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Literary Couples

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“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.”

The Master and Margarita (Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov) They’re destined to be together. There is no greater love than what Margarita has shown the Master, whose life as a novelist has been completely ruined by his unpublished book. Margarita would sacrifice her life to Satan (literally) in exchange for the Master’s happiness. This book is my favorite novel of all time.

Maurice and Clive (Maurice, E.M. Forster) The novel is remarkable for its time in describing same-sex love in a non-condemnatory way. A beautiful story of doomed love. For two years they have a committed if exceedingly chaste romance, which they must keep hidden from everyone they know. It is obvious that Maurice hopes for more of their only platonic attachment, but slowly it becomes clear that Clive is basically equally attached to society’s view of what is right and wrong.

Gogol and his mother Ashima (The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri) The bond between mother and son has transcended generational difference and cultural clash, for she has immigrated into the strange land of America and gives birth to a son who knows absolutely nothing about his roots and his parents’ sacrifice. His being named after the Russian writer has always slighted him but yet the name beholds a secret that is known only between his parents.

Count Diakonov, Chubinov, and Kamensky (The Birds Fall Down, Rebecca West) Probably the most intimate literary relationship. A count who’s been banished, a double agent who works for both the Tsar and the Reactionary, and a terrorist who is the link between the two—and the former and the latter meet on a train where they revile each other one minute only to reminisce together fondly in the next.

Thadeus Dreyer (4 Incarnations) (Shadow without a Name, Ignacio Padilla) A book that deserves more attention and readership. The four incarnations of Thadeus Dreyer have nothing to do with one another—they are not even related. The name is appropriated over a century. The novel cleverly evokes the question of identity and selfhood against the historical backdrop of the darkest period of the twentieth century, as men appropriated names of each other, shielded off past memories and adopted new identities in the hope of a changed, better destiny.

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25 Responses

  1. Now see, I knew I’d hop over here and discover books I’d knew nothing about. Bravo!

  2. Gogol and Ashima is a creative, thoughtful selection. I considered using the couple from the first story in Interpreter of Maladies. Don’t you just love Lahiri and her grasp of human relationships?

  3. Re: your comment on my blog….I like I See You Everywhere all right so far. I’m only 65 pages in, so it remains to be seen.

  4. I think Master and Margarita is moving closer and closer to my TBR pile. Maybe once I finish Crime and Punishment.

    Interesting list.

  5. Intriguing choices. I’m tempted to pick up several of the books.

  6. I haven’t read any of these. However, I chose another couple.

  7. What a great list! Sadly, I’ve never read any of those books, although I’ve always been intrigued by The Master and Margarita. Will get around to reading it someday.

  8. M&M – of course! Such a great couple. I could count on that here at your place, Matt. Glad to see you mentioned Maurice as well. Clive and Maurice – so sad, really, since Clive was really in love with Maurice, just too afraid to express his love for him and, as you say, go against what society expected from him.

  9. I loved Maurice and Clive! I’m thinking of posting about “A Room With a View.” Someday, perhaps.

  10. Whoa, I’m so ignorant! I’m not familiar with the books you mentioned, but a few of them sure interest me!

    BTW, thanks for adding my link, Matt! I’ll add yours to my blogroll as well. See ya around! 😀

  11. I share your love of the Master and Margarita–and such a beautiful understanding you have shared with all of us. I would like to put in a word for the pairing of Alec Scudder with Maurice–in the end, despite their prejudices and class differences, love found it’s way and flourished. Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester will always have a special place in my heart. And finally, Pierre Bezukhov and Natasha Rostova, who both had to pass through so many cleansing fires before they had the character to attain a fulfilling and mature love.

  12. I thought Gogol was a brat. I felt like slapping him when I was reading this book.

  13. I haven’t read any of these books, but I have a few on my list to read! I like the idea of favorite couples in literature–and that you picked a mother-son couple. I’ll have to think about my favorites, too.

  14. Karen:
    I’m glad the post will contribute to your TBR pile. 🙂

  15. Rebecca:
    Lahiri has a knack to portray human relationships across the generation and geographical barrier. I remember recalling the lines of the novel when I watched the movie The Namesake.

  16. CB James:
    I hope you’ll pick up The master and Margarita. It’s different from what you have read by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. It’s very reflective of the time period but yet very whimsical.

  17. Andi:
    Please do! I’m looking forward to hearing your selections. 🙂 Haven’t you got The Master and Margarita?

  18. Sally:
    These are great books that have kept my company. 🙂

  19. tuesday:
    I highly recommend The master and margarita, which I have taught the past two summers. The novel has two stories and the two narratives will converge at the end over time. 🙂

  20. Ted:
    You bet. I’m the PR for the novel because it’s my favorite book. 🙂 M&M and Maurice are the two books that never fail to touch me and move me to tears. The society, in different ways, are against both couples.

  21. chartroose:
    I look forward to hearing your opinions on A Room with a View. It reminds me of Pride and Prejudice in some ways. 🙂

  22. Melody:
    Thank you Melody. I read your thoughtful review of The Handmaid’s Maid. I’ll head back there and leave a comment for the book. As to the list of books here, you can’t really go wrong with any one of them,. 🙂

  23. Greg S:
    Jane Eyre has been popping all over my comments teaders have left. I think I should squeeze it in before the end of the year. I feel I have missed something. 🙂

  24. Isabel:
    The movie makes him look even more like a brat. I agree! 🙂

  25. Danielle:
    Seems like you’ll read Rebecca West soon? As I have mentioned, I highly recommend The Master and Margarita. If you like literary thriller, then go for Shadow Without a Name.

    I tried to pick couples of different nature—romantic couple, gay couple, mother and son,, etc.

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