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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Times of Trouble: Violence in Russian Literature and Culture

(University of Wisconsin), edited by Marcus C. Levitt and Tatyan

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Violence has been inseparable from the human condition, so why pick on Russia? The editors of this collection of scholarly essays fail to make their case, but that doesn’t mean that many of the book’s articles aren’t worth reading. Violence is a broad theme and the contributors to Times of Trouble explore the subject along many avenues. Among the most interesting topics are women writers who survived the Gulag, psychological violence in Dostoyevsky, the curmudgeonly and skeptical late-Soviet novelist Viktor Astaf’ev and an astute psychological examination of Stalinism whose conclusion is that Stalin and his henchmen feared the Russian people as much as the people feared them.