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t , . s e e e d is the ortan novel made which en the scene ealthy gazin yevich nd th el, an ese ar forese e most imp ev Nikola ussian ma ch the nov e Russian- Jude Law, r Tolstoy’s her child a lines. One ost vivid olstoy, a w r to us. Th , such a R fo h (T er ea le ea lot ics ’s m st dL vel: “T eternal an a popular he world t of which w personab dmiration e Anna lo rlooked p the novel s peasants who are d e other ep und th e i e a f c n t k e ro v i i e o h h n o s l a ’s r i r t o l o e s e n h w d a s l a l t y , t h v n i u e i a mes volv n and ha a ser ities all o ovel, only s played b re the wor r hard lot has sever hildren: o gether w ntry and t vels.Yet, e r s a t o l d s o e e o blishe ay, univer ns of the n husband i es not sha athy for h , the novel es on her c a scythe t , one’s cou ian epic n lues. The p me a burd riumph p ry do va ot co st tio uss rly is d ren ith m o e d e a e a y t d h y R l t b w l s v t u s d e i i l l p f o y s d i h e o ’s a e r a s m k a c e als v v i T a d r w tu ra y en ha and f Slavn love h other, film a ’s dou ilepin heroin r. His h-cen ows g famil silent oine. Anna riter Olga Many wom ion to the thful to he ist who m ove for a m ortant 19t friendship ought her mutable Zakhar Pr t resort er .W dit fai ve, e th eal f im mp ity. e: l TH. thou bled h other man ts popular tice.” In ad s being un Russian id ersal scal the most i tters as lo er love. 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Zak ut resortin orld teach asy, directe nother ma e Anna lo amily, t S c a t h t R o a o d w . t i n r n n yf r n h e i d i e a t s a s e o l k v i i a f f h , h s o o h h sc . It is way.”This cribes suc and her l her life. T nitskaya t one else w all over t The latest she leaves r hard lot the Oblon ther note n a m s y f .” no n he a wo a”des sband an an a Bele when ersitie enina ts ow s with y for tory o ren. A erbatskay y in i y,“Karenin ren, her hu ately pay wright Nin curately th s day, univ Anna Kar m her e sympath ne is the s her child p h o p r c f a S h y r c “ i m g y d ght y a v n i a t contr small chil ts, but ult young pla and more a kner. To th s based on a’s son aw women ha lot lines. O her bathin loves Kit these thou e e h t l t p n n n o ,” i m r y u o ui y a s l n l On d v e t w a n e Q fi s e m ind t she w kes A . Sur look edien k). Le y. Ma And d 15 ving iam F er, wi es beh gets what right ingr hem deep with Will a produce haracter ta popularit everal over her as a lo farm wor d thoughts olokhov’s “ icer wh c er its he dt ng nd doing has s hows ail Sh ng off ion an ove a d it with t ch depicte ters, starti sound film n since his e secret of novel id scenes s easants in imaginat and Mikh ith a you tten accord e i e i o f i h r v e h f t t t e h u a w , s y t t w ’s T i p ) y v a wri ly s tor toy ed de. can ity dap t vi eon kola ove ev Ni s of Ameri ussian-ma et screen a ntimental heroine’s s ovel’s mos leman, join gaged Tols nst Napol o falls in l have been l and won L d n e i e n i n n s o e n R h a b v e t v la a o h g o e o e e i w t o t s r a t n h n h n a S t e t a n o the war rs th aps e of on t a ma ’ seem oma ener n his ch w althy ced g wo of whi eption and . But perh .” In additi hildren: on lstoy, a we lofty matte ” (the 1812 Russian w Karenina y based o r between s a seria t a e la a c o u e tic rc d ce l, only olstoy’s pe elodrama nto practi tes on her easants (T hese are th r and Peac f a marrie ngless. Ann he screenp in life occ published andabl p t i o t i a n s m o T s T d s t e n a n r . i W o o y u a p s e e e t r h w “ o t f e p p u d t t i o s e ” i h a t ng k it is ey will be her. His w gether wit are dear to ics, such a e simple s r life was m ll have wr ngs that h Karenina ina,” so un he trouble n i h t rk. I er ep round th ought he e may we ortant thi ow th faithful to scythe to hose who Anna nna Karen ghtley as t miratio a ing h h h ret!““ i t ke oth a p d n watch ps being u rass with untry and s.Yet, unli ot revolves tself. She t ved today, e most im the big sec na alone.“A Keira Kn world’s a y of he i s e g l h n n e o li el r t h ’s p s e c T a v a t t A n d t “ k o e a w ’s e s : m a e n n l h o e e h , r p h o e ut h es. T nd had s nov py. T lease s not sha edЙ How nce refer rses ho m ildren, on ssian epic stoy u o l e l u ’s r w r o a o y h t T r v c t o s e t f i n a e e b o ily te ir n sa ols lov s. I ideal mother, ch ntury Ru d fam e a burde s triumph admires T cism or mi ere are ent r a Septem avnikova d man she pening sen evin, is i ip an ra l e L m e i h-ce h fo ove fo ortant 19t e, friendsh had beco amily valu rilepin also to romant ovel, and t oe Wright iter Olga S ild and th e novel’s o onstantin though e h h v f p J r s t K g v c n P o r , l o n e y m r r e r W l h i o l i e . s b t e c a h an her ost an st h rs a ted utab harb whi ract akh esor ch t y cha n soil, but imes cruel r matte e thought ea of imm RBTH. Z without r world tea tasy, direc r another m ce Anna lo family, to h e t t r a o h t n d a e w d e a n o l im y e i S s a i i e f h l o f . k s t W s t e t e m s s s e , o l t r i h one is so er n Civ ove e. T blon e Ru r lov d lot lates leave kaya nd he ith her lif a Belenits ly than any ersities all nina.”The when she or her har y of the O ren. Anoth aya and th evant in th e Russian er grow r f l h d e v n k e h w pays wright Ni re accurat is day, uni Anna Kar y from her sympathy e is the sto g her chil Scherbats ghts are re he Don” (t eeply.Yet a beau t d “ u in o a n e y th s r o n h v t o: lay O w m i t t e o a h o i . p w a r t a h T h s d o a d b . K g l e n e s n r e n n s e n o s u e in sce lov the iet F lkne films bas Anna’s s ome ot lin g mother evin love d iser a u y l d u l o w a p n Q w e o F r a , y uld b d r d w u n r o e e ts. S lovin work). L ’s “An o woos he ssic Holly leagues w child, deep th William oduced 15 cter takes larity. Ma overlook h v a g o s u h a o k th h la er ol lo rm wi nd pr opu ara eral ows h n doing fa nation and ikhail Sho g officer w ding to a c ard.“His c a parent a en 187 arting d film era nce his ch ret of its p el has sev nes shAlexander r i Rodchenko n i w n i o u M s v g n c e we s c t u A o e o e a t c c d o n s y e s e n n y a s n m a b o e i a w s he ea a,” s itten n Academ (and bet oy’s 1924poleon) a ove with zine y, the most vivid ined pPortrait ptati ality is th t r r a a s of Mother. o l g w d t o a a s n renin T a l e m a o screen sentiment e heroine’s he novel’s bleman, j t engaged against N o falls in to have be and won d a woman r Russian e.“Anna Ka mber re h a t e r a el no th Septe an an a alon seems s nov ters th popul 12 wa ve aps th dition to ren: one of a wealthy man w d y mat ce” (the 18 ussian wo Karenina’ ased on hi etween a m serial in a ses on Ann right for a en she lea , d t a y l f i o o n t l h I s c l e h r b W r o R a b h a a re u e t e T e w y ce.” n c r ( d s o h o P a e e r n e u c a l J s r s i sant es on ese a r and marr ningless. A e screenp in life occ published are entire rected by ay from he lity is the o fe dot ith his pea r to us. Th ch as “Wa story of a h i h t n a a e s d w t e r e , a g a n e n p y e n son as m su ea a” w ritt le hap 2 th ntas rw time tchi gethe who are d ther epics, d the simp t her life w ell have w hings that a Karenin ca - 201 e latest fa kes Anna’s ps the sen ls like wa ut-town i n e e h t w a n o o h a r e s n t T h f u t g b o e y e r A o a r n u .” a e k h “ e r on ina tho an tp Am em orta acte cte et!“ nd t .Yet, unli es a evolv itself. She ed today, h most imp e big secr ok Expo nna Karen e his char amatic. Bu resting and lonsky, a m rthy chara s r l t e o v l o c h r p t e v A n o b t e th n o i d “ n h t l e i l O w e o s ’s a n n T h B l t e i d ” p e o “ e t T n a for are tiva vel: ad s sed om y ha . Th r no ,a w atio ues. ly val rden and h s. If Tolsto olstoy’s no isanthropy d special 15 films ba een adapt ink it is to e thoughts r Stepan “S en. Anothe ts (Tolstoy s a nov i n e th es m ph sT d an scr dr bu an. It broth ar ovel, a trium w? Th ork. I r chil oviet dmire oduce s peas sm or me a alues pin also a romantici each the n film era pr and the S d of this w the windo Karenina’s athing he er with hi and a wom thoughts v y l i e t b e h . f l s n o n us t i n s r d t o e d o am e o r r l e a i R n f h t g r e t g P h t f u u y very mping o ce re oving mot a scythe to tween a m ts. Surely th-centur khar ut resortin ver the wo de. The so y’s percep t n a o e n Z t . n nn e l ju H o h 9 a se am h sto lo ar),“A love b r as a thoug ills or tant 1 ian-m e with stly, I ening ss wit ies al to Tol ne els , universit were Russ challenge ain: “Hone t taking p novel’s op s shows he mows gra just about ation and ost impor ian Civil W y value m e il ss o in h ay ou n ne ot pl this d o of whic as a certai easy to ex asizing ab o which th t vivid sce idealist wh novel is n stoy’s imag one of the n” (the Ru ip and fam er grow o w t t f l s t h h e , s n d o n o o D s i y l, only interprete opularity ers were fa nsky famil novel’s m ys a Russia icide.So th engaged T e opening Flows the ove, friend deeply.Yet though e l e r p h t u e t a o t h e s b a l s r e h p t ’s i t h s t h a b l S i ou e. e Qu is her por i rs t eO ves e of ers could the nove ny of story of th ildren: on ev Tolstoy houghts ab ofty matte n way.”Th hov’s “And mate matt her and lo and her lov e been wr a t a m h t v l w h i t w s k L a t d e c o o e , o o s f h n n h l r e r h i o s t a s o t e t o o mits vedЙ Ho i m t s w o b h on h ne i harb y in e are st na who n, her hus na’ seems ocial tabo il ail Sh s suc she lo lot lines. O wife dotes racter’s la n soil, but to us. Thes is unhapp and Mikh ” describe ng officer i e s m r n s a e d f l k r is rea Ka ha ble na ne ou n) dp sia ar l chi looke ul to her. H ) into his c d the Rus ho are de unhappy o t Napoleo ry,“Kareni ve with a y two smal less. Anna of spirit, b of immuta ased o s b v d n g f g w a o a n e y l a r n n h i n y e r i e i t t L a a o i s e n d ( a h l n n r i i g a o v y e co e; e unf mea tha n, st ar a ame eenp es be The d th tska falls tian n y Scherba ountry an ies are alik the 1812 w ents. On th man who Anna leav er life was -old woma h her life. ten the scr sinuating l s i r h n . l c C r t v ( t i o t i h te i t i d e a ” r i a ’s t e w e n m l e r w e h b e y w K a a c ays 30gic oug uld Pea ves ave oric py f elibe ssian n, on vin lo er, childre e? “All hap “War and major hist arried Ru ead to a tra self. She th beautiful ltimately p ay well h leagues wo ory and d ywrigh m l l u s h g m f la it :a st r ay, he a mot cynical a ics, such a kground o story of a nario f his s, but His co ung p ociety spent c le in s and had lywood sce t she want d lived tod y Award.“ success o dients,” yo . Zakhar P le nd ep a o p a r r b l e m d e e i h e e h s n t u l e a a t H n m e r h o y o e h r h e t cr t T g d o h e s u H d r t w y n t B n k i n p a s u o i c i R c t b ts a ee st si ol rs nd , unl set ag olves arou ies and he become a g to a clas ove and ge phs. If Tol d won an A cally fores th the righ tskaya told dmires T mo ls.Yet a e is not n m in fl ni rit ni ad wi ev

a i s s u R d a e R f o s e c i o V


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

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s r e d a e R r a De

It is with great pleasure that Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH) presents our print and digital magazine, “Voices of Read Russia.” Read Russia is a literary showcase hosted by Book Expo June 4-7th 2012. This is a rare opportunity for Americans to become intimate with the ongoing literary renaissance in Russia - since the revival is coming to you. Dozens of highly acclaimed and wildly inventive Russian writers are coming to this book fair. This group is distinctive in so many respects. Most are beginning to be translated into English. Some explore horror, fantasy, science fiction and dystopias, while others work in a realism borne out of exhaustion with war and terror. Some are brilliant satirists and leaders of the opposition movement. The youngest of these writers grew up in a new country and have little direct knowledge of the Soviet Union. Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH) is an internationally recognized source of news and analysis based in Moscow. It seemed natural that the staff - editors and writers from Russia, the United States, and dozens of other countries - would want to get the story out about Russia’s writers. As publishers, writers and editors, we also know that only a few hundred books are translated into English each year. That’s a paltry number, but one that led us to the challenge of introducing a new reading public to these visionaries and dreamers as they imagine, chronicle and shape Russia’s changing society. Finally, we would like to make a note about the original design of this magazine. Our art-director found a muse in the form of avant-garde designer and photographer Alexander Rodchenko, whose singular point of view still inspires designers all over the world. Rodchenko’s famous poster promoting books for the state publishing house evokes the passion for literature found in most every Russian heart. Sincerely, Eugene Abov Publisher Russia Beyond the Headlines proud partner of Read Russia

