Customer Reviews for

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them

Average Rating 4
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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    God I hope that I'm not a pretentious graduate student!

    Ms. Batuman's "The Possessed" is a graduate school journal gone mad. I expected an intriguing romp through the annals of Russian literature, however the reader is introduced into the thankless world of the lowly liberal arts graduate school student, Elif Batuman, and all of the degradations forthwith. While I truly enjoyed Batuman's brief discussions of Russian authors, the chapter on Isaac Babel is absolutely brilliant, those moments are all too brief. The rest of the time Batuman meanders between academic conferences, often belittling her colleagues and associates while prattling on about local encounters. While I do enjoy the occasional travelogue, I believe that Elif Batuman's "The Possessed" is nothing more than that with the occasional moment of relevancy, as well as the typical whine of the graduate student. Her writing style is concise, however this does not explain the financial success of the book. Perhaps former graduate students can relate to Batuman's mundane struggles, but I think it has more to do with her connection to the New Yorker.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read!

    This book was a little bit different than what I expected (in a good way). The subtitle of the book is "Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them." I guess I was expecting something about people who read Russian novels... not really sure what I was expecting actually. My book club chose the book so I just went along with the flow.

    This book is really more of a travel book. Elif Batuman always seems to be in the right place at the right time and gets to go to...moreThis book was a little bit different than what I expected (in a good way). The subtitle of the book is "Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them." I guess I was expecting something about people who read Russian novels... not really sure what I was expecting actually. My book club chose the book so I just went along with the flow.

    This book is really more of a travel book. Elif Batuman always seems to be in the right place at the right time and gets to go to all of these fabulous places in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Some parts of it were definitely familiar as I was just in Ukraine back in August. It definitely made me laugh. Batuman also finds herself in some pretty funny situations (scary toilets in Uzbekistan or losing a famous writer's last living relatives in a huge airport or judging a boy's leg contest) that made me laugh even more.

    It's only when Batuman started talking about some of the Russian novels she has studied that I sort of lost interest. I haven't read very many Russian novels at all so many of those sections simply read as summaries to me and I didn't really get much out of them.

    Bottom line: Armchair travelers will love this one.

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