Favorite Books

Generation Y

What should youth literature be like? To what extent can classical books be interesting for the generation Y? I have a rather queer opinion on the subject: it is difficult for me to think about literature in terms of age categories and other limitations, like when they say something like, “This is what kids need" or "This is too early for them to read”.

Good old classics or must-read fiction?

Young people read much now, At least, I get this impression after short but meaningful roaming across the numerous book channels of YouTube. Many booktubers (these are bloggers presenting book channels) speak not only about the books they have read and often expand on the fate of modern literature and on the crisis of literary genres. As a man who knew the pre-Internet era with its football and lapta, the Russian baseball, till midnight, I often find myself thinking that the socio-cultural gap between our generations is huge. I have a clear impression that modern readers are immersed in the fantasy worlds. Are they trying to neglect the real world by this? Let us leave these reflections to sociologists and other bespectacled guys.

Another thing is noteworthy. The young readers’ generation evidently shuns classical books. The very vision of ornate phrases of such length that makes one forget what was at the thick volume aside. At the time of the so-called clip thinking, such dislike for the classical form is explicable. What letters and duels can we talk about among the ubiquitous abbreviations and acronyms, like ‘bro’ ‘10Q’, ‘2nite’ and other gibberish.

Please do not think that my text is just another grumpy message to the youth. I only wanted to say that classical literature may be interesting not only as part of the mandatory school or university courses but exciting in itself, as a pleasant hobby and a source of information about the world we live in and the people living and struggling in it. It is always better to deal with reliable authors, instead of chasing the latest trendy or explosively hot things.

A new glance at the classics

What do we know about Fyodor Dostoyevsky? Exactly, we immediately think about Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Insulted and the Injured. Yet, this list is far from being complete! Fyodor Mikhailovich was an excellent story writer. Do you like to get thrilled with a blood-curdling story? Read The Double — you will like it. The profound and subtle psychology of this book leaves Alfred Hitchcock far behind. Dostoyevsky creates literally, not visually, the image of a person who encounters his double. Having discarded the historic setting, we realize that such a story is universal and interesting at all times, because people are always attracted by the mysterious world of their own psyche.

Do you like French-style light comedies? A Nasty Story and The Uncle’s Dream by Dostoyevsky will make you laugh heartily and sincerely, the way you laughed in your childhood.

Collected stories by Milan Kundera titled Funny Loves disclose all secrets and comic situations on the battlefield of love. This modern classic was born in Czechoslovakia and now lives and works in France. His prose is known for its uniquely exquisite style, and the subtle humor of the simple situations of life will help the younger generation to prepare for the hardships and trials in love and in the family life.

If you wish to go deeper into the subject of love and family relations, classical literature will provide hundreds of marvelous books to you. This time, I would like to speak about Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. This is a story of one family from beginning to end. Flaubert is consistent, full of details and at times so boring that you may want to give up everything and run a semi-marathon race, just to prove to yourself that you are still alive and breathing. To be true, the novel is not easy reading but it is worth being finished. The reason is that you feel stunned after finishing the book. As a true novelist, Flaubert does not make prophecies but narrates the co-existence of a man and a woman. The book is not just a product of the author’s imagination but life itself created by the writer on the novel pages. You shouldn‘t be afraid that reading Flaubert will have a certain sobering or repulsive effect on romantically feeling youth. Rather, it will make you think why a man and a woman live together. For which sake is it worthwhile to connect your life with the life of another person? These are correct and necessary questions.

Youth is closely linked with protest, rebellion and non-conformism. So, the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess would be good to read. The author speaks how inhumane it is to break the backbone of the human nature. Balancing on the edge between a social drama and a psychotic thriller (as long as we have started to speak using the language of the movies) surprisingly makes the reader feel sympathetic with the delinquent youth Alex. This sympathy is not what we usually feel for the 'bad 'guys' from the movies. Here we experience an in-depth feeling of the uniqueness of the nature of each human. Although Alex is a complete asshole, “God tolerates beasts, too”. The attempts to mold an ideal man suiting certain standards and regulations established by someone are the real violence and evil depicted by Burgess in his novel. Such social experiments to eradicate the unwanted elements have never done the mankind any good. And each person decides which side to step on, the light or the dark one.

Let me say it again: I am not a supporter of age restrictions in literature. If a book attracts a reader, that means, the time of their contact has come. Sometimes one cam start reading a book again and again and drop it in irritation, not realizing what is happening. One can devour The Brothers Karamazov at the age of twelve and start coloring books or reading fairy tales, like The Little Prince or Oscar and the Lady in Pink, at the age of forty. Your feelings, your inner state are what matters only. If reading brings you pleasure, relax and forget about all the conventionalities. If your follow your heart’s desire, the books you need will come to you, no matter whether it would be a book by Camus, Kafka, Gombrowicz, Pelevin, Yanagihara or Murakami. The books will be yours.
© Andrey Romankov

Andrey Romankov

The linguist Andrej Romankov left Belarus for Novosibirsk because of destiny and his great love. When the book tuber visits a friend, firstly he searches for the home library of the host. “Bread and circuses” sounds in his case like: ´books, more books and maybe one more book.´ Since 2016 he is running a book channel on YouTube- “bearded reviews, books”, and his goal is to popularize books and good literature.


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