This special issue was produced by Russia Beyond the Headlines, international projects division of Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia). SUPPORTED by the Committee for Tourism and Hotel Industry of the Moscow City Government. Internet: http://rbth.ru e-mail us@rbth.ru ph.: +7 (495) 775 3114 fax +7 (495) 988 9213 address 24 Pravdy str., bldg. 4, floor 7, Moscow, Russia, 125 993. Pavel Negoitsa Director general, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Evgeny Abov Publisher Russia Beyond the Headlines, Andrei Shimarsky Art director, Nora FitzGerald Editor Artem Zagorodnov Executive editor Alexandra Guzeva Assistant editor Andrei Zaitsev Head of photo dpt. Julia Golikova, Commercial director, julia.golikova@rbth.ru, Anna Sergeeva Representative in US (New York), annaisergeeva@gmail.com e-Paper version of this issue is available at www.rbth.ru © Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 2012. All rights reserved. Photo PRO: Moscow House of Photography, ITAR-TASS, Photoxpress, Kommersant

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 4

D

rs e t i r w

Dmitry Bykov, a multi-award-winning author, journalist and COLORFUL media personality.

an Russi f i n d t h e m s e lv e s at h o m e i n D y s t o p i a

Contemporary writers explore dystopias in wildly inventive ways. But what are they really getting AT? phoebe taplin

In the first twelve years of the 21st century, Russian writers have created a bewildering number of futuristic and post-apocalyptic novels. Settings range from feudal barbarism to hi-tech nightmares. Books are banned and mutant humans eat mice. Secret police rape and pillage. People are reincarnated, wear mirror masks, and copulate or die en masse at festivals. Warring factions survive in the tunnels of the disused subway. These are just a few of the many dystopian scenarios that contemporary Russian writers have envisaged in the last decade. Ever since Evgeny Zamyatin wrote “We”in 1921 (providing the model for George Orwell’s“1984”) novelists have been producing satirical visions of the future, but recently the genre, like a horror-film alien, has spawned countless offspring. Lisa Hayden, who writes the blog “Lizok’s Bookshelf” focusing on contemporary Russian fiction, said: “I find a lot of dystopias, apocalypses, and parallel worlds in the books I read, and many others include

mystical or fantastical twists, wrinkles, and tears in the cloth of what might be considered objective reality.” Readers, writers, critics and bloggers have numerous theories about this outbreak of dystopias (or antiutopias as Russians call them).What excesses of the new capitalism prompted the master of postmodern sci-fi, Victor Pelevin, to envisage an underground night club where naked women, held in druginduced stasis, are used as live decorations? How has literary bad-boy, Vladimir Sorokin, infamous for a gay sex scene between clones of Kruschchev and Stalin, become a mainstream figure? Given the amount of sex in contemporary Russian fiction, it seems appropriate that one of the country’s most influential literary critics should be a former editor of Playboy. Lev Danilkin, now a columnist for the cultural listings magazine Afisha, has a knack for pinpointing prevailing trends. His authoritative account of recent novels highlights an “obsession with the ideas of government, empire and dictatorship.” Dmitry Bykov, a multi-awardwinning author, journalist and flamboyant media personality has written one of the most outstanding recent examples of the genre, translated into English as“Living Souls” and published in paperback on April Fool’s Day 2012. This crowded and ambitious novel

imagines a never-ending civil war in Russia between nationalists and liberals. Bykov is fully aware that his work is part of a tradition, attributing the new flood of dystopian fiction to the stifling stability, or stagnation as many call it, of Putin’s previous presidency:“They promised us terror – none came, liberalization – none came, war – things have stalled, and everyone’s caught in aspic, unable to arrive at any decision.” Danilkin quotes Bykov’s description of the ensuing new genre“the might-have-been” and adds that for a time “catastrophe was the number one theme in literature.” Olga Slavnikova’s “2017,” which won the Russian Booker Prize in 2006, is also part of this flood of novels describing alternative futures. It is a dense and complex work, overflowing with ideas and combining sci-fi, romance and thriller. It explores, among many themes, human exploitation of the earth’s resources and the cyclical nature of history. In Slavnikova’s view, it is currently almost impossible to write a utopian fantasy with a happy ending because “the world is waiting for a catastrophe.” Her depiction of unrest on Russia’s streets found an echo in real life events when thousands protested about electoral fraud, with several bloggers citing“2017”as a revolutionary prophecy. “If you write about political upheaval, you can’t help but become a prophet,” she admits, but she is wary of narrowly ideological interpretations.“A lot of literature coming out of Russia is viewed by critics as political satire,” she said. “It is possible to view my novel in this way, but … I think the politics in my novel should not be overplayed.”Slavnikova continues to use the near future as a forum nko odche nder R Alexa

Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin is committed to satirizing the authoritarian tendencies of the Russian government in his recent novel “Day of the Oprichnik.”

for discussing problems, both global and social. “We are living in a time of huge changes,” she said.

“Heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics”

Vladimir Sorokin is committed to satirizing the authoritarian tendencies of the Russian government. In an interview with Spiegel magazine, Sorokin described his“Day of the Oprichnik,”as searching for“an answer to the question of what distinguishes Russia from true democracies.” The infamous violence of his novels, he argues, is a reflection of the “sinister energy” of oppression, which still permeates Russian society. Julia Sukhanova, a keen reader of contemporary Russian fiction, ascribes the prevailing pessimism to the background of many writers: “Contemporary Russian writers have been raised by their well-educated parents, teachers and professors, in the atmosphere of liberal discussions conducted late at night in tiny kitchens, and they all saw their parents and friends being hit hard by the last 20 years of economic changes in Russia. Is it any wonder that these people are critical of the state, its morals and its future? Many of the more thought-provoking writers are involved with opposition to the government.“True literature,” wrote Evgeny Zamyatin, grandfather of the dystopian genre, “can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics.”

the layout design for the magazine “USSR in construction” devoted to the sport of parachuting. 1935


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GaRy shteynGaRt: fRom Dystopia with love

gary shteyngart, ameriCa’s Beloved writer From russia, talKs to rBth (a little) aBout liFe as an ÉmigrÉ writer.

xenia GRubstein

In the last decade, Russian Jewish émigré Gary Shteyngart has become one of America’s best-loved satirists. Like his peers in his native Russia, he explores foreboding futures in his work. Recently, he has begun skewering the United States, which has become another easy target, he has said, alongside his mother Russia. His 2010 novel,“Super Sad True Love Story,” focuses on America while his first two novels (“The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” and“Absurdistan”) satirized Russia and the former Soviet bloc. When Shteyngart turned his bite on the United States in the not too distant future, critics hailed the novel as his best yet. In“Super Sad True Love Story,” America is dependent on China

in new and insidious ways. Our anti-hero, who as always resembles Shteyngart, is a guy named Lenny Abramov. Plagued with selfesteem issues, he works in a vaguely abhorrent field--life extension— that makes him feel even worse. The son of Russian immigrants, he falls in love with the much younger daughter of Korean immigrants. The weight of failed expectations falls like debris around them, and somehow they find each other in the wreckage. Michiko Kakutani wrote in The NewYork Times that the book“reflects his dual heritage, combining the dark soulfulness of Russian literature with the antic inventiveness of postmodern American writing; the tenderness of the Chekhovian tradition with the hormonal high jinks of a Judd Apatow movie…and ratified his emergence as one of his generation’s most original and exhilirating writers. “

gaRy shteyngaRt: “Russian men dRop dead aRound 56 on aVeRage, so i haVe 17 yeaRs left to get the RecoRd stRaight”

But in Russia, he gets somewhat lost in translation, and readers have been slow to discover him. He returns to Russia every year, and in 2010 spoke to university students. In his tongue-in-cheek Q&A with RBTH, Shteyngart said

inteRview

Q&a with gaRy shteyngaRt, who doesn’t mince woRds in your twenties, you created the satirical character vladimir Girshkin and upended the literary community with your talent. chang-rae lee said it was as if “woody allen had been an immigrant.” what do you see now when you look at Girshkin? When you start writing a book in your early 20s, of course it’s going to be autobiographical. What else do you know? you have written that you were nervous or anxious as a child. Do you still get anxious or nervous? what is your advice to an anxietychoked nation? You should see my medicine cabinet. State-of-the-art! I’m the last person to be giving advice to an anxious nation. Just gobble down the Xanax and pray for 6 solid hours of sleep, America.

how does it feel to have been born in a country that no longer exists? how much does this fuel your work? Meh, countries come, countries go. Except for Canada. That’s forever. you write about the soviet union and modern Russia as easily as the united states, how do you manage to stay in touch so closely with such different realities? I go back to St. Leninsburg [sic], my hometown, almost every year. To quote Yakov Smirnoff, What a country! Do you have a Russian audience in Russia? which works are translated into Russian? Does anything get lost in translation about the immigrant experience? I have an audience of five elderly Jewish people in Moscow and St.

Petersburg. They seem to like me OK. The rest of the country, not so much. obviously your work is satire, but how close to the future world do you think you get in “super sad true love story”? Future? I was writing about December, 2010. when did you realize you would be just as good at satirizing the united states as your are at satirizing the former soviet union? how did that transition take place--did you feel your perspectives changing? Thank you, George W. Bush, for making America’s standing in the world this much closer to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.

he has“five elderly Jewish readers” in Russia, which of course may be exaggeration. He also thanked President George W. Bush for “making America’s standing in the world much closer to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.”

what is a “beta immigrant” and when did you realize you are actually an alpha immigrant? how did you celebrate? or is it important for you to not get too carried away? I think I’m slowly sinking into gamma immigrant status. I haven’t shaved in two days. what can you tell us about what you are working on now? A memoir! Russian men drop dead around 56 on average, so I have 17 years left to get the record straight.


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 6

Anna Karenina

Alexander Rodchenko Girl with a Leica. 1934.

A Tragic Celebrity of Our Time alexandra guzeva

“All happy families are alike; every unhappy one is unhappy in its own way.”This is the opening of one of the most important 19th-century Russian epic novels.Yet, unlike other epics, such as “War and Peace” (the 1812 war against Napoleon) and Mikhail Sholokhov’s“And Quiet Flows the Don” (the Russian Civil War),“Anna Karenina” is not set against the background of major historical events. On the contrary,“Karenina” describes such intimate matters as love, friendship and family values. The plot revolves around the simple story of a married Russian woman who falls in love with a young officer who woos her and loves her deeply. Yet her growing insecurities and her spurned role in society lead to a tragic end. Anna leaves behind two small children, her husband and her love. She thought her love had become a burden and had spent itself. She thought her life was meaningless. Anna Karenina’ seems to have been written according to a classic Hollywood scenario: a beautiful 30-year-old woman, strong of spirit, breaks social taboos for the sake of love and gets what she wants, but ultimately pays with her life. The idea of immutable family values triumphs. If Tolstoy had lived today, he may well have written the screenplay based on his novel and won an Academy Award.“His colleagues would be insinuating that he had cynically foreseen the success of his story and deliberately stuffed it with the right ingredients,”young playwright Nina Belenitskaya told RBTH. Zakhar Prilepin also admires Tolstoy’s novel: “The most important things that happen in life occur between a man and a woman (and between a parent and child, a person and his homeland and a human being and death). These themes are eternal and Lev Nikolayevich depicted them deeper, wiser and more accurately than anyone else without resorting to romanticism or misan“Anna Karenina,”so understandable and so philosophical, could not thropy. That’s the big secret!“ help but win global fame outside Russia. There were nine silent film “Anna Karenina” was published as a serial in a popular Russian adaptations of the novel, only two of which were Russian-made. The magazine between 1873 and 1877. Russian critics were tough on the sound film era produced 15 films based on “Anna Karenina.” novel, calling it trivial, but it influenced generations of American writThe latest fantasy, directed by Joe Wright for a September release, stars ers, starting with William Faulkner. To this day, universities all over Keira Knightley as the troubled heroine. Anna’s dour elderly husband the world teach the novel, and there are entire courses on Anna is played by the personable Jude Law, which could be interpreted as a alone. certain challenge to Tolstoy’s perception and the Soviet screen adapta-

Why are Russian Classics

Leo Tolstoy: the last 10 days Shortly before his death, the great author fled his home at Yasnaya Polyana. “Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise,” which won Russia’s 2010 Big Book award, IS A POWERFUl work by pavel basinsky, WHO WILL ATTEND READ RUSSIA. the author describes the writer’s last days in moving and visceral terms; he also reveals Tolstoy’s suspicions aboUt his wife and the despair of his final moments.

