Literary roundup: Russian literature in prisons, on spies and some Czech honey

The Washington Post has an amazing article about teaching Russian literature in prisons in Virginia. Not only does it recount how convicted felons are getting enthusiastic about reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and company, and having their minds opened up to the wider possibilities of life by what they’re reading as opposed to being reformed or restrained by the usual brilliant and extremely well-thought out strategies of the US penal system, but it ends with a quote from one of the prisoners that is a work of literature itself:

“Last night, I was sitting on my bed and it all of a sudden hit me: How am I going to be remembered?” Green said. “I sat there for an hour, just looking at my leg, thinking about how I would answer that.”

If Hollywood film adaptations of his books, among many other aspects of modern life, have sent Tolstoy spinning in his grave then at least this article gives him reason to take a short break.

Russian Spies

Our territory
A gang has been dispatched
Of spies,
Of arsonists,
Of bandits,
Of murderers

“The Call,” by Vladimir Mayakovsky

The latest issue of Chtenia is titled “Spies and Impostors” and is all about espionage. None of it is available online but looks like an interesting mix of fiction, essays and poetry.


European Literature Night took place last night and Czech writer Jáchym Topol was a participant in London. In the run up to the event English PEN published a Topol work titled “A Little Honey,” translated into English by Alex Zucker.

Photo – A corridor of the end of the world prison at Ushuaia, now a museum by Luis Argerich/wikimedia commons

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