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English version podcast ‘Scandal and controversy in Russian literature’ launched

Following the success of the Dutch version, the podcast 'Scandal and Controversy in Russian Literature' is now also available in English. Senior University Lecturer Otto Boele guides listeners through eight infamous texts in this version.

Among the many emotions stirred by Russian literature over the past 200 years, the triad of indignation, disbelief and moral panic is a particularly persistent phenomenon. Literary critics, state authorities and even dismayed readers have regularly shown their obsession with the supposed impact of novels and other ideologically charged literature on the moral state of society.

Boele:‘The books I review are not necessarily literary masterpieces, they may even be very mediocre novels, but they were relevant at the time, wildly popular and, most importantly: controversial.’

To highlight this scandalous aspect of Russian literature, Otto Boele examines eight infamous texts, paying particular attention to the commotion they caused.

No prior knowledge required

Listeners need no prior knowledge of Russian literature and are introduced to a variety of current topics, ranging from Russia's ambiguous relationship with the West and socialist utopianism, to sexual morality, Soviet youth culture and political dissidence in contemporary Russia. All in all, the podcast series offers a fresh perspective on the history of Russian literature, largely ignoring the obvious masterpieces and focusing on ‘bad’ but undeniably influential novels.


Links to the “Scandal & Controversy in Russian Literature” episodes:

Introduction by Otto Boele and Kay Mastenbroek.

  1. Russia gave nothing to the World
    “Philosophical Letters Addressed to a Lady” by Pyotr Chaadaev (1829-1836).
  2. The worst novel ever written
    “What Is to Be Done?” by Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1863).
  3. Thou shalt not copulate
    “The Kreutzer Sonata” by Lev Tolstoy (1890).
  4. A pornographic novel of ideas
    “Sanin” by Mikhail Artsybashev (1907).
  5. Remorse of a terrorist
    “The Pale Horse” by Boris Savinkov (1909).
  6. Four little brats in Tallinn
    “A Ticket to the Stars” by Vasilii Aksyonov (1961).
  7. A very dark novel
    “The Sad Detective” by Viktor Astafiev (1986).
  8. Farewell Europe
    “The Big Green Tent” by Lyudmila Ulitskaya (2011)

Otto Boele: 'A podcast for anyone interested in Russia and keen to understand how literature has reflected and shaped the development of this vast country over the past 200 years.' 

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