About the Author
was awarded the 1998 PEN Translation Award for Six Early Stories
by Thomas Mann and the 1999 National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov: Forty-Three New Stories
, and has been widely acclaimed for his recent translation of the complete works of Isaac Babel. His translations of fiction and poetry have also appeared in The New Yorker
, Grand Street
, Paris Review
, Harvard Magazine
, Partisan Review
, and London Magazine
, among others. He lives in New York City.
Robert D. Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and the author of nine books on travel and foreign affairs, including Balkan Ghosts, chosen by The New York Times as one of the Best Books of 1993, and An Empire Wilderness, chosen by The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times as Best Book of the Year for 1998. His tenth book, Mediterranean Winter, will be published by Random House next year. He lives with his wife and son in western Massachusetts.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is the significance of brotherhood for the Cossacks? What does it require? Who does it include and who does it exclude?
2. The theme of love doomed by ethnic and religious divisiveness appears and reappears in literature across cultures. In what ways is the tale of Andris love for the governors daughter both similar to and different from the classic tales of forbidden love?
3. In his Introduction, Robert Kaplan explains the violence of the Cossacks through exploring modern concepts like group-think and the dialectical relationship between civilization and anarchy. Discuss the work in terms of your knowledge of sociological and psychological theory.
4. What can you deduce about the values of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Russians from Gogols work?
5. Discuss the differences between the way the Cossacks think of and treat the following ethnic groups: the Catholic Poles, the Muslim Turks and Tatars, and the Jews.
6. Compare and contrast Taras Bulba to other classic war epics, including the Homeric.
7. How are history, heritage, camaraderie, and pride important to both the story and Gogols crafting of the text?
8. How does Taras Bulba react to losing each of his sons, and what does this say about his character and his culture?
9. Discuss Gogols portrayal of the governors daughter and her maid-the only two women and Tatars to play such an important and personal role in the book. Is it signi•cant that we do not learn their names?
10. By explaining the human impulses behind religious, ethnic, and national rivalries; war; and even terrorism, Kaplan universalizes Taras Bulba and relates its speci•c historical context to the modern state of international affairs. Explore the Cossack revolt against the Poles and warfare with the Tatars in relation to modern religious and ethnic violence.