The New York Times has just shared a wonderful infographic on the great writers and works of Russian literature – “Unhappy in Their Own Ways.” And for anyone looking to reinforce their preconception that Russian literature is all some great Love and Death-style landscape of melancholy and disaster, here’s the evidence laid out in strikingly graphic form.

For such a serious – yea, gloomy – topic, it’s surprisingly fun, but there is an all-too-serious dimension to this. As Masha Gessen revealed in a sobering recent article in The New York Review of Books, “The Dying Russians,” Russia is in the grip of a secular mortality catastrophe, and “the cultural context of the Russian mortality crisis” detailed in Michelle Parsons’ book Dying Unneeded is arguably more relevant to the epidemic of early deaths than any public health or economic deficiency. “The psychological nature of the Russian disease,” as reflected in its literature, got an extra twist from recent political disappointments and the apparent failure of democratic renewal within the country, but has its roots in a state that for centuries has been busily “teaching its citizens … that their lives are worthless.” Russian literature apparently got the message long ago, and has been repeating, or at least, bearing witness, to it ever since.

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Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


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