Just over one hundred years ago, Leo Tolstoy fled his estate near Tula. In the middle of the night he left his house, accompanied by his personal doctor, Dushan Petrovich Makovitsky. This essentially personal drama, however, shook the world. It also presaged a catastrophic 20th century, as did the sinking of the Titanic, the start of the First World War and Russia’s October Revolution. Tolstoy’s journey from Yasnaya Polyana to the now famous station of Astapovo, to his death and return in a plain oak coffin to Yasnaya Polyana, took all of 10 days. Let’s consider those days and how Tolstoy left... Dr. Makovitsky’s journal reads: “This morning, at 3 a.m. (October 28, 1910), LN [Lev Nikolayevich] in his dressing gown, in slippers and bare feet, woke me; his face

was full of suffering, agitation and determination.‘I have decided to leave.You shall come with me. But don’t wake Sofya Andreyevna. We won’t take much, only the essentials.’” Poor Makovitsky didn’t realize that Tolstoy had decided to leave his house for good. Thinking that they were going to Kochety, the estate of his son-in-law, the doctor did not take all his money with him. He also didn’t know that that night Tolstoy had only 50 rubles in the bank and some coins in a purse. “We travelled from Shchekino to Gorbachevo in a second-class carriage. But from Gorbachevo to Kozyolsk Tolstoy chose to go third class, with the simple folk. When he had taken his place on a wooden bench, he said: ‘How nice and free!’” The Sukhinichi-Kozyolsk train


www.rbth.ru 7 Actress Keira Knightley stars in a new “Anna Karenina.”

”ANNA KARENINA” 2.0

Still Popular Today

“Pirates of The Caribbean” star Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina) is wrapped in fur from head to toe, and Jude Law (Alexei Karenin) surprises with his dramatically receding hairline in a new adaptation of the classic, yet timely “Anna Karenina.” Directed by Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement,” “Hanna”), the late- 19th-century drama will premiere in London and Moscow in September and in November in New York. Based on one of the most treasured novels, it was filmed in both the United Kingdom and Russia. Russia’s Karelia and Kizhi Island, known for its ancient forests, were chosen as locations. Oscar-winning playwright Tom Stoppard may be one of a handful of living souls who can live up to the task of re-

writing Tolstoy. Notable adaptations include a 1935 version starring Greta Garbo; a 1948 film with Vivien Leigh; and the 1997 version featuring Sophie Marceau. It is Knightley’s third collaboration with Joe Wright, after “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement.” “We’re always looking for something that’s going to be more difficult or more challenging,” said Knightley in an interview with Popsugar. “Taking on Anna Karenina is a massive challenge. Partly because it’s an 820-page book and you’re trying to get it down to a 130-page screenplay.” Xenia Grubstein

taking pills or jumping out of the window? These thoughts are interesting and one feels like watching how they will be put into practice.” In addition to the heroine’s story, the novel has several overlooked plot lines. One is the story of the Oblonsky family, to which the novel’s opening sentence refers. Karenina’s brother Stepan“Stiva”Oblonsky, a manabout-town, is very fond of his wife, who has given him five children, but he keeps being unfaithful to her. His wife dotes on her children: one of the novel’s most vivid scenes shows her as a loving mother bathing her children. Another noteworthy character, Konstantin Levin, is in many ways autobiographical. Turning his Christian name (Lev) into his character’s last name, Lev Tolstoy portrays a Russian idealist who mows grass with a scythe together with his peasants (Tolstoy, a wealthy tion since his character takes Anna’s son away from her when she leaves nobleman, joined peasants in doing farm work). Levin loves Kitty Scherbatskaya and the Russian soil, but harbors thoughts about suifor another man. Writer Olga Slavnikova does not share the world’s admiration for Tol- cide. So the novel is not just about love between a man and a woman. It stoy’s novel, though she admits that the novel’s popularity is easy to explain: “Honestly, I am not very fond of this work. I think it is too melo- is a novel about love on a universal scale: love for a mother, children, dramatic. But perhaps the sentimentality is the secret of its popularity. one’s country and those who are dear to us. These are the lofty matMany women have sympathy for her hard lot, since Anna lost her child ters that engaged Tolstoy’s imagination and thoughts. Surely these and the man she loved… How many of her peers were fantasizing about thoughts are relevant in this sometimes cruel and cynical age? had one horribly smoky thirdclass carriage filled to overflowing. Tolstoy soon began gasping for breath. He put on his fur coat and fur hat, his high winter boots and stepped out onto the rear platform. But smokers were standing there too. He then went to the front platform; it was very windy, but deserted except for a woman and her child, and a peasant. Makovitsky would later call the time that Tolstoy spent on that frigid platform as “fateful.” The train moved slowly, just over 100 miles in almost six-and-a-half hours.“This slow travel over Russian railroads helped kill LN,”writes Makovitsky. Late in the evening of October 29th, they arrived at the Shamardino Convent where Tolstoy’s sister, Marya Nikolaevna, had taken the

Leo Tolstoy and his personal doctor, Dushan Petrovich Makovitsky, at Yasnaya Polyana. 1909.

veil two decades earlier. Tolstoy went straight to her cell. He found her with her daughter, Elizaveta Valerianovna Obolenskaya. The great Tolstoy now wept on the shoulder of one woman and then the other as he recounted his recent life at Yasnaya Polyana. How his wife had watched his every move, how he had hidden his secret diary in one of his boots and next morning found it missing. He

told his sister and niece about his secret will, about how Sofya Andreyevna would steal into his study at night and rummage through his papers, and if she noticed that he was still awake in the bedroom next door, she would come to him and pretend that she had only come to find out how he was feeling. Tolstoy’s daughter, Sasha, also noted her father’s sorry state. “I think papa already regrets leaving,” she told her cousin Liza Obolenskaya. Tolstoy was extremely mercurial in his moods. To change his view was virtually impossible; it would require years. As soon as he de-

scended from the train at Astapovo, Makovitsky went to the station master. He told him that“Lev Tolstoy was aboard the train and had fallen ill, he needed rest and must be put to bed.”The station master had great respect and agreed to take Tolstoy in. Tolstoy was in his death throes, tossing and gasping for breath. He also appeared tortured by the fact that the people around him could not understand something very important he was trying to say. Most of his last intelligible words were to his son, Sergei:“The truth...I love many things, I love all people.” It was only after his last shot of morphine that his wife, Sofya, was summoned to his bedside. She walked in, got down on her knees, and said, ”Forgive me.” Pavel Basinsky


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 8

MASTER OF LIGHT AND DARK SERGEI LUKYANENKO’S SPELLBINDING TALES OF MAGIC IN POST-SOVIET MOSCOW HAVE BEEN ATTRACTING READERS FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. PHOEBE TAPLIN

Long before Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and less than a year after the first Harry Potter book, Sergei Lukyanenko conjured up a uniquely Russian supernatural world. The first novel in Lukyanenko’s“Night Watch”series was published in 1998, becoming a bestseller, a cult movie and a magnet for magic fans. Witches, warlocks and werewolves, sorceresses, succubi and yes, vampires, inhabit a gloomy Muscovite world with a distinctive atmosphere. Anton, the novel’s hero, is a Light Mage in the Night Watch who patrols the activities of Dark Others (capitalization is a big feature of Lukyanenko’s prose). While riding the Moscow metro in search of vampires, he notices a dark spinning vortex above the head of a pretty, young woman in a“stylish fur coat.” Lukyanenko’s skill is to weave supernatural imagery into a recog-

ALEXANDER RODCHENKO AND VARVARA STEPANOVA YOUNG GLIDERS FROM THE MAGAZINE “USSR IN CONSTRUCTION.” 1933

nizable landscape. One minute, the characters are passing McDonalds, factory canteens or the TV tower at Ostankino and the next minute, one of them is drawing a Book of Destiny with fiery threads, extracted from “the deepest levels of the Twilight.” It is a powerful combination that has sold millions of copies worldwide, won dozens of awards and created a committed international fan-base. The fourth book in the series,“The Last Watch” (set in Scotland), was published in English in 2009 and the news is that Lukyanenko has just delivered a fifth book, “The New Watch,” to his Russian publishers. Lukyanenko was born in Kazakhstan in 1968. He trained at the National Medical Institute in Almaty (then Alma-Ata), but a poorly

FANT “NIGHT WATCH” HAS BECOME A BESTSELLER, A CULT MOVIE AND A MAGNET FOR MAGIC FANS AROUND THE WORLD.

“NIGHT WATCH IS A VERY RUSSIAN MOVIE: A MOVIE WITH A DEPRESSING ENDING AND INEXPLICABLE STORY LINES....”

paid job as a child psychiatrist was less appealing than trying his luck as a novelist. He started writing science fiction as a student and gradually began to make money from his stories and novels, editing a scifi journal in the early 1990s and moving to Moscow in 1996. The publication of“Night Watch” was a breakthrough, but it was the 2004 movie adaptation that really made Lukyanenko the Russian literary celebrity he is today. The film broke records in the emerging postSoviet film industry and was so successful that Hollywood bought up the rights to the third installment. Director Timur Bekmambetov said in a 2005 interview with the BBC:“Night Watch is a very Russian movie. It’s impossible to imagine this kind of movie somewhere else: a movie with a depressing ending, a lot of inexplicable storylines and strange characters.” Bekmambetov started out making commercials, and claims the variety of techniques he learned in

that trade was invaluable in making this box-office hit. He also credits the American film director and producer, Roger Corman, for teaching him“a lot of secrets in making movies look bigger than their budget.”Corman, who shot“Little Shop of Horrors” in a few days, is best known for his Edgar Allen Poe film series starring Vincent Price. One of the exciting features of the novels and films is the use of Moscow as a location. Compared to many often-filmed American cities, the neo-gothic skyscrapers and domed churches of the Russian capital feel like some ancient country straight from the realms of fantasy. Bekmambetov describes it as“a very cinematic and mythological city” with a simple style that is “ready to be discovered.”

An early Hunger Games?

So far, the Night Watch series are the only books by Lukyanenko available in English translation, but he has written scores of other novels and short stories. His early sci-


TA SY ence fiction for children also prefigured recent trends in young adult literature. His 1990 novel, “Knights of Forty Islands”has a similar plot to Suzanne Collins’s hugely successful novel, “The Hunger Games”(2008), now a box-office-busting movie. In Lukyanenko’s novel, a group of teenage children are similarly locked into a controlled scenario in which they have to fight to the death. Only the winner, who has conquered all the islands, can go home. In portraying children as capable of brutality, Lukyanenko was consciously departing from the more optimistic role models of his fellow creator of young sci-fi,Vladislav Krapivin, for whom“childhood is a fairy tale that can be told every time in a new way.”

The rise of urban fantasy

Mikhail Bulgakov’s famous tale of diabolical mayhem in Moscow surely influenced Lukyanenko--especially in“Cold Shores,”which, like Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita,”describes an alternative version of the life of Christ, in which Jesus dies in infancy. American authors like sci-fi veteran Robert Heinlein and master of horror Stephen King also influenced Lukyanenko’s edgy brand of fantasy. In November last year, Nicholas Seeley wrote in the magazine “Strange Horizons”about the 1990s shift in fantasy genres “away from sword and sorcery, and toward stories with modern or futuristic urban settings.” Explaining that it was more than just a change of scene, “it was a shift toward greater moral complexity.”Seeley described Lukyanenko’s novels as“seminal works

THE FIRST BOOK BROUGHT INTERNATIONAL FAME TO LUKYANENKO. HIS FOURTH INSTALLMENT, “THE LAST WATCH.” IS PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH. “NIGHT WATCH,“ DIRECTED BY BAKMEMBETOV, WAS RELEASED IN THE U.S.

in the rise of urban fantasy” and asked the author more about his ideas. “What draws me to science fiction is mystery. The possibility of What if…,” Lukyanenko told him. Lukyanenko also expressed a surprising fondness for the light-hearted writer of comic fantasies, Terry Pratchett, and explained the grim social realities behind the “Night Watch”series. He told Seeley of the bewilderment and despair that accompanied the collapse of communism: “I don’t think that everyone in the States realizes what a tragedy the fall of the U.S.S.R. was for many ordinary people: how many bloody conflicts ignited all over the country, how crime, corruption, and unemployment levels rose. These were tough years, full of negativity, when all of the advantages of the fall of the U.S.S.R. (freedom of travel, freedom of the press and so on) were canceled out by economic and social dramas. This feeling of ongoing catastrophe is, of course, present in the book.” Despite the bleakness of his settings, Lukyanenko’s prognosis for the human race is basically optimistic:“Humanity is getting better, century by century. Perhaps, one day we will even stop fighting one another.”

