Regarding the statement that British literature is the best, support for this can be seen in the number of British Lit classes there are, but that can be because we were British colonies and retain their language. You would have to know if it is the predominant single-country literature class in the rest of the world. I have the feeling that Shakespeare is probably the most famous writer in the world, next being Chaucer, Austen, Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling, to name a few. Dostoevsky is sometimes considered the greatest writer, or at least in there with the above, and we can’t leave out Tolstoy either, but I posit that Russian Literature is very stark. I grew up loving Tolstoy along with the rest, and I will say that looking back, he and Dostoevsky may have touched me deeper, but their works seem more like surgery than literature. Possibly the most effective surgeries in the world, but still. One could say that the British authors are surgeons too, but they come across more as friends. Friends can have healing powers too. British writers are more charming. They gently coax. “But I came not to bring peace but a sword!” And maybe the Russians have done the most work on me. I don’t know. Westerners may be too sensitive and too dreamy. But I am a westerner and don’t want to reject everything. I don’t really want to choose between the two, but I do think that Russian and British Literature are different, and I would not want to do away with either.
There are probably many variables involved in the development of both countries’ literature. I like to see things in light of the Church, but you also have to recognize political and other forces at work. Chaucer was Catholic, but critical of clerics. There are questions as to whether Shakespeare was Catholic or not. The two of them were pretty sharp tongued, but again, charming. Austen, Dickens, & co. seem softer and more sensitive. Could this be the Church of England’s influence? Some people say that up to this recent generation. the CoE was more orthodox. I guess they think it went back to its Celtic Orthodox roots. So if the Orthodox want to take credit for the remnant of orthodoxy in the Catholic and Anglican Churches, why is their literature different than the Russians? Granted we have English translations of Russian Literature so we don’t know if it comes across differently in its native tongue. But each country’s literature probably reflects its personality. Russians seem tougher. Maybe it’s the Mongol influence. Maybe its the harsher climate. But is it because it was almost always Orthodox? I don’t think you could totally say that, because Greece has a longer history of Orthodoxy than Russia does, and Greeks are different than Russians, and so I imagine is their literature. But maybe Greeks are also tougher than westerners. I think it was Elder Sophrony who wrote that when he moved to England he had to tone down the advice he gave during confession because it sounded too harsh. Who’s right? I can’t say. I like having them all around.