Ru Az

I write this to you...

I wonder if my reader writes letters or, at least, notes by hand? I am telling you as a person who knows all about it: little or even a big happiness brought us from the handwritten letter could not ever be compared to those from texts and messages. That joyful anticipation, when you open the envelope with the letter addressed to you, is priceless! Thinking about this epistolary genre, I looked up, as usual, in books.

Here are five ideas about the works of literature written in letters that are worth reading.

Dostoyevsky, “Poor folk”

…and it is wonderful to think that one may live and yet be ignorant of the fact that under one’s very nose there may be a book in which one’s whole life is described as in a picture. Never should I have guessed that, as soon as ever one begins to read such a book, it sets one on both to remember and to consider and to foretell events

Fyodor Mikhailovich gives pretty subtle description of human relationships in correspondence between modest officer Makar Devushkin and young lady Barbara Dobroselova. It is Dostoevsky’s first work, an ordinary story about poor people, written in no easy language – the style of the future master of psychological genre is recognizable from the very first lines. “Man is a mystery” he writes, however Dostoevsky is a mystery to me himself, as you really need to be a psychologist in order to keep reader’s mind in tension throughout the whole book!

André Maurois, “To an Unknown Lady”

Few friendships would survive if we knew what our friends were saying of us behind our backs

Letters by André Maurois talk about love and friendship, about marriage, life and death – and all this in an easy narrative manner with a hint of humor. After digging a little in Maurois’ biography it can be assumed that “the unknown lady” is some kind of generic character of all French women of the end of XIX – beginning of XX century.  Speaking about different aspects of relationships between men and women, Maurois makes us wonder – does this mystical lady actually exist?

Jostein Gaarder, “The Orange girl”

But if two people do almost nothing except search for one another, it's hardly surprising if they run across each other by chance

Letter from the past – a little naïve, quite romantic story about an orange girl, written by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder. I read this long tender letter in school and shared it with many people since then. You’d think that this book is about the boy’s father, intended as letter recipient, who tells the story of his love to a girl with oranges. But actually, this book is about people, who were able to carry out from their short lives the most important lessons – for themselves and for the future generation as well.

Vincent van Gogh, “Letters to Theo”

Better to say but a few words, but filled with meaning, than to say many that are but idle sounds and as easy to utter as they are useless

If you are fan of epistolary novels, then, in my opinion, mysterious Van Gogh and his letters to his brother Theo won’t be ignored. Thanks to those, who worked hard to make these letters appear! This edition is an incredible opportunity to find out more about this genius artist and understand him better. Finding yourself in colorful world of Van Gogh through his letters to brother, you stay in private not only with the painter but yourself as well. Sadness will really last forever after reading this story about an extraordinary madness, but you definitely won’t regret it.

As a bonus to all the lovers of epistolary genre I recommend reading letters of Yevgeny Leonov to his son. And yet, tell me – do you write letters?

Zeynab Jahan