When I first moved to Russia I set myself the goal of getting to grips with the titans of Russian literature. Ultimately I would spend six years reading primarily Russian authors, but in those early days the prospect of battling my way through all those massive texts seemed intimidating, the reading equivalent of crossing Siberia on foot.
One author I was especially intimidated by was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, at least in part because the book I had brought with me from Scotland was Cancer Ward. I mean, why didn’t I bring Ivan Denisovich? That book was about the GULAG yes, but it was very short. Cancer Ward was about cancer AND Stalinism AND it was 560 pages long. Hey, why not read The Master and Margarita instead? It’s got the devil in it!