Ivan Bunin, The Village [Moscow; 1910]
It was perhaps the density of Bunin's prose, the unremitting solemnity and savage squalidity of his leaden description, and the variably-intelligible translation all put together, which has acted as a dead weight on my trip through the literature of the 1910s. It's Naturalism, I suppose, but with a specific strategic aim: to show how worthless and unsustainable provincial peasant life in Tsarist Russia was. Bunin wasn't particularly enamored of the Revolution either (unlike Gorky, he kept a brow-furrowed distance from the Bolsheviks and their heirs), but for the twenty-first century reader of The Village, it's hard to escape the conclusion that anything would have been better than the squalid, diseased, stupefying life he (no doubt unfairly and very much partially) portrays.
July 31, 2017