The Greatest Hungarian, 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 Notebook: The Proof ; The Third Lie : Three Novels by Agota Kristof

    "The Notebook: The Proof ; The Third Lie : Three Novels" is a trilogy of novels that follow the lives of twin brothers, living through the harsh realities of war, separation, and betrayal. The first novel, "The Notebook," tells the story of their survival as children in a rural town at the end of World War II. The second book, "The Proof," continues their story into adulthood, exploring the effects of their traumatic childhood. The final book, "The Third Lie," delves into the complexities of their relationship and the secrets they kept from one another. The trilogy is a poignant exploration of identity, love, and the enduring bond of brotherhood.

  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. 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.

  5. 5. Celestial Harmonies by Peter Esterhazy

    "Celestial Harmonies" is a historical novel that tells the story of the aristocratic Esterházy family, tracing their lineage from the late Middle Ages to the present day. The narrative is divided into two parts, with the first part featuring a series of vignettes about the family's ancestors, while the second part focuses on the experiences of the narrator's father under the Communist regime in Hungary. The novel is characterized by its intricate structure, complex themes, and lush, poetic language, offering a rich exploration of Hungarian history, family dynamics, and the human condition.

  6. 6. The Door by Szabó, Magda

    "The Door" by Magda Szabo is a novel about the relationship between two women, one of whom is a writer and the other is her housekeeper. The story explores themes of class, power, and the complexities of human relationships. As the two women become increasingly intertwined, their relationship becomes more and more complicated, leading to unexpected consequences for both of them. The novel is a powerful exploration of the human condition, and a poignant reminder of the importance of understanding and empathy in our interactions with others.

  7. 7. 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.

  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. The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

    "The Melancholy of Resistance" is a surreal and philosophical novel set in a small Hungarian town that becomes isolated by a massive snowstorm. The arrival of a mysterious circus, featuring a stuffed whale and a silent, enigmatic leader, brings with it a wave of change and unrest. The narrative explores themes of chaos, resistance, and the struggle for power through the perspectives of various townsfolk, including a reclusive music theorist and a former political dissident. The novel is known for its complex, long-winded sentences and its bleak yet profound examination of human nature and society.

  10. 10. 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.

  11. 11. 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.

  12. 12. 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.

  13. 13. Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

    "Satantango" is a bleak and atmospheric novel set in a small Hungarian village, where a group of desperate and disillusioned characters become entangled in a web of deception, corruption, and despair. As they navigate through the decaying landscape and their own inner demons, the novel explores themes of power, greed, and the human capacity for both cruelty and redemption. With its rich prose and intricate storytelling, "Satantango" offers a haunting and thought-provoking reflection on the human condition.

  14. 14. Helping Verbs Of The Heart by Peter Esterhazy

    "Helping Verbs Of The Heart" by Peter Esterhazy is a thought-provoking and introspective novel that delves into the complexities of love and relationships. Through a series of interconnected stories and characters, the book explores the various ways in which love can shape and define our lives. With lyrical prose and deep emotional insight, Esterhazy examines the power of love to both heal and wound, and ultimately leaves readers pondering the profound impact that love can have on the human heart.

  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. Pete Pite by Gábor Nógrádi

    "Pete Pite" is a children's book that follows the adventures of a young boy named Pete, who is known for his insatiable curiosity and inventive spirit. Living in a small village, Pete's inquisitive nature often leads him into amusing and sometimes challenging situations. With his trusty sidekick, a dog named Pite, Pete embarks on a series of escapades that teach him valuable life lessons about friendship, responsibility, and the importance of imagination. Through his experiences, Pete not only solves problems and helps his friends but also grows and learns about the world around him.

  18. 18. 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.

  19. 19. A Book Of Memories by Peter Nadas

    "A Book of Memories" is a complex narrative that weaves together the lives of a young Hungarian intellectual, his friends, and lovers, set against the backdrop of Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The novel delves into themes of memory, history, and identity, exploring the protagonist's personal relationships and his struggle with his own sexuality. Rich in philosophical and psychological insights, the book is a tapestry of stories within stories, where the past and present intertwine, and characters search for meaning in a world marked by political turmoil and social change.

  20. 20. 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.

  21. 21. 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.

  22. 22. Jadviga Párnája by Pál Závada

    "Jadviga Párnája" is a historical novel set in a Hungarian village at the turn of the 20th century. It delves into the life of a young woman named Jadviga, who is of Polish descent, and her marriage to a Hungarian man, András. The narrative unfolds through a series of letters, diary entries, and other documents, painting a vivid picture of rural life, social norms, and the personal struggles of the characters. The novel explores themes of love, fidelity, identity, and the complexities of human relationships against the backdrop of a society grappling with change and the influences of modernity.

  23. 23. 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.

  24. 24. The Book Of Fathers by Miklós Vámos

    "The Book of Fathers" chronicles the lives of twelve generations of men from a Hungarian family, spanning over 300 years from the 18th century to the modern day. Each chapter focuses on one descendant, capturing the historical and personal challenges they face, from the rise and fall of empires to the intimate struggles of love and loss. The novel weaves a tapestry of Hungarian history and the family's legacy, marked by a mystical diary that is passed down from father to son, which possesses the power to influence the fate of its keeper. Through the generations, the book becomes a symbol of the family's heritage and the enduring connection between the past and the future.

  25. 25. 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.

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.

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