WWW.RBTH.RU 9

TWISTED PIED PIPER TAIL Alexander Terekhov’s recently translated satiricial fantasy, “The Rat Catcher,” is not for the squeamish: Two rat catchers are summoned to the town of Svetloyar to exterminate a plague of rats that keep falling from the hotel ceiling. The town is a reference to Svetloyar Lake in Russia, a place enlivened by its own mythology: A Russian Atlantis called Kitezh, visible only to the “pure of heart,” was submerged and hidden from the invading Mongol hordes. Terekhov’s version of Svetloyar is the antithesis of mythical Kitezh with its sinking golden domes and underwater bell-ringers. The novel’s setting is an ugly, industrial settlement from the Stalin era, which is desperately bidding for inclusion in the tourist trail of “Golden Ring” cities around Mos-

cow. At times, the novel pays homage to “The Government Inspector,” Gogol’s satirical play, set in a small town in 19th-century Russian provinces. Even the rats are prefigured by Gogol; the mayor dreams of “two extraordinary rats… black and unnaturally large.” Terekhov’s rat catchers are presented with a Svetloyar ham, only to find a baked rat inside it. Phoebe Taplin


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 10

From Moscow’s hidden tunnels to Russia’s top literary prizes award-winninG novelist Alexander Ilichevsky is one of Russia’s most acclaimed contemporary writers. exCERPTS from Ilichevsky’s novels are NOW available in English. phoebe taplin

alexander ilichevsky, A THEOretical physicist turned writer, CALLED HIS HIS TIME SPENT IN U.S. LIBRARIES, “DELICIOUS.”

Like the wandering hero of his 2007 novel,“Matisse”, Alexander Ilichevsky is a theoretical physicist who abandoned science. He also has an urge to explore everything, from mountains to rail depots. The main character in his latest novel, published this year, is a successful businessman who moves to a quiet town on the Oka River to paint. Today he is based in Moscow at the heart a literary renaissance, yet Ilichevsky’s wanderlust started young. He was born in 1970 in the city of Sumgay-

it, on the Absheron peninsula in Azerbaijan. His maternal grandfather helped build a military aerodrome that made American Cobra fighters. Ilichevsky said he sees his father’s Jewish heritage as belonging historically to “the edges of existence,” tracing his paternal ancestry back through times when Jews were forced to live “beyond the pale.” His memories of childhood summers are of “overflowing sunshine, the bitter taste of the sea where I swim and the smell of oil oozing from the seams of the steep slopes on the way to Baku.” Ilichevsky moved to the suburbs near Moscow as

READ RUSSIA CELEBRATES Rulers and writers live in different worlds now

Zakhar Prilepin, a former policeman, is one of Russia’s MOST SOUGHT-after novelists.

zakhar prilepin

The Russian writer has always suffered from a dichotomy of emotion towards those who rule above him. Pushkin probably started it all: in the space of a couple of days he would write verses that sent essentially conflicting political messages. First he composed his address to the Decembrist revolutionaries: “The heavy locks will burst… At your door will freedom wait to meet you…” Then he would don his statesman’s hat: “In hope of glory and goodness/I fearlessly look into the future/The beginning of Peter’s glorious days/Were tainted by riots and executions.” Sure, a couple of officers and poets have been hanged and the rest of the troublemakers sent to Siberia, but what can you do? During the times of Peter the Great, worse things happened. This does

not trample away hope for glory and good. A century later, Osip Mandelstam wrote: “…authorities are foul like a barber’s hands,” but then vowed: “If you should even try to separate me from my time/I promise you, you’ll break your own neck!” The Russian writer is often both an advocate of a strong state and a revolutionary. Here we use “revolutionary”in the widest possible sense, speaking primarily of the utmost freedom of spirit. In this respect, Maxim Gorky followed the tradition when he first invested himself both in word and deed in the Bolshevik Revolution in order to destroy the monarchy, and then proceeded to serve the new Caesarism in good faith and fidelity. A few decades earlier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was almost executed for mutiny, only to go down in his-

Alisa Ganieva and The Chronicles of Dagestan Winner of the prestigious Debut Prize award of 2009, Alisa Ganieva, 26, writes about Dagestan and its vanishing peoplE.

Alisa Ganieva

xenia grubstein

Why did you choose a psuedonym for your first novel? Writing “Salam, Dalgat” was a complete change for me, because even though I had finished Gorky’s Literature Institute, this work was, literally, a debut for me in the world of literature. I didn’t write serious prose before that. It was a bit scary to enter the new world, and secondly, I wanted to hear independent opinions... Everyone was sure it’s a new writer. Some people were even disappointed, when I came out. They were really expecting some brutal, unshaved guy from the mountains. Is there a literary scene in Dagestan? Unfortunately, there is no one writing about mod-

ern life. There are a few elder writers who keep working in their tradition. When I go there (I moved to Moscow at the age of 17), I can see from the outside. Yet it’s my native world. But since my book came out in Russia (thanks to the Debut award for that, otherwise it’s very hard to get published), my relatives and countrymen speak with me very carefully. How was the reaction to your novel among people in Dagestan and Russia? Critics mainly praised it, but as for the public, it was very surprising for me, both, liberals and nationalists [reacted to] my book. Skinheads were even sending links to each other saying,“we need to know


www.rbth.ru 11 a teenager, when his family was forced to leave Azerbaijan. He emigrated to Israel and then to the United States. In San Francisco, he studied programming with a view to funding his emerging interest in writing, at first as a poet.“I started writing poetry,” he said,“and found it brought me no less pleasure than solving scientific problems.” Ilichevsky moved to Sacramento with Intel, traveled around California, and lived for a time with a Moscow friend in Alabama. “I think of America with warmth and gratitude,”he said.“In retrospect, the U.S. seems like one big library because I spent a lot of time in university libraries...in American libraries I could find books in Russian which in Moscow we could not even dream of. All the writers of the Silver Age and the literary avant-garde were on the shelves! It was delicious.”

One of the delights of “Matisse” is its visceral conThe only downsides to Ilichevsky’s nection with the city, its sense of adventure rooted in sojourn in the States were homereal locations.“He sank his harpoon into Moscow and sickness, he recalled, and a need to pursued it — it was his Leviathan,”the author writes reconnect with Russian cultural life. of his scientist-turned-tramp protagonist, Korolyov. This eventually drew him back to The sense of a Moby Dick style quest is beautifully the motherland. His most successful counterpoised by Korolyov’s random wanderings. novels so far draw on memories of Of his many awards, Ilichevsky says the 2010 Big childhood and of young adulthood in Book prize was the most personally significant.“The chaotic, post-Soviet Moscow. Persian,” the novel that won it, is the third part of For less than a year in the shifting the same trilogy as“Matisse.”The author describes early 1990s, Ilichevsky says, it was posit as “a big novel about childhood, about the Absible to visit Moscow’s most secret placsheron peninsula, about the Russian futurist, Khlees: condemned sculpture studios lined bnikov, and … the metaphysics of oil.” with plaster busts of generals, or hidden Years of living overseas have influenced Ilicourtyards full of Mosfilm’s fairytale chevsky’s work. “It is impossible to understand movie sets, wagon cities behind railway or fully describe a system, while you’re still part stations, or the tunnels of the mysterious of it,” he said. “Russia is more clearly visible Metro-2, a legendary secret network of pasfrom a distance, and not only because it occusages overseen by Soviet Leader Josef Stapies one-eighth of the earth’s surface.” lin.

CELEBRATES co n t e m p o ra ry w r i t e r s tory with a reputation as a monarchist and a conservative. Examine the life of any major Russian author and you will see that the same person is often a vilifier and a protectionist, be it Gogol, Leskov, Leo Tolstoy, Chekhov, Esenin, Pasternak, Leonid Leonov, Solzhenitsyn or even Brodsky. Reducing any Soviet writer’s life to a fierce struggle against the Soviet regime would be as crude a simplification as the interpretation of the 19th-century classics by Soviet researchers, who saw hatred towards the Tsar in every line of Lermontov or Turgenev. In the more than 200 years secular literature has existed in Russia, the poets and the authorities have always conversed and the discussion has been that of equals – even when the latter physically exterminated the former. It was only during the past decade and a half that the situation has changed. I shall not even try to judge

whether for better or worse. Literature is no longer seen by the authorities as something that gives meaning to life or is relevant to governing a country. Nicholas I acted as Pushkin’s personal censor. Stalin wrote “Scum!” in the margin of Andrei Platonov’s books, while Gorbachev understood the value of words and sincerely flirted with various spellbinders. I cannot, however, even start to picture Dmitry Medvedev or Vladimir Putin as a censor or, indeed, as an attentive reader of, say, Viktor Pelevin. It takes some power of imagination to see the pair of them pitching into a group discussion of the prose of Vladimir Makanin. Actually, when it comes down to it, I can scarcely picture either being avid bookworms in their spare time.

our enemy,” and liberals just loved it. Many people in Dagestan liked that finally something about the republic came out, but they were afraid that it adds to a not-all-that-positive image of Dagestan. I describe some young outcast squatting and speaking broken Russian, local extremists, but in fact I don’t see any negativism in it.

language market. There are still many stereotypes about Russia, we had a good chance to experience them while talking to press here in the United States.

You said there are no contemporary writers in Dagestan, why is that? There are a few interesting young poets, but they are all have moved to Moscow over last few years, because there is no culturally nourishing, literary atmosphere for them in Dagestan. Intellectuals leave, and a lot of people who stay are trying to aggressively impose their vision on others. In every conversation they ask if you pray, and if not, why not, they endlessly lecture you. Why is it important to bring young Russian authors to America? I think it’s a very good idea, because modern Russian literature is barely presented on the English-

What stereotypes? We were asked, how many writers are put in jail in Russia. One woman filming us on her iPhone for a local TV channel wondered if we say what we think about Putin, are we are going to be arrested at the airport back in Russia, and so on… There are plenty of exaggerations like that, so it is very useful to present real, live people not just some wax masks.

Alexander Rodchenko On the telephone 1928


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 12

Describing schizophrenia from within Anna Starobinets, an acclaimed author of frightening short stories and apocalyptic novels, writes in a style that has been compared TO HEAVY HITTERS LIKE Poe and Orwell.

HORROR

“The Living One” by Anna Starobinets was shortlisted for the National Bestseller Award in Russia.

