by Olivia Kennison
Russian readers, both scholarly and amateur, consider the literary heroes of their country in a way wholly different from that of Americans. One can sense this when entering a Russian literary museum, of which there are hundreds across the country. In Saint Petersburg alone one can visit the former apartments of Anna Akhmatova, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, and their common ancestor, Alexander Pushkin, which have all been turned into museums housing some portion of their earthly possessions. For Russians these museums, always located in a former residence of the writer, allow them to pay a pilgrimage to the artist that has brought beauty and history into their lives. A museum dedicated to Joseph Brodsky was opened for one day in Saint Petersburg in 2015, in the minuscule communal apartment in which he spent his childhood, and over 5,000 people lined up outside for the chance to walk through his halls and admire the papers he left behind. The cultural importance of writers and poets in Russia is strong, and it is the goal of the Literary Matrix series to ensure that this outlook on national literature is passed to the next generation.
Subtitled “the textbook written by writers,” the Literary Matrix series spans four volumes dedicated to discrete eras in Russian literature: the nineteenth century (ХIХ Век), the twentieth century (ХХ Век), and the Soviet period (Советская Атлантида), and a final volume titled Extracurricular Reading (Внеклассное чтение). Meant to provide an alternative to Russian classroom fare, these books contain literary articles by contemporary writers about canonical writers and poets included in Russian literature curricula. The articles are written with this specific audience in mind: secondary school and university students enrolled in literature classes. The Extracurricular Reading volume explores writers who are usually left out of standard literature programs.