American Blogger Reads Soviet Children’s Book in Russian For 9 Hours 50 Minutes On YouTube Live

In which this blogger writes a headline about myself in the third person.

Yes, it’s crazy how the Russia New Year holidays can give you some bizarre ideas on how to pass the time!

I wasn’t one to waste my time try to ride the entire Moscow metro system in one day.  Indeed, I thought I was above that manner of tomfoolery, until I chanced upon this pointless video on YouTube:

I mean, I’m not even sure this guy is counting half the time.  Preposterous… right?

But then I felt myself oddly inspired.  And I thought what kind of YouTube Live Marathon challenge could I do in Russian?

I thought of reading a book in Russian, but after my friends heard me reading Dostoyevsky, they suggested it was best not to defile classical Russian literature with my accent, and instead, suggested that I read a Soviet children’s classic, “Незнайка в солнечном городе” (“Know-Nothing in the Sunny City”).  I instantly agreed.


Our hero Neznaika

Here is the result.  Feel free to watch all 9 hours and 50 minutes of me working through the Russian text, or just skip around and shake your head at my YouTube stunt.  Thankfully, my teenage kids helped a few times.


What I learned while reading “Neznaika in Sunny City”:

  • It takes longer to read 388 pages than I expected.
  • Russia literature’s love of detailed descriptions did not die with Tolstoy.
  • The author of Neznaika, Nikola Nosov, was some sort of futurologist.  There were driverless harvest combines and automated taxis, for example, in Sunny City.
  • The problem with living in a revolving building is you would lose your sense of time because your position in relation to the sun would constantly be changing.
  • Nikolai Nosov enjoyed giving the books heroes humorous last names with creative root words.  Svistulkin (root word “whistle) was the policeman.  And, if my memory isn’t failing me, a man who wrote an editorial for the local newspaper that the police were responsible for the hooligans’ behavior had a last name that had the root word for “Cockroach”.
  • My voice hurt the next day.
  • If you have a magic wand, you had better use it correctly.  Neznaika failed on this point countless times.
  • A Russian teacher once told me that reading out loud in Russian would improve my pronunciation.  I am unsure if that (or the opposite) happened in this experiment.
  • I sort of felt that there was a Soviet propaganda push for eating at cafeterias.  The futuristic apartments in the revolving buildings had automated food deliver, but eating at cafeterias was more interesting, from what I gathered.
  • People can turn into donkeys.  And they can be turned back into humans by reading the right books.  But donkeys can never be turned into humans, no matter how much they read.

The book was actually surprisingly interesting and did a fantastic job of taking the reader into a fantasy world and also reminding children of the importance of being good, washing regularly, etc.  And clearly, this book was meant to be read over multiple evenings, as there were descriptive details that repeated themselves throughout the book.

What more obscure Russian books have you read and enjoyed?  Maybe I’ll need to do another Russian book reading marathon … someday.

2 thoughts on “American Blogger Reads Soviet Children’s Book in Russian For 9 Hours 50 Minutes On YouTube Live

  1. An obvious choice would be the next book in the series, Незнайка на Луне – some say that modern Russian capitalism was modeled on it :3

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