Alexander Rodchenko

alexandra guzeva

There was once a little boy who was so fat and so hideous that he repulsed even his own mother when she looked at him. He would stitch up candy in his pillow, which would then melt into an abhorrent sticky mess. His twin sister refused to live in the same room with him. After some time, his mother finds a diary in the boy’s handwriting where a queen ant residing in his mind lays bare her insidious plan: to capture the boy’s body and thus later conquer all humanity. Will the boy bend to his new nature like Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis?” You will find out if you read “An Awkward Age”– a story that launched Anna Starobinets’s literary career. In fact, Starobinets wrote even as a child – fairy tales, though she rarely mentions this since she does not see it as the start of her writing career. “Horror” came into her life when she wrote the selection of stories, now

translated into English, entitled “An Awkward Age.” It was also precisely her horror fiction that brought her critical acclaim. Starobinets explains her choice of genre: “I did not consciously choose horror fiction in the sense that I never sat at my desk musing, with my fist under my chin à la Rodin’s Thinker, on which genre to choose for my writing. Horror, mysticism, surreal thrillers, etc. just seem to be a way of ‘packaging’ thoughts, feelings, sensations, and possibly, even fears, that intuitively works for me.” After “An Awkward Age” was published, Russian critics hailed Starobinets as the Russian Stephen King or Philip Dick. Despite the flattering comparisons, Starobinets insists she is different from all of her literary icons: “I believe no serious writer can ever be defined by the genre he or she technically works in. Or another writer, come to that. In any event, I’m neither King nor Philip Dick nor Gogol nor any other writer I have been compared to.” Starobinets’s horror takes various forms, from a fantasy story to a mystic novel (“Asylum 3/9”based partially on Slavic folklore), to a fantasy novel suggested by the namesake Russian-Japanese ani-

The writer Elsa Triolet (sister of Lily Brik), 1924

QUEEN

mation project (“The First Squad: The Truth,” 2010), to a futuristic dystopian novel (“The Living One” shortlisted for the reputable National Bestseller Award in literature in 2011). “The Living One is a ‘pure genre’ piece: a classic anti-utopia, imbued with Zamyatin’s seriousness and Orwell’s acrimony, loaded with the author’s somber expectations regarding mankind’s future, masterfully conveying a sense of repulsion towards worship of ‘the wisdom of the crowds,’” literary critic Lev Danilkin wrote. In some works, she bores into irrational depths, embracing the point at which mental illness devours people. In“The Rules”(from “An Awkward Age”), a silent voice is constantly setting tough rules for the main character: how to walk, how to arrange things on a shelf, how to live… Starobinets poignantly revealed the gradual

disintegration of a personality, describing the grip of schizophrenia from within. For both Poe and Dick, who also engaged in such writing experiments, the experience proved calamitous, as they both lost ground and their own sense of reality was eventually shattered. Anna, however, is not afraid of anything like this happening: “I think a comparison with Strugatskys’ ‘Zone’ [from Roadside Picnic] is appropriate here: a dangerous area filled with strange, unpredictable and evil magical items that you can, nevertheless, sometimes drag out and put to some use (although definitely not for their intended purpose). Simply put, inside every person there exists such a Zone and some stalkers – people of art – venture into it on expeditions, some just a short way in, while others go deeper and further. I would not overestimate the danger of such trips.”


WWW.RBTH.RU

An AwkwArd Age

rUssiAns nAme their most importAnt books

AnnA StArobinetS eXploreS diSturbAnceS So deeply horrifying thAt only her Stunning tAlent for SuSpenSe And her elegAnt proSe cAn coAX the fAint-of-heArt to reAd “An AwKwArd Age.”

in reSponSe to vlAdimir putin’S SuggeStion thAt A liSt Should be mAde of the beSt booKS in the ruSSiAn lAnguAge, SuperJob.ru ASKed reAderS to vote to get A fAir And JuSt liSt.

cies. Again, Starobinets shows a deft understanding of the plodding, day-to-day strategies Anna Starobinets, doe-eyed and and reasoning of the mentally diminutive, has emerged as Rus- ill. Many kids have times when sia’s “Queen of Horror,” while her literary prowess has also elevat- they have to count or repeat ed her to the elite category of“in- words, believing if they don’t tellectual fantasy.” Born in 1978, something awful will happen. she is also a well-known journal- But something awful does happen to this little ist. boy, and a voice She is indeed a in his head tells singular talent, him that “the though it is unclear rules” are about that the translation to get much of her first collection more complicatwill bring her a large ed. It is a voice American audience. to chill a reader’s The central characheart. ter in “An Awkward At first, menAge,” Maxim, metatal illness allows morphoses into the reader to exsomething demented, plain some of and even much darkthe misfortune, er than Frank, the tragedy and evil child in Iain Banks’ anna sTaroBineTs is a of these stories. controversial book, But there is “The Wasp Factory.” JournalisT and novelisT who has already Been CoMPared something else Mental illness might To kafka. that smells bad explain Maxim’s evil in the fridge (in deeds, but this story one story, the bores deeper into vismain character ceral horror focusing on molt and decay and hideous falls in love with bad food from the refrigerator). In other words, rebirth. Still, Maxim’s wretchedness is illness does not explain the not utterly unsympathetic. Like depths of the hideousness afoot. other Starobinets characters, he There is a theory that all of the is spawned in an oppressive and anxiety and helplessness and unhappy atmosphere: His parents anger of a family can stow away appear to at least enable his met- and fester in one vulnerable amorphosis. His mother stands family member, the one who gets by haplessly as he turns inward sick, or even becomes a monexcept to threaten others. Maxim ster. It is this way that Starobgets fat and ugly. Insects travel inets looks at society itself. She has been compared to up his nose. He eats other kids’ lunch. He hoards sugar. He sews Stephen King and even Kafka. things into his pillow. He tracks Her stories communicate somehis sister’s menstrual cycle. His thing urgent, if elusive, through mother finds his diary, a revela- schizophrenic characters in antory piece of poetry tracking the ti-fairy tales. The reader does sickest of minds and the disinte- not always understand what is gration of a personality--and real or imagined, only that neglect is never benign, in a fammaybe something worse. The story“The Rules”starts out ily or society, and that all monsimply enough with a child who sters come from some mother’s has obsessive-compulsive tenden- womb. norA fitzgerAld

ekAterinA dobrYninA

Recently, PresidentVladimir Putin proposed making a long list of the best literary works in the Russian language. In response, the Superjob.ru portal decided to find out which books Russians themselves would include on the list. Respondents placed Leo Tolstoy’s“War and Peace” at the top of the list. Thirty-two percent of voters consider the epic work a must for any student. Why? Some of the responses included“because it’s a great book capable of shaping a worldview that binds the nation,” and “this classic is glorious, and it is eternal!” Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita”came in second with 19 percent of respondents considering it a mustread. Next on the preferred list is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”(16 percent), followed by Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse“Eugene Onegin.”Rounding out the top five is Mikhail Sholokhov’s“And Quiet Flows the Don.”Five percent of respondents called this tragic saga about the fate of the Don Cossacks mandatory reading. Visitors to the website also believed that the list should include 19th- century classics like “Woe from Wit” by Alexander Griboyedov, all of Pushkin’s

works, “Dead Souls” by Nikolai Gogol,“Fathers and Sons”by Ivan Turgenev,” and “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky.“All these works are still relevant today,” read one comment. Another four percent of respondents believe that modern students must read the Bible. One voter called it “the wisest book that, unfortunately, is not taught in schools.”Several books received votes from two percent of respondents, including the Russian Constitution, the Penal Code, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago,” Alexei Tolstoy’s “Peter the Great,” Nikolai Karamzin’s “History of the Russian State,” Alexander Pushkin’s “The Captain’s Daughter,”Anton Chekhov’s short stories, Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s“The Brothers Karamazov,” Ivan Goncharov’s“Oblomov,”and Mikhail Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time.” Classic Soviet works and works by foreigners garnered the fewest votes from Russians; Even the Criminal Code of Russia won more votes than Remarque’s “Three Comrades” and Marquez’s“One HundredYears of Solitude.”Several voted for a manual on “obtaining basic skills and knowledge in the field of modern commerce. That’s the industry that most young people are trying to get into.”

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 14

RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT Author Dmitry Bykov accompanied detective writer Boris Akunin on a well-publicized stroll, called the ‘’walk of control,’’ on May 6th and 7th. The goal of the experiment was to find out ‘’whether Muscovites can walk in their own city freely or they require some sort of pass for it,” wrote Akunin on his blog. “We will be pretending to talk about literature (shivering with terror in fact) while walking from one Alexander Sergeevich to the other.’’ Akunin was referring in the post to his plan to walk between the monuments of 19th-century Russian writers Alexander Pushkin and Alexander Griboyedov. Thousands of Russians walked with Bykov and Akunin on this protest stroll. The organizers could hardly have imagined that their action would attract so many people. The crowd spilled off the pavement and into the streets.

Alexander Rodchenko Lilia Brik. Portrait for the poster “Knigi.” 1924

Satire against cynicism

Moritz gathmann

Russia was a different country when, more than a year ago, the first episode of the series “Citizen Poet” was broadcast on the independent, mainly Internet channel “Dozhd”(Rain).There was the actor Mikhail Yefremov, arms crossed, dressed in 19th-century style and

the Citizen Poet project HAS BROUGHT Russia’s CONTEMPORARY political satire to a new level.

The PROJECT HELPED TO USHER IN A NEW ERA IN WHICH THE RULERS are NOT SACRED.

sporting a pince-nez, while in the background a crumpled poster of poet Nikolai Nekrasov, whom he was imitating, hung on the wall. In witty rhyme, Yefremov intoned a hymn of praise to Natalia Vasilieva, press spokesperson for the Moscow court. Erstwhile oligarch and opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky had just been convicted for the second time, and Vasilieva had declared in an interview that pressure had been brought to bear on the judge. They sang something like this:“We guys

have drunk away our honor and conscience / that Russian woman Natasha Vasilieva has said it all. She gives us hope.” In just a few hours, the “Citizen Poet”video became the most popular link on the Russian Internet. The program has three creators: Dmitry Bykov, 44-year-old novelist, poet, and bitingly humorous columnist for Moscow periodicals, writes the verses. They are then recited by actor Mikhail Yefremov, 48, known in Moscow circles as an inveterate opposition figure and not one to back away from any scandal. The show is produced by 54-year-old Andrei Vasiliev, longtime editor-in-chief of the independent business daily, Kommersant. The three have enjoyed the almost universal appeal of their program since Russians had previously been sorely deprived of satire about the Putin regime. For well-known journalistYury Saprykin, “Citizen Poet” was the last refuge of the opposition. Emasculated by the ruling elite, the opposition could at least make fun of them. Others saw in the program a continuation of the series “Kukly”(Puppets) which made fun of politicians and oligarchs from 1994 until it was cancelled in 2002. Bykov, Yefremov and Vasiliev have remained faithful to their tried-and-true concept for 48 episodes.Yefremov has imitated poets from Kornei Chukovsky to Edgar Allan Poe. Bykov reworks current events into word acrobatics, whether it’s the ban on gherkin imports or then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s refusal to take part in TV debates with the other presidential candidates.

well-knowN RUSSIAN actor Mikhail Yefremov IS A STAR Of THE ACCLAIMED AND CONTROVERSIAL Citizen Poet project, which useS SATIRE, POETRY AND SONG to scoff at the Russian authorities.

Following the sixth episode, a Putin polemic against Medvedev, a controversy broke out about the future of the series. But the controversy just made the program more popular. Radio station Ekho Moskvy and online portal F5 took over the project, and now each new episode is seen by hundreds of thousands each week. After several performances in Moscow, the team went on a tour of the regions last fall and promptly came in for some harsh criticism when it became known that they were being sponsored by oligarch and former presidential challenger Mikhail Prokhorov. Bykov went on the offensive in a newspaper article: “Who gave the orders? Who pays you? Not the Kremlin by any chance?”He started hearing it everywhere. For him it was symptomatic of a sick society, one created by Putin’s regime. “Who gave you the right,” we’re asked. Our response:“No one.


An impending doom? Dmitry Bykov’s new ironic novel “Living Souls,” translated into English, portrays Russia descending into civil war. phoebe taplin

Imagine the chaos ensuing from the discovery of a new fuel — one that renders Russian oil irrelevant. That is what happens in Dmitry Bykov’s brutally ironic novel“Living Souls.” Russia has descended into civil war. Fictional ethnic groups, the northern“Varangians” and southern“Khazars”battle end-

We didn’t ask!” And it was precisely to disrupt this ingrained mental attitude of passivity and cynicism that they set out through the country.

lessly for dominance and for their own version of history; meanwhile, the true natives, the gentle “Joes” and “Wolves,” are caught in the crossfire. In theVarangians, Bykov satirizes mindless belligerence and nationalism, but the opposing Khazars - liberals, Jews, revolutionaries- are also power-hungry and duplicitous. Bykov, who is himself Jewish, has referred to his own ironic work as “anti-semitic.”

www.rbth.ru Bykov has written several novels and a prize-winning biography of Pasternak, but “Living Souls” is the first to be translated into English.The complex and varied use of language, morphing between folk tale and contemporary political tract, laced with songs and prophecies, occasionally comes closer to surrealist poetry than narrative. The four groups of characters, whose destinies form the crux of the story, all become wanderers, travelling across Russia’s vast distances in search of love, freedom, safety or meaning. The fact that their peregrinations are often circular is symbolic. Russian history itself is portrayed as an endless cycle of tyranny and ter-

ror, followed by thaw, chaos and revolution. Bykov’s characters question the ancient epics while native peoples have their own secret versions of events. This ambitious novel perhaps attempts too much, though there is a comic element that saves the novel from perishing under its own burdens.

A Chronicler of the brutal and the everyday Zakhar Prilepin writes about the hardscrabble life he once knew, from the lives of underpaid policemen to that of local street punks.

