soviet Russia, the narrative delves into philosophical discussions, blending Eastern philosophies with the complexities of modern existence, all while maintaining a sharp sense of humor and a deep sense of mysticism.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download