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3 controversial books by foreign writers about Russia with mixed feelings
3 controversial books by foreign writers about Russia with mixed feelings

Russia is a country that has always occupied the minds of Europeans, no matter how far from it they live. There are Russian characters in a huge number of cult Western books. Many writers have visited Russia to write what they saw there. But there were also those who transferred the action of the book to Russia. This is the rarest option.

The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This book was published in Russia, but it is very far from the popularity of Robinson's first adventures in hot Africa and South America. Perhaps because the readers think there is nothing to surprise the author with. Replace palms with snow-covered trees and parrots with bears, and that's all.

According to the plot, the main character, having returned to England and got rich, got bored. After the death of his wife, he decides to return with Friday to the island, where they spent so much time together, not knowing whether to leave him - at least, Robinson did not know, and Friday was probably aware that man-eating warriors regularly visit the island and they can steal a watercraft.

The island is no longer so uninhabited. Seventy Englishmen live there, as well as a certain number of Spaniards and cannibalistic prisoners. Crusoe decides to sail further, and Friday accompanies him, but very soon, off the coast of Brazil, he dies in a skirmish. Yes, South America pleases only with memories, and Crusoe is heading for another continent that is memorable for him - Africa. Where is Russia? We must be patient.

In Madagascar, Robinson's team fights off, rapes a local girl, then generally arranges a massacre, and sets the captain, that is, Crusoe, on the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Crusoe is looking for ways to return to England, finds himself in Asia, and there it is already a stone's throw to Russia.

In Russia, Crusoe either waits out the winter in Tobolsk for eight months, not daring to set off, then meets the local "Robinson" - an exiled prince suffering from loneliness and interrupting the fruits of his labors surrounded by snow-covered trees and bears. Defoe prepared himself for writing a book exclusively on the basis of a geographical map, so in the last part of it there are many names of cities familiar to a Russian. But he either had no one to ask about local realities (which is doubtful in the eighteenth century, at the time when Peter's chicks sailed to Europe to study), or he was afraid.

Crusoe destroys the Tatar idol. Illustration for the book

"The Grand Duke of Moscow", Lope de Vega

Most Russians are familiar with his work from the plays "Dance Teacher" and "Dog in the Manger", filmed in the USSR by directors Tatyana Lukashevich, Vladimir Kantsel and Jan Fried. But the Spanish playwright was unusually prolific, and in terms of the scene he was not at all limited to Spain, although he preferred it for obvious reasons. One of his dramas about foreign powers is "The Grand Duke of Moscow", dedicated to the history of False Dmitry or, as the playwright himself believed, the rescued Tsarevich Dimitri.

The play was written in 1606, in response to the news that in 1605 "Tsarevich Dimitri" was crowned in Moscow. The main character is written with great love. Still would! False Dmitry made a promise to the Poles who supported him as soon as possible to bring Russians to Catholicism, and all Catholic Europe with bated breath awaited this miracle of the triumph of the true faith.

To the Russian reader, a lot, however, would seem strange in the play.There was no Internet, no information bureaus, and de Vega had to rely on confused rumors and information coming from Russia. So, at the very beginning, we learn that Ivan the Terrible has two sons - the eldest, Fedor, and the youngest, Ivan (yes, the princes are confused by seniority). In the usual spirit of de Vega's plays, sons communicate freely with their father, constantly making fun of him and teasing him. The grandson of Grozny, Tsarevich Dmitry, behaves in the same way. The one that in life was not at all the son of Tsarevich Fyodor, like de Vega, but his younger brother.

To retell what follows is to describe all historical inconsistencies for a long time. Perhaps it will be enough to say that Tsarevich Dmitry and Boris Godunov are fighting with swords in the final. Dmitry wins and enters the royal chambers. The people rejoice. The news that the Muscovites had killed around the time of the writing of the play "Tsarevich Dmitry" probably reached the Spanish playwright only a year later.

Lope de Vega saw False Dmitry as a knight

Autumn in Petersburg, John Maxwell Coetzee

The South African writer Coetzee, or Cootsie, is a Nobel laureate in literature and a recipient of two Booker prizes, so he is a worthy continuation of a number of outstanding writers who have written books about Russia. Only, unlike Defoe and de Vega, he is alive and much more information was available to him than the playwrights of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

According to the plot, the writer Fyodor Dostoevsky arrives in St. Petersburg. There he plunges into the world of dark and melancholic crimes committed by those whom the reader confidently (thanks to the school!) Recognizes as characters from Dostoevsky's books. No, Fyodor Ivanovich came not for their sake - he wants to visit the places where his deceased stepson Pavel visited. And the characters just as if by themselves are embodied in the St. Petersburg fog, from the wet St. Petersburg atmosphere.

The entire book is marked by a sense of hopelessness and gradual descent into madness. They are written so brightly and thickly that some of the novel delights (including for the transmission of the spirit of some of Dostoevsky's works), while others are repulsed, disgusted and angry. I must say that something in the novel is more from Dostoevsky's time than from his books - student protests with arson, political agitators, arrests of the secret police. By the way, the real Pavel did not die young at all - he outlived his stepfather. Coetzee reflected his personal tragedy in the book. He survived the death of his son, who was only twenty-three years old.

Painting by Ilya Glazunov

Foreigners wrote memoirs and travel notes about Russia much more often than fiction books. How foreign writers saw Russia and its inhabitants: From Dumas to Dreiser.

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