The end of Putin as icon

People aren’t really getting anything new from Yefremov and Bykov. The authors are only playing with facts that are already known to those who want to know them, whether it’s the political conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the differences of opinion between Putin and Medvedev or the possible spread of the Arab Spring to Russia. “Citizen Poet” speaks more about what the man on the street currently feels. For 12 long years, the state media have presented President Vladimir Putin to the people as an icon. Bykov’s poems are like an antidote to this. In episode after episode, they work towards undermining the sanctity of the regime, removing Putin from his throne, as well as Medvedev, intelligence agents, prosecutors and judges. “Citizen Poet” says that it is necessary to laugh about the most powerful figures in the country. With this in mind, Bykov,Yefremov and Vasiliev paved the way for the protests of recent months. From the Internet, radio and theaters, people are now bringing the message to the streets the message that no one is sacrosanct, not even new President Vladimir Putin. “Citizen Poet”made its last appearance in Moscow on March 5, one day after the presidential elections.“There’ll be another reality after that, one for which we’ll need a new project,” said Dmitry Bykov.

15

anna nemtsova

Zakhar Prilepin has experienced a meteoric rise. At 36, he is one of Russia’s most acclaimed authors, and his novel“Sin”was voted one of the most important books to come out of Russia in the past decade. Prilepin’s new work,“Vosmerka” or “8” is the most anticipated Russian book of 2012. “Prilepin is the biggest event in today’s Russian literature; his language reminds us of Tolstoy,” said writer Tatyana Tolstaya, author of “Pushkin’s Children”and“Sleepwalker in a Fog,”and a grand-niece of Leo Tolstoy. It is hard to imagine that 10 years ago, he was a poorly paid officer with the Special Police Unit known as OMON. The veteran of two wars in Chechnya had empty

pockets. Bitter about the wealth he saw around him, he began to sympathize with the now-banned National Bolshevik Party. Today Prilepin is the editor of the Nizhny Novgorod bureau of Russia’s investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. He lives with his wife, Masha, and their four children in a remote village on the Kerzhenets River with two dogs and three cats. Prilepin was the commander of an OMON unit from 1996 to 1999, and was deployed to Chechnya during the conflicts there. The author recalled that his OMON salary of 830 rubles (now about $27) a week could not cover the expenses of his first baby. In 1999, Prilepin took a job as a reporter and quickly rose to become the

chief editor of the newspaper Delo. At the same time he wrote his debut novel, “Pathologies,” which was awarded the National Bestseller prize. “Pathologies,” portrays Yegor, an immature and frightened OMON commander in Chechnya. “War does not make people any different, but it exaggerates the traits the person already had,” Prilepin said. “If you liked people, you are a humanist, if you had maniacal thoughts, you are a total maniac.”Prilepin said that while his books are not autobiographical, he relates to his protagonists: Sankya, a National Bolshevik revolution leader in “Sankya” and Zakhar, a bar bouncer in “Sin.” Prilepin has marched with opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Nizhny Novgorod’s Freedom Square, and he has been arrested more than 150 times. “What I love about [Prilepin] is that he never leaves the frontline,” said writer and fellow war veteran Arkady Babchenko, author of “One Soldier’s War.” Babchenko added, “He is an active participant expressing his social and political protest both by his books, and on the streets.” Acclaimed poet Dmitry Bykov said that for the past decade, “Russians missed cult writers personally involved in the process of social change. And then Prilepin’s books appeared.”


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 16

The writers’ factory Young writers abound in the country of Dostoyevsky, and the Debut Prize catapults some of them into the ranks of most esteemed Russian authors.

alexandra guzeva, alena tveritina

Despite the popular perception that people have been reading less and less, Russians’ interest in literature is still strong, and publishing houses are deluged with manuscripts from novice writers every day. For those struggling writers under thirty-five, the Debut Prize, an independent literary prize for young au-

The

thors established in 2000, is a chance to muscle in to the rarefied turf of acclaimed writers. Last year, more than 40,000 Russianlanguage writers competed for the prize, with works sent in from all over the world. At stake is one million rubles (more than $34,000) in prize money in one of six categories, publication in Russia and abroad, mentoring from prominent writers and a reserved seat in the literary scene. Sergey Shargunov, the 2001

Prize

Debut laureate, last year made the short list of the prestigious National Bestseller prize with his autobiographic novel, “The Book without Photos.” Playwright Vasily Sigarev, who won in 2000, has since then harvested a crop of Russian and international prizes, including a British Evening Standard Theater Award in 2002. One of the most outstanding Debut discoveries is Alisa Ganieva, who won the prize in 2009. She had been known to the literary world as a critic, but after she won the Debut it was revealed that it was Ganieva who wrote the short novel “Salam, Dalgat!” under a male pen-name. Ganieva wrote about the criminal underworld of Dagestan’s Wahhabis, a very sensitive subject for the region. The book garnered a terrific response and plenty of controversy. In Dagestan,

Winners

Ganieva’s homeland, it is considered disgraceful for a woman to write such things. Yet, it was the absence of fear that made the Debut prize winner a writer with a capital W.

Changing the Rules for Debut

For a decade, only writers under 25 were invited to compete. However the panel of judges recently announced an increase in the age limit to 35.“When I started writing, I was already 25, and could not compete for the prize, but when I learned that the age limit had been raised, I immediately sent in my text,” said Debut-2011 Science Fiction prize winner Anna Leonidova, 33. The Debut prize is considered generous, and is equal to some Russian literary prizes for more accomplished writers. The organizers said they believe such a

Russian prodigies’ FIRST VISIT TO the U.S. The winners of the prestigious Debut prize RECENTLY VISITED the United States, AND THEY TOOK a hectic tour of New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. RBTH caught up with THE young published authors at the New York Public Library.

Alexander Rodchenko Girl With Bouquet, 1936

xenia grubstein

Olga Slavnikova, a highly acclaimed writer in Russia, has become the country’s most visible and devoted mentor of young writers, primarily through the prestigious Debut prize she helped to establish. Slavnikova recently introduced four of her prodigies – Alisa Ganieva (2009), Irina Bogatyreva (2006), Igor Savelyev (2004) and Dmitry Biryukov (2005) to readers in the United States. The New Russian Literature program, the work of NewYork-based non-profit Causa Artium in partnership with The Debut Prize Foundation, commenced with a swank reception in a private home in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s trendy Adams Morgan district. Before heading to Boston, the quartet stopped in New York to read at the New York Public Library, known for its long tradition of support for Russian literature and writers. Every year, according to Slavnikova, the Debut contest receives from 40,000 to 70,000 manuscripts. The four winners selected for the U.S. tour repre-


www.rbth.ru 17 significant prize for young writers is a good investment.“A writer needs a place where he can write. A million rubles can help the winner deal with everyday issues and focus on writing,” said Debut coordinator and writer Olga Slavnikova. For playwrights, the prize means more than just money and publication – it means a play has a better chance of being staged.“Plays are like Russian girls: the most important thing for them is to find a husband, i.e. a director. I put some makeup on mine and made a presentation – why should it stay an old maid?”said playwright Nina Belenitskaya. Already one of the most successful young Russian playwrights and a nominee for the prestigious Russian Golden Mask theater prize, she made the Debut2011 long-list. Debut-2011 Small Prose winner Eduard Lukoyanov had sent

his manuscripts to Debut three times, and his final attempt earned him the coveted prize.“Literature has always been important to me. I got addicted to reading and writing at an early age, but then I was faced with a problem – it is not profitable to work with young au-

sent the diversity of Russia’s writers in terms of themes, interests and background. Alisa Ganieva, of Dagestan, entered the competition under a male pseudonym, “Gulla Khirachev,” using words from her native Avar language, one of dozens of languages spoken in Dagestan. “Gulla” means “bullet” and “Khirachev” means “darling,” Ganieva explained. “Taking a man’s name was a trick, a literary device, because in today’s Dagestan girls are not allowed to move so freely around the city as men and boys, so written from a female perspective it would be strange,” she added. She also was seeking some disguise, and liberation, from her background as a critic. Her debut novel“Salam, Dalgat,”about a young boy’s stream of consciousness while walking on the streets of Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala, caused a stir. Writer Irina Bogatyreva has been influenced and inspired by the works of Gayto Gazdanov and Jack Kerouac. She writes about Russian hitch-hikers, basing her stories on her own experience. Bogatyreva grew up in the city of Ulyanovsk on the Volga River, whereVladimir Lenin was born and raised, then studied in Gorky’s Literature Institute. The Debut award, which she received in 2006, changed her life, she said. “After I received the Debut I felt like I had to write better,” she said. “And my first book got published only when it was short-listed for Debut. I’m not sure if it’s just a coincidence, but to me it certainly seemed

thors in our country, and it’s not very interesting, to tell the truth,” Lukoyanov told RBTH. The Debut prize is a pleasant exception that has proven him wrong. These winners keep writing, inspired by their success and the vote of confidence. Debut-2011 Prize Award Ceremony.

connected,”she recalled. Like Kerouac’s characters, young Russians in Bogatyreva’s novels are existentialists who travel not just to see the country, but also to find themselves and their destiny. The author said she receives a lot of feedback from older Americans, Baby Boomers who hitchhiked extensively in the 1970s.“I think, it’s very exciting for them to see how, decades later, something that was conceived in United States has its own life somewhere in the heart of Siberia,” Bogatyreva said. Dmitry Biryukov is a writer from Novosibirsk, a city with a strong tradition of science-fiction literature. “Just look closer at Siberia, at it’s endless snow-covered forests, and it will inevitably inspire you to write something colossal,” he said. Yet his story “Uritsky Street” could have taken place anywhere in the former Soviet Union. Biryukov’s writes a Kafkaesque novel about a pharmacist just before the Socialist Revolution of 1917. Debut writer Igor Savelyev also explores the epic and reflective experience of traveling. He writes about his hometown of Ufa, a city between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains. His favorite book while growing up was Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In Savelyev’s semi-fantastic novel, people are allowed to travel on the train’s luggage rack, which is very cheap and a great way for Russia’s youth to see the country. His attention to detail and satiric style is reminiscent of Gogol himself. The audience at the New York Public Library laughed heartily as Savelyev read his piece, but he never aimed to be funny, he said.“I write about very serious things and don’t try to make them look funny,” he insisted. “I guess I was just born acidtongued.”

Depicting a Lost Generation A recent translation of Andrei Gelasimov’s “Thirst,” brings this spare and original novelist, who has been compared to J.D. Salinger, to English-language readers. It is not very often that finishing a novel provokes the reader to go back to the beginning and start again. But Gelasimov is that kind of writer. This slim volume of 100 pages is a haven for both comedy and horror. The narrator Konstantin is a disfigured veteran of the brutal wars in the North Caucasus. We see him drinking alone, recalling his childhood, and travelling with fellow soldiers. Their quest is often pointless and confused, but there is an echoing sense of profundity among the routine profanities. The author was born in 1965 and trained as a linguist and theater director. His literary career took off unexpectedly in 2001, when a short story he published on the Internet started to win prizes. In “Thirst,” Kostya (short for Konstantin) has been pulled from a burning tank and his face is unrecognizable. His neighbor uses him to terrify her little boy into going to bed. The story of Kostya’s gradual self-acceptance has some hallmarks of a classic coming-ofage story, but is tempered by a darker aimlessness. The novel starts with the hero trying to fit too many bottles into his fridge. The thirst of the title relates most obviously to Kostya’s nurturing school director, who drinks vodka by the case and tells him “I have a terrible thirst … my body craves liquids.” Insofar as he deals in metaphor at all, Gelasimov explores a thirst for life despite its breathtaking bitterness. “Thirst” is told mostly in a simple vernacular. The narrator expresses himself through drawings, filling pages with beautiful women and therapeutic war-scapes. One of the challenges Gelasimov sets is to describe the world in the credible words of a character for whom words do not come easily. Phoebe Taplin


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES 18

ÉmigrÉS WRITE east and west NewYorkers have a one-of-a-kind chance to get acquainted with contemporary Russian literature when Read Russia comes to New York. Attendees include Russian émigré writers and editors Marina Adamovich, Alexander Genis and Yuri Miloslavsky. They have been living in America for decades. Alexander Genis was born in Ryazan in 1953. He immigrated to the United States in 1977.“My choice of America was kind of random, however it might sound,” Genis said. “I didn’t know anything about the country except Hemingway and Faulkner.” But he knew he wanted to get out of the U.S.S.R., he said, and he knew he wanted to devote his life to Russian literature. Shortly after coming to New York, Genis befriended fellow émigrés Joseph Brodsky and Sergei Dovlatov. Since then, he has written more than a dozen books that are bestsellers in Russia and has hosted his weekly radio show in Russian on Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib-

Alexander Rodchenko Fire Escape (with a man). From the series “House in Miasn itskaya St.” 1925

Interview

An American writes Russia Author Ken Kalfus, who has set two of his works in Russia and lived in the country for four years, talks about the current state of Russian and American literature.

alexander genis’s books are bestsellers in russia. he writes for novaya gazeta but lives in the united states.

