The Greatest Russian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 210 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. 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.

  2. 2. The Clay Machine-gun by Viktor 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.

  3. 3. 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.

  4. 4. Moscow Petushki by Venedikt Yerofeev

    The book is a surreal and satirical narrative that takes the reader on a tragicomic journey aboard a suburban train from Moscow to the small town of Petushki. The protagonist, a disillusioned intellectual and alcoholic, engages in philosophical musings and encounters a variety of eccentric characters, each embodying different aspects of Soviet life. As he delves into ruminations on love, suffering, and the search for meaning amidst the absurdities of existence, the journey becomes a metaphor for the human condition and the societal decay of the USSR, blending dark humor with poignant introspection.

  5. 5. The White Guard by Michael Bulgakov

    Set against the backdrop of the Ukrainian city of Kiev during the tumultuous Russian Civil War of 1918, the novel follows the Turbin family as they navigate the chaos and shifting allegiances of the time. The story focuses on the two Turbin brothers, who are officers in the White Guard, a faction fighting to preserve the Russian Empire against the encroaching Bolshevik Red Army. As the city is besieged and alliances falter, the family grapples with questions of loyalty, survival, and the meaning of home amidst the collapse of the old world and the uncertainty of the new. The narrative combines a rich portrayal of historical events with a deeply personal family saga, exploring themes of courage, brotherhood, and the tragic futility of war.

  6. 6. The Town Of N by Leonid Dobychin

    The book is a modernist Russian novel that provides a vivid portrayal of provincial life in the early 20th century through the eyes of a young boy. The narrative is a mosaic of fragmented episodes and character sketches, capturing the peculiarities, hypocrisies, and small joys of the inhabitants of a typical Russian town. The protagonist's observations and experiences reflect the social changes and unrest of the period, offering a subtle critique of the era's norms and the impact of historical forces on everyday life. The novel's experimental style and disjointed structure mirror the confusion and transformation of a society on the brink of revolution.

  7. 7. 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.

  8. 8. Buddha's Little Finger by Victor Pelevin

    The novel is a surreal and complex narrative that intertwines the experiences of a young Russian poet during the chaos of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union with his life in post-Soviet Russia during the 1990s. The protagonist grapples with shifting identities, time periods, and realities, often questioning his own sanity as he encounters historical figures, engages in philosophical discussions, and navigates through a landscape filled with absurdities and anachronisms. The book delves into themes of history, memory, and the nature of consciousness, all while employing a mix of dark humor, satire, and mysticism to explore the transformation of Russian society.

  9. 9. 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.

  10. 10. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

    "Absurdistan" is a satirical novel by Gary Shteyngart that follows the story of Misha Vainberg, a wealthy and overweight Russian-American who finds himself stuck in the fictional country of Absurdistan after his father's death. The country is on the brink of a civil war, and Misha must navigate his way through the corrupt and absurd political landscape to get back to America and reunite with his love interest. Along the way, he encounters a cast of eccentric characters and experiences the absurdity of life in a country where everything seems to be falling apart.

  11. 11. 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.

  12. 12. Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina

    "Zuleikha" is a captivating historical novel set in 1930s Soviet Union, following the life of Zuleikha, a Tatar woman who is forcefully taken from her home and exiled to Siberia. As she struggles to adapt to the harsh conditions of the remote village, Zuleikha finds solace in her resilience and the unexpected connections she forms with her fellow exiles. Through her journey of survival, love, and self-discovery, Zuleikha's story beautifully explores themes of identity, freedom, and the indomitable human spirit.

  13. 13. 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.

  14. 14. 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.

  15. 15. 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.

  16. 16. 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.

  17. 17. 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.

  18. 18. The Power Of Darkness by Leo Tolstoy

    "The Power of Darkness" is a harrowing drama that delves into the depths of human depravity and the struggle for redemption. Set in rural Russia, the narrative follows a peasant named Nikita, who, driven by lust and greed, becomes entangled in a web of tragic events, including adultery, infanticide, and deception. As the consequences of his actions spiral out of control, the story exposes the stark realities of the moral decay and the social ills of the time. The play ultimately confronts the audience with the profound impact of sin and the possibility of forgiveness, posing challenging questions about the nature of evil and the potential for moral transformation.

  19. 19. The Return and Other Stories by Andrey Platonov

    "The Return and Other Stories" is a collection of short narratives revolving around the theme of human struggle and resilience in the face of oppressive political regimes and harsh living conditions. The stories, set against the backdrop of Soviet Russia, explore the complexities of human nature, the power of hope, and the resilience of the human spirit. The characters, often ordinary people, grapple with existential questions and the harsh realities of life, providing a poignant critique of the socio-political landscape of the time.

Download

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