THE TIMES, TELEGRAPH, GUARDIAN, OBSERVER and ECONOMIST BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017
'A must read' - Margaret Atwood
'Extraordinary. . . it would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original' - Viv Groskop, Observer
The long-awaited translation of the classic oral history of Soviet women's experiences in the Second World War - from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
"Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown... I want to write the history of that war. A women's history."
In the late 1970s, Svetlana Alexievich set out to write her first book, The Unwomanly Face of War, when she realized that she grew up surrounded by women who had fought in the Second World War but whose stories were absent from official narratives. Travelling thousands of miles, she spent years interviewing hundreds of Soviet women - captains, tank drivers, snipers, pilots, nurses and doctors - who had experienced the war on the front lines, on the home front and in occupied territories. As it brings to light their most harrowing memories, this symphony of voices reveals a different side of war, a new range of feelings, smells and colours.
After completing the manuscript in 1983, Alexievich was not allowed to publish it because it went against the state-sanctioned history of the war. With the dawn of Perestroika, a heavily censored edition came out in 1985 and it became a huge bestseller in the Soviet Union - the first in five books that have established her as the conscience of the twentieth century.
'Manuscripts don't burn'
This ribald, carnivalesque satire - featuring the Devil, true love and a gun-toting cat - was written in the darkest days of the Soviet Union and became an underground sensation.
A new series of twenty distinctive, unforgettable Penguin Classics in a beautiful new design and pocket-sized format, with coloured jackets echoing Penguin's original covers.
Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is a fiercely satirical fantasy that remained unpublished in its author's home country for over thirty years. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the acclaimed translators of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
In Soviet Moscow, God is dead, but the devil - to say nothing of his retinue of demons, from a loudmouthed, gun-toting tomcat, to the fanged fallen angel Koroviev - is very much alive. As death and destruction spread through the city like wildfire, condemning Moscow's cultural elite to prison cells and body bags, only a madman, the Master, and Margarita, his beautiful, courageous lover, can hope to end the chaos. Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign and circulated in samizdat form for decades, when The Master and the Margarita was finally published it became an overnight literary phenomenon, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere.
This luminous translation from the complete and unabridged Russian text is accompanied by an introduction by Richard Pevear exploring the extraordinary circumstances of the novel's composition and publication, and how Bulgakov drew on carnivalesque folk traditions to create his ironic subversion of Soviet propaganda. This edition also contains a list of further reading and a note on the text.
After finishing high school, Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) entered the Medical School of Kiev University, graduating in 1916. He wrote about his experiences as a doctor in his early works Notes of a Young Country Doctor. His later works treated the subject of the artist and the tyrant under the guise of historical characters, but The Master and Margarita is generally considered his masterpiece.
If you enjoyed The Master and Margarita, you might like Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, also available in Penguin Classics.
'One of the great novels of the 20th century, a scary, darkly comic allegory'
Now the subject of a major new film adaptation from director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice), Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is translated by award-winning duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky in Penguin Classics.
Starring Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method) as Anna Karenina, Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) as her husband Alexei, Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy) as Count Vronsky, and also starring Matthew McFadyen, Andrea Riseborough and Kelly Macdonald, this dazzling production of Anna Karenina is adapted for the screen by legendary playwright Tom Stoppard.
Anna Karenina seems to have everything - beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike, and soon brings jealousy and bitterness in its wake. Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Konstantin Levin, a man striving to find contentment and meaning to his life - and also a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself.
Acclaimed as the definitive English version of Tolstoy's masterpiece, this edition contains an introduction by Richard Pevear and a preface by John Bayley.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) spent his youth in wasteful idleness until 1851, when he travelled to the Caucasus and joined the army, fighting in the Crimean war. After marrying in 1862, Tolstoy settled down, managing his estates and writing two of his best-known novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life, and in 1901 he was excommunicated by the Russian Holy Synod.
'William Faulkner, it's said, was once asked to name the three best novels ever. He replied: "Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina." If you don't recall why, rush to buy a fine new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky'
Boyd Tonkin, Independent