erty for twenty-seven years. The author is also a a contributor to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where he covers stories like the punk band Pussy Riot, now in prison after playing an anti-Putin prayer in the national cathederal. “My main concern lately is that the political situation in Russia repeats itself,”he said.“Currently,

American author Ken Kalfus has a longstanding fascination with Russia. Two of four works of fiction are set in the country: “Pu239 and Other Russian Fantasies” and a novel, “The Commissariat of Enlightenment.”His short story “Pu-239” was adapted into a film in 2007. “Narkomat Prosvetleniye,” a Russian translation by Tatiana Borokovaya, was published by Eksmo in 2006. Kalfus also wrote an introduction to the recent English translation of Yuri Olesha’s “Envy.” He lived in Mos-

cow from 1994 to 1998 and now lives in Philadelphia. Tatiana Shabaeva interviewed him for Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

the situation [in Russia] is similar to what we’ve been through in the 60s, then in the 90s, and now, it seems, again.” During the last decades of the Soviet Union, dissident writers, actors, and other cultural and intellectual figures such as poets Yevgeniy Yevtushenko and AndreyVoznesensky became opposition leaders. Genis said that seeing people like Dmitry Bykov, Leonid Parfenov and Boris Akunin do the same thing makes him sad. “It’s scary too, because Perestroika didn’t change much,” he added.“Intellectuals went into politics, then the initiative was seized and very different people got the power. Now we see what it led to.” He is an admirer of his contemporaries Vladimir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin, who he believes are the most important contemporary Russian authors. “It’s very interesting to see Sorokin, who at the beginning of his career was a conceptualist, who used words as colors, now become very politicized. His ‘Day of the Oprichnik’ is very strong,

and has come true, if we look at what’s going on in Russia now.” “Living abroad, I can see Russia better and worse at the same time, Genis said.“I’d say the ocean between us works like a lens and sharpens the image.... However no matter how close I’m following what’s happening in Russia, and how much I write about it, all my notes are those of a stranger. To fully apprehend what’s going on, one needs to be inside the country....To live history on the barricades is not the same as to just observe it from a distance.”

RG: What do people in the United States know about classical and modern Russian literature? Ken Kalfus: A typical American reader will be likely to have read a greater number of 19th-century authors from Russia than from any other country. The Soviet-era authors are known less well, but Babel, Zamyatin, Pasternak and

Russian-A

Yuri Miloslavsky of Kharkov came to the United States in 1973 to study at the University of Michigan. His doctoral thesis examined cultural and stylistic nuances of Pushkin’s private correspondence. Miloslavsky is a poet, journalist and literary historian. Currently he is writing two novels that are slated to be published soon.“They both unfold in the U.S. and they both deal with intriguing subjects for me, such as Russian-Americans,” the writer said. “It doesn’t mean the novels will be socially or politically charged, one of them is historical and another one is a romance-adventure story.” Milo-


www.rbth.ru Ken Kalfus

Solzhenitsyn are perennially in print.You may judge the wide interest in Russian letters by the wide acclaim received by a collection of essays on the subject,“The Possessed,”by an American critic, Elif Batuman. Post-Soviet writers are less wellknown, but every year several of their books are published and receive critical attention. Vladimir Sorokin and Ludmila Ulitskaya are among the writers I myself have reviewed recently for The New York Times; the Times frequently reviews new Russian authors, as does the NewYorker and

the New York Review of Books. Who promotes Russian literature in the United States? Why do people there come to know one author over another? Who makes the choice? How does cooperation with publishers happen? There are no organizations that I know of that specifically promote Russian literature--but if there are, please tell me! As an author, I don’t know much about how publishers acquire their titles. Sometimes they seem to do so with their eyes closed, in the dark, underwater. And drunk. But I presume that an acquisitions editor needs at least a chapter and a summary of the book, in a decent translation. Usually it’s submitted through an agent. I would think contacts made at the London and Frankfurt books fairs would be useful. Foreign authors and their translators can also make themselves known through publication of arcontinued bottom

Americans yuri miloslvasky’s two new novels focused on the russian experience in america are slated to be published soon.

slavsky said he is captivated by the American heartland as well as the expanse of the North American continent. “Not many people remember now, that for the first 125-130 yeears of the United States, Russia was their key ally and a partner,” Miloslavsky recalled.“Russian Tsar Alexander I and our greatest, in my opinion, President Thomas Jefferson were friends and they had an intimate correspondence. Later the best American poets praised Russia’s Alexander II in their poems. And it was Alexander II who supported the American Rev-

19

porary American literature is very impressive quality-wise, I have a feeling, the more complicated life in America becomes, the more sophisticated American literature turns out to be.” Marina Adamovich was born in 1958 and came to America in the early 90s, a wife and mother of three children in search of a job. Twenty years later, she is a well-known emigration historian, literary critic and editor-inchief of the oldest Russian émigré magazine, New Review. The magazine was founded in New York in 1942 by immigrant writer Mark Aldanov, who was also known for his critiques of the Soviet regime. The magazine is as meaningful to emigres today as it was during wartime. The goal is to support writers but also to help Russian immigrants reflect on their new reality as well as keep their literary traditions. “It’s not just a literary magazine, it’s a part of the intellectual, cultural and spiritual life of our community,” Adamovich said.“We, as members of its editorial staff, are trying to find ways to realize at least some of our higher aspirations.” The magazine’s editorial staff

MARINA ADAMOVICH IS THE EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE OLDEST RUSSIAN EMIGRE MAGAZINE, New Review.

recently co-organized an international conference “Russian Emigration at the Crossroads of the 20th-21st Centuries”with Columbia University’s Harriman Institute in NewYork.“The main thing for us is to show that the culture of Russian immigration is still alive,” Adamovich said. The editor said she also pays close attention to Russian-American relations.“The U.S.S.R. was Enemy No. 1 for the U.S. for many years, and such stereotypes are hard to break,” she said, adding that if both sides make the effort, creating closer ties is “doable.”

olution with a Russian fleet, top which was crucial at that continued from view, point. So I believe that we’ll in er’s, the Paris Re ticles and stories New Yorker, Harp e translator, with a e th ng get our relationship back to di clu in it would be th literary journals, that level.” 1. I imagine that n to these pubta, Agni and n + es the submissio an ak m Gr o wh n, tio la Still, the dual existence of ns tra e th finished copy of Russian Americans, their eir work, and, lications. e translators in th th lp he lives and their perception of of to r de or ited States, and, y to do in What is necessar literature in the Un themselves, is his favorite ian ss Ru of ion ot also, to assist prom eresting authors? topic. “I’m worried that I’ve the same country w, int course, to find ne nslator to live in not written much in my life, tra a r fo y ar ss stay in touch ce ne itely consult and fin It’s certainly not de that’s why I’m writing both ld ace, ou sh e t he or sh nslation is the gr as the author, bu l aspect of a tra novels almost at the same ia the s uc cr ap t rh os Pe m e le. Th tor’s writing sty la with the author. ns tra time, and they both are about is e th ica of er s essivenes ature in Am fluency, and expr more foreign liter Russian Americans.” ve of ha n to tio r ica tte bl be pu e lly greatest bar to th nslations. It’s usua When speaking about Rusof the available tra the language of the prospective the poor quality is ge sian literature, he complained e native langua a translator whos e writer. that Russians are too demande language of th th h Amert no reader, and esting to you? Whic ing, having been spoiled by the are the most inter y da to rs ite wr amount of literary geniuses in Which Russian more about? ld Russians know Tatiana Tolstoya their history.“If fifty years passican writers shou n writers include ia ss Ru ry ra po em n of stories, pubnt io es, and no genius emerges, peoMy favorite co e recent collect os wh a, Baby” ay sk ev trush d Her Neighbor’s ple tend to think, it’s the end and Ludmilla Pe oman Who Wante ry by W A sto as ng W lli re pe he m “T of the world,” he said. “What , in Snob, a co lished here as ad re ly velnt de ce re nt ce so I al t exciting re took French literature five hunwas electrifying. Snob is the mos ibe. e, cr m bs r su Fo . to d va se re ea dred years, happened in Russia Vikotoria Toka d I’m very pl an , re se ltu ur cu co t of in is n pr ine over a century. We look out one opment in Russia l, it publishes fiction. The magaz s ise ra ce en es rfu pr lo co its window, and there is DosIt’s lively, it’s adership, but re ge er ua ng Am la n ner ia ss here. Mod toyevsky, in another window addressed to a Ru porary life everyw culties of liberal em nt co ’s ia ss Ru ffi there is Pushkin, we come out awareness of easures the di l stagnation, than Franzen m to the porch, there is young Tolican writers: Jona ciety of boundless choice, politica es should so em a th e in es stoy coming… I wouldn’t worry individualism degradation.Th gart’s novel, d environmental yn an te ce Sh en lu ry aff Ga about this pause, a new genius ss usele s. I know that er ad re n ed in Rusia ish ss bl Ru pu will come soon. A the same time resonate with s already been ha y,” or St ve Lo sia. I have to mention, that contem“Super Sad True


