There are books for readers, and then there are books for writers. That’s something I’ve noticed long ago. If you write in Russian and want to sharpen up your prose, then Anatoly Marienhof, Yury Olesha, Vladimir Nabokov, and Mikhail Bulgakov are your guys. These four are the greatest masters of style of the 20th century who use more or less the same kind of language we do today. Story-wise, the gold standard for young writers wishing to develop an eye for detail would probably be Nabokov’s Cloud, Castle, Lake. I myself have recently and quite unexpectedly found another level to this story, where we see it unfold backwards.
Alas, all books for writers can just as easily do more harm than good to those who write, because the purpose of art, at the end of the day, is to say something new; to seek out your own unique language. So, if a writer creates what seems even the slightest bit like an imitation if they travel down a beaten path – their work simply won’t survive. It’s no longer worth the scrap of paper it’s written on. Therefore, whenever I sit down to work on a new book, I set aside everything I’m reading. Actually, this ‘fast’ begins about a month before any of the writing. Without it, echoes of other people’s voices will just continue to ring in your ears, filling your head with overworked phrases. Anything by Nabokov and Brodsky is especially ‘catchy.’