Post-Soviet Russian literature: Who reads it, who likes it?

Discussion in 'Russian Culture' started by SWSpires, May 8, 2013.

  1. SWSpires

    SWSpires Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    I figure this can be a general thread dealing with the above topic (which I think should include all Russian-language literature, much of it not written in Russia).

    Any thoughts on this topic? Books or writers you wish to recommend? Trends you've noticed?
  2. Matthew Clayfield

    Matthew Clayfield Collegiate Registrar (14th class)

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    I wrote a review of Sorokin's The Queue, Ice Trilogy, and Day of the Oprichnik (i.e. his translated novels) a while back, which was published in The Australian. (My original version was slightly longer.) I have Zakhar Prilepin's Sin, which was translated more recently, on my Kindle, waiting to go.

    Would love to hear who else is worth chasing up, especially if their work's been translated.
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  3. AKarlin

    AKarlin Generalissimo Staff Member

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    I don't typically read fiction (let alone modern fiction), but I make an exception for sci-fi and post-apoc. and stuff like that. Fortunately for me, there is a burgeoning speculative fiction scene in Russia.

    One of the more prominent writers in this genre is Dmitry Glukhovsky, best known for his novel Metro 2033 (since turned into a video game, and maybe soon - a movie).

    After a global nuclear conflation in 2013 (oh-oh), the sole remaining citadel of humanity is the Moscow Metro - a haunted, subterranean realm of 40,000 souls inhabiting the metro stations. They are separated by tunnels with deadly winds and strange anomalies, but they are nowhere near as deadly as the monsters that prowl the radioactive world above.

    The hero's metro station is under attack by a race of dark beings called "others", and the hero, Artem, must adventure to the other end of Moscow - through the "Hanseatic League" of the Circle Ring, the communist "Red Line", and fascist held metro stations - to find the answers that might help defeat the others.

    There is an English translation available from Amazon, but from the reviews it is not very good. I read the book in Russian and though originally I'd have given it a 4/5 - solid, if not brilliant - since then it has grown on me (not many books do) and I'd now give it a 5/5. The imagery is very memorable (the post-apocalyptic tunnels; the philosophical speculations) and it is also politically aware (e.g. the political configuration of the Metro is very much in line with the actual political preferences of Muscovites, i.e. capitalists/United Russia - Hansa Circle; commies - Red Line; fascists; bureaucrats/academics; weird political cults - cannibal tribe; anarchists/Udaltsovites - couple of anarchist stations have influence in the Metro proportional to their current prominent in politics.
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  4. SWSpires

    SWSpires Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    That's an interesting coincidence, Matthew - I wrote a review of Ice here: http://russiaprofile.org/book_reviews/a1176720768.html

    It seems to me there's a heavy element of science fiction in a lot of contemporary Russian lit, even if it's not classed as such. The works of Pelevin are a case in point.
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  5. SWSpires

    SWSpires Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    Some random thoughts, or a few trends I've noticed:

    1. The survival and re-purposing of the old Soviet tradition of social criticism via science fiction. The post-Soviet transition period has been so turbulent that it's given Russian writers some great material to deal with, and the SF-influenced style suits this kind of material well.

    2. Some of the most interesting writing in Russian is actually coming from the former non-Russian USSR republics. I'm thinking of writers like Andrei Kurkov, a Ukrainian (I highly recommend his novel Death and the Penguin, it's a minor masterpiece) and the Riga-based writing team of Garros & Evdokimov (read their satire on corporate life Headcrusher; it's brutal and funny). Both these books are available in English. There is also Mikhail Veller, very popular for a literary writer, who lived in Tallinn for a long time; but little of his work has been translated.

    3. With the Cold War over, it's hard for Russian writers to attract attention in Anglo countries. This may be bad from a temporary marketing standpoint; but it may turn out to be good for literature in the long run.
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  6. owenpolley

    owenpolley Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    I recently tried The Clay Machine Gun by Victor Pelevin. I could see that it was clever and the various strands clip along at a great pace. However I found it a bit of a chore to be perfectly honest.
  7. owenpolley

    owenpolley Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    I'm currently reading The Gardener from Ochakov, which is his latest novel.

    The more I read Kurkov, the more he becomes one of my favourite writers. I would love to be adept enough in the Russian language to read the original, but in translation the prose is beautifully, deceptively simple, and immerses you effortlessly in quite complex alternative realities. That's quite the opposite from how I find some other writers who are classed as 'magical realism'.

    On a tangent, at times Kurkov's lead characters remind me very much of Haruki Murakami's. They're usually single, rather isolated, 30 something men, with a great deal of time on their hands, a marked lack of gainful employment and serious caffeine habits.
  8. SWSpires

    SWSpires Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    Yes, I suspect some heavy autobiographical mining is going on here. The protagonist of The Good Angel of Death also fits that description. (BTW I reviewed that book here: http://russiaprofile.org/book_reviews/a1270230945.html )
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  9. owenpolley

    owenpolley Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    A nice review. The journey through Kazakhstan does become rather whimsical, although it's enjoyable nonetheless.
  10. SWSpires

    SWSpires Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    How is it so far?
  11. owenpolley

    owenpolley Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    It's absolutely gripping. There's not a misplaced word so far.

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