“ s a y g d. of ip ht ry he ne ies ce” Tolsto , stron ppy o gic en t Flow centu ound thoug famil is is t endsh d Pea e with appy every unha n way.”Th tant 19th- as“War an “And Quie he backgr as love, fri alls in lov ad to a tra itself. She ld woman iumphs. If ically f r le ’s e; h or w tt r-o of nt rs d cyn lues t re alik py in its o most imp r epics, suc Sholokhov set agains ate matte oman wh in society d had spe ful 30-yea ily va that he ha lstoy’s nov e n m i e e l w p m l t t a a i i h h o a f t o u t t n a r n h a n o n e s un Mikh enina” is ne of et, unlike uch i ied Russia r spurned burde ario: a be immutabl nsinuating admires To ese them r ) and e ibes s r me a g of o n i .Y penin pic novels Napoleon “Anna Ka ina” descr y of a mar ities and h e had beco ywood sce he idea of would be ilepin also death). Th as pub e v ll s st en .T or ur r), o n r o Pr e t e n l c a and i s a f a u e a” w r i i H r a l s g s e a e W K g l c s a n r l h “ h i i a Ru being a Karenin ulkner. T lass ght Zak Civi contrary, simp growing h he “His colle c n war u . t e a n i o a 2 H h a h w t m i 1 t T o n s 8 u t s ah s the “An m Fa her Rus pay ing he 1 ard. d RB . She ound ” (the events. On evolves ar deeply.Yet d her love ten accord ultimately ademy Aw itskaya tol eland and ig secret!“ with Willia were nine n o D b t n r e l r m c i n t r b a g e r a t e o e he e u A u l n c o h h d h i i w h l b o e t n t n s s p ants, been ina B histor the tr ssia. T nd hi s, star won a d love . The husba That’s major ily values oos her an ldren, her ms to have what she w novel and aywright N a person a anthropy. can writer outside Ru nightley as he leaves i i , s l e m s i e r w s h e d t p hi g en s ge me am ll c hil i ra K rm a’ s nd fa ficer who o sma a Karenin f love and y based on ients,” youn rent and c anticism o tions of A in global f , stars Kei om her wh ntimental w f t o d g e a r o e a n a s n r w f i d l s p m e e e n g h t a e p y o r k oun n e a e n u h n r A a l i g e a t b e . b s g w s e re s in en to ch leaves ingles right and betwe resorting influenced ld not help eptember nna’s son a ut perhap ls like wat , w he scr or the Anna was mean al taboos f e written t with the ( t S u e t A .B i ife u e o n a c s f o c t i a w e t r , h e u l k t a o s t m n i b i i a f i a v e phic e Wright a wo ne else w it trivial, ter t melodram ing and o fond of h me (L er lif breaks soc y well ha ly stuffed c o d s a r n o l a a i t Jo ph an ry te na ng oo ma s ch nyo it, res f spir today, he d delibera tween a m ely than a novel, calli ble and so directed by n since hi hink it is t ts are inte town, is ve Christian st abou e o n s t t a d u i i , h t a j b a e t e d I y g h r u v a t . s h r n y i u t o u t o a l g r k a u o c t p b t r o n c n ad ea l is h on o unders e oc is st s wo ? These th , a man-a cal. Turni t fan creen ada re ac e f g i s h i o v u l h e f o t t o m ies ar o n t n a l f i l i s d s e iet s The ond o e window Oblonsky biographi ide.So the appy fam st the ina,” v f .” ucces at happen r, wiser an ritics wer n o a e y S r n r i a e e th th ren th ain uic ll h aK pe uto ot v va” nc hings them dee 77. Russia lone.“Ann “Anna Ka eption and tly, I am n ing out of tepan “Sti ny ways a ts about s cal age? “A not set ag role in h a p n s i s c 8 a d i S ed g o r e n 1 e a m ” n e m u t r n y n r d u a c e d o p c o j i e n n u ep 73 an rses on A s bas o Tolstoy’s xplain: “H g pills or ina’s broth Levin, is i harbors th cruel and a Karenin nd her sp old woma 8 m 1 l fi n n a s etwee entire cou oduced 15 hallenge t s easy to e bout takin rs. Karen onstantin il, but sometime l War),“An securities ul 30-year he had c re pr if ian so efe t s yi vi in ga ,K here a d film era as a certain popularit fantasizin sentence r character d the Russ vant in thi ussian Ci r growing io: a beaut uating tha homela R r n ’s y e n n e g e l l s i a u d h e a r i h e e n s t n e o i e h r h v r t t n a s e t n i he are kay nc be n” ( rs w ewo e no y.Ye d sc and rpre ope e inte its that th of her pee he novel’s nother not Scherbats e thoughts ws the Do s her deepl Hollywoo ues would , a person 877. Russia b d l o c y s t y id m l g d 1 e A ou i t l e s n v a t d s . i F t h i d h s e a o a n h c t t u l l n a i l e c K eo she wh a cl nd ildr rely s co and ves 73 a Quie ow m s her cording to ward.“Hi a parent a etween 18 global fam rsonab hough lovedЙ H y family, to ing her ch ). Levin lo oughts. Su ov’s “And o o w th ac ho yA he ath sk eb ork win okh e pe een man s the Oblon g mother b ng farm w nation and khail Shol g officer w en written an Academ (and betw n magazin t help but ayed by th ularity i n i e i i f l a o n p i o u b g n o n i p s n o M o d a a o v s e s y p y i o d r d v u n w to al ha an nd win ’s im el’s oul ha rR ts i wom nd her as ed peasan ed Tolstoy Napoleon) in love wit a’ seems to is novel a an and a n a popula sophical, c erly husba at the nov out of the ry s w o g h h n d o e i h m t g n t s i l l a i v l s i l n n e o g l a s i n j a n h s o t a r n i i i e , i p f n p r e m ar m n, an ee se so sed aga at ho dou she ad g pills or ju about-tow nto his oblem matters th 1812 war woman w ss. Anna K enplay ba occur betw ished as a able and e. Anna’s h g u l d e i e o n l n g cr oi th he fe an ty an an ub v) ki he lof d Peace” (t ried Russi as meanin ritten the s appen in li ina” was p so underst oubled her oy’s novel, g about ta onsky, a m name (Le an and l t w n n n n h ,” tr ar s w b m i a a l e e a i t z e r f e O o m t a i r i n a a s h l s v i T ” a i t a h n a a n r a t r r K W un Kare ightley as iration fo were fant pan “Stiv ng his Ch ve betwee ory of hought he may well h nt things t!““Anna t a s n one is e n l Ste Kn e.“A imp he orta big secre eers urni adm appy ents. O he t ut lo r n a , T p p e h o r S o y ’s . i l . h n b l r a e m d f t a i e a a l u l d o r K c e h t t o s to f e na ry ev br ts hi rs os pent i had lived el: “The m y. That’s th rses on An elease, sta share the w ow many o arenina’s tobiograp el is not ju alike; eve historical a leave v u r n K r p u v re o t a . H n o r o o o a toy j s o n r e c s s n r A a s l n Й h y b e . e e e t o f d a ’s s i m r h d l T n m lo f doe isa love ntence re enti d of lstoy ny w icide.So t ppy fami epte ic en a m e e o n a g S v r ke of h T r u a o a a s m a o o r s s k t r e e i n r n e e g i u a s a h k s s h t i c g o t l e t , a r n l dmir manticism , and ther Wright fo lga Slavn d the ma t u in ni eb ad bo s fo era l ? “A O an n Lev oof ro ’s ope tanthe oe vel ghts a ynical age against th n society le cial taboo and delib al u h s ti support ng to ach the no ected by J an. Writer t her child the novel KoWith t t n o i y c rn s se orsTourism te ich re ete dir rm los arbon l and is stor ter, Committee d role s not reaks world st fantasy, for anothe ince Anna mily, to wh thy charac soil, but h times crue arenina”i er spurne f spirit, b uccess of h e themes a influenc h e of Moscow n hotel business s te es K ,s fa it es or go aand The la n she leav er hard lot Oblonsky her notew the Russi in this som ar),“Anna urities and an, stron reseen the death). Th rivial, but he novel m t e o d c t d t t h W f e o o e h n n n l f t h s r n i y i a w a a in all ld lev ng en ng ya Civ ns o her w pathy fo story of t ildren. A atska ghts are re e Russian er growing l 30-year-o had cynic uman bei ovel, calli adaptatio rtain chall h m b e r c y h e s r t h e e h e s n c h e i h h u u h t a m or S c f e av t ( o l e i t g e h t w d fi a y h ” n a n t t t Y i u n n t s as ea se on Kit g th thi da Do len ply. es. O bath loves Surely the Flows the es her dee enario: a b insinuatin s homelan ere tough ere nine si interpreted y fond of e lot lin g mother n k i i l v e r . s c i el be be lov ). L iet ds hts ew dh t ve cs w vin one fe ut s a lo farm work and thoug ’s“And Qu os her and Hollywoo ues would person an ssian criti ussia. Ther hich could ly, I am no g and children, b v c g t u a i o n R g o w n s a , s i R o , e e n h w s e t d i l i . l t n s l a k w d 7 i o o l i e a o o o a 7 h c s l r h c n e t 8 c L H e n i o a v t s nd w 1 u “ a g h i e d i : fi n o o a r i s d S d ffice nt an ing t ’s im hail rd.“H 3 an fame onable Ju to explain ughts are given him ays a Rus lo olstoy ) and Mik a young o ten accord demy Awa een a pare tween 187 in global rs sy rtr as ho le: t n h w e i a w t o t he pe r i c b t t e e toy po hese t y is ea l al sca who h Napo ls in love w ave been w d won an A an (and b magazine ot help bu played by popularit indow? T f his wife, e, Lev Tols a univers f the mo h o is n o om l’s al on m an ew dn who f a’ seems to his novel a an and a w ular Russi hical, coul y husband t the nove out of th very fond er’s last na bout love ing of one uch intim a g a s l n t n s i p p r n i h l n e c m , i t o o e s e o n a p s n p e a p v d e s r o l o d t r o b l a w i n e m an hi m ch ju cri ee ase Ka an the -to in a ur d so p sband . It is erial a” des to his she ad ills or play b his is about a’s do r betw creen n life occu hed as a s andable an roine. Ann el, though t taking p ky, a man- e (Lev) in d a woman n way.”T ,“Karenin ren, her hu mately i s v e ry n ow lis st ld am ou lti appen ” was pub ,” so under troubled h olstoy’s no asizing ab tiva” Oblon hristian n en a man a ppy in its the contra small chi nts, but u ts,” you o T a a t a C e e n S h na r n n w h ien w s i “ i w O t o n t i a d t f n . f e n n u h s e e e d s e a h r n t r e a s b r n g Ka ne i Step l. Turnin ove tley t ing ed them d hat s even aves behi ratio peers wer l o a Ka i r h h l t w n e g g y a m u i i n s h c p r d o t t i n A p r e a t e lone.“ rs Keira K e world’s ny of her enina’s bro iographica not just ab very unha ajor histo depic and g ith th nna le , star end. A ake of love stuffed it w ikolayevich an writers Th sta ma fm l is tob e; e e th Kar e c o r u k i . i v w a a l s g d o o r h a s a n n s e ease, r s y c H f e u i e. o the to a t r the Lev N rately ies ar ny wa es not vedЙ ckgro -mad nce re Amer va do an she lo ning sente n, is in ma ut suicide.S ppy famil nst the ba ociety lead l taboos fo and delibe ternal and rations of e Russian oviet s s e S er o ha vi ai em cia ne pe ry nd th e novel’s o stantin Le houghts ab l age? “All not set ag ned role in breaks so of his sto themes are uenced ge of which w on and the t perha , s a s n r t i u fl i t h s c t o e o i u t s i n e B ” s r p r i p i w n K c . e a e h sp in rc tic Th t it ly t c er s suc arbo d cy whic character, Karen ties and h , strong of eseen the nd death). trivial, bu novel, on olstoy’s pe elodrama nto practi but h s cruel an a , l n i y o n h e i i T s m r t n t a r A i h e t o a f “ o n t o u i f , t g u g ) a m c o f m i i n r t w p y n wor e e o i t o l s i a s l g nica some ill be r. His tions an be l, call e Rus vil W old w k it is ng in allen nd th nt in this ussian Ci her growi l 30-year- he had cy nd a hum n the nove lm adapta certain ch ork. I thin ow they w thful to he the tog at et eR ifu da eva as a a scy ing h unfai lent fi ugh o this w re rel e Don” (th r deeply.Y o: a beaut inuating th s homelan ere to ere nine si interpreted y fond of like watch eps being grass with ountry an e i w i s h r h s h t n a i c s s i n e r d e t s s e e w e cri ow ic he k feel ne’s c n an ere ld b ot v d be Flow r and lov d sc ywoo agues wou ld, a perso 77. Russian Russia. Th hich coul tly, I am n g and one ildren, but list who m children, o Russian ep ly e l l h o s o H a i s i , w 8 n c e e e r h e h i i y , l 1 wo e c t l d d m c r s n i i w s s o h a u d o e s e a d t f fiv out mo eL : “H cent 3 an a cla t an nter His c ssian and om ng to y Award.“ en a paren tween 187 lobal fame onable Jud to explain ughts are i s given him trays a Ru : love for a rtant 19th- riendship c e b be or ha ale ers po ng ho asy e, f we had em Acad n (and bet magazine elp but wi d by the p larity is e w? These t wife, who v Tolstoy p niversal sc e most im ters as lov t her love table fa u t e h e n u s h h a o u t a p i y a L g t d i o m h a a f m , m u s o l n p o e o f i s o m n n p w th ate ne is am Ru TH do ld eo el’s ew of i pular phical, cou y husband at the nov out of th is very fon ter’s last n l about lov ening of o such intim r love. She . The idea ya told RB n o p a p c g e , l h s a o e e o n o a t r n f e h n y s k v i r i e l e s s b o n o a p w d i t t l d h a r i i i l n r h o n t a a he ph re t-t is jum an len esc dm is c nd so nna’s dou ugh she a g pills or man-abou ev) into h oman. It is way.”This arenina” d er husband pays with t Nina Be urately th er. To t c n A o h L n i w c . ( a n h K k ly k ig ,h eroine y’s novel, t g about ta Oblonsky, tian name man and a y in its ow contrary,“ ll children t ultimate ng playwr and more a lliam Faul vel i p u a he no r a a” bu ris in he p t sto o W e t l v , z m h a s y n i f i s i s o h t e s h t o n C t ,” T i e S a o w n n s s s O t c r , t “ i a u w w . r n w o n n t h s t n e h o s w a t g e e i i c a f p i g t i d n n b e e p e i d n a e e h n de er on ev t sh rni Ste gre ,w ove ehi apt tart eers w ’s brother aphical. Tu st about l y unhappy historical a leaves b d gets wha he right in icted them writers, s nt film ad Jude Law e adm nn ina an ble sile ver dep can ajor ogr th t ot ju h sh Karen ays autobi novel is n re alike; e ound of m agic end. A ke of love uffed it wi olayevich s of Ameri were nine he persona vel, thoug e man s a r a t r k o e t e t s th i w g s r s n h on y many uicide.So t py familie st the back y lead to a oos for the liberately and Lev N d generati ussia. The s played b r Tolstoy’s r child and ral overl t e i R l p e b o e s e n e d a f a c i i e a v d bout ge? “All h lost h etern it influen me outsid y husban t aga ole in soc ks social t story and gu ation has se r not se rl a es are a s la admir since Anna the novel keeps bein s ut ynica arenina” is er spurned spirit, bre ccess of hi hese them t trivial, b in global f dour elde e world’s , i , e y t h r h h th of a’s ’s sto K su gi , but ). T ard lo tw rning Anna urities and an, strong reseen the and death ovel, callin ot help bu roine. Ann s not share y for her h the heroine e children phical. Tu rk). Lev n n o ra he ec fo fiv o th om oe ng ng ins ear-old w cynically uman bei ugh on the ical, could e troubled vnikova d ave sympa addition t given him s autobiog ing farm w ove for y y h l d h a h n o o s h a l a : t I p t a 0 a d S e h o w n s l .” 3 e h s ful any wer ome ts in hilo l sca ley a ctice Olga es c d and who at he is in m ned peasan a universa s sometim l ng th s homelan sian critics le and so p ira Knight an. Writer ty. Many w ut into pra his wife, i , t n a i u v in thi Ke on ove ep lari rm d of dab n Le , joi d hi Rus

Voices of Read Russia  

special for Book Expo America - 2012