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July 21, 2013

[Update: the incomparable Languagehat found the answer: the book is Что непонятно у классиков, или Энциклопедия русского быта XIX века (What’s Unclear in the Classics, or An Encyclopedia of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century-Russia) by Iurii Fedosiuk.  Fedosiuk called for such a book in 1959, but no one wanted to put the bell on the cat until he did himself. He finished it in 1989, but various difficulties prevented its publication until 1998,  five years after the author’s death. In 2012 the 12th edition came out.]

Several years ago I read about a book written to help Soviet-era Russian readers figure out the nineteenth-century realia they found in classic literature – things like how many desiatinas are in a hectare, or what counted as a lot of money to a middling noble family. I don’t think I ever had the book in my hands, but just by reading about it I learned the difference between silver rubles and paper rubles (ассигнации) that I’d skimmed over a thousand times without thinking about. Do any of you know what book this might have been? I can’t remember enough about it to find it online.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2013 8:22 am

    I’ve read about the same book, and have more than once tried to find out about it again! I hope someone knows what it is, because I’d sure like to be able to consult it.

  2. July 21, 2013 8:43 am

    Found it! Or at least I found the one I’m thinking of; it’s Что непонятно у классиков, или Энциклопедия русского быта XIX века, which I learned about from here.

  3. July 21, 2013 12:08 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! That’s the one. You not only found it, you linked to a site that also has the 1959 letter from Fedosiuk to Voprosy literatury that turns out to be what I originally stumbled on.

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