Boris Akunin: Menace II Society?

It seems Russian book banning mania has not abated since I last wrote about the subject not all that long ago. The latest target – novelist Boris Akunin, author of the successful Erast Fandorin detective series among others. On October 27 the news got out that the senior investigator of the Moscow branch of the National Investigative Committee, one K.V. Tsepelev, began an investigation into Akunin’s 2009 novel All the World’s a Stage on accusations of extremism.

Akunin was quick to respond on his blog. “So that’s it, my career as a criminal is over … Some vigilant individual, having discovered the true essence of my so-called oeuvre, has shared his discovery with the relevant law enforcement bodies who obviously realized right away that this was not the seasonally aggravated ravings of a lunatic but something quite serious … And I knew immediately that this time I wouldn’t escape being uncovered.”

The authorities summoned Akunin’s publisher to come and give evidence, bringing the writer’s contract, the contract with the company that printed the book and (here’s a sign that this Tsepelev is no amateur) a copy of the book.

Akunin was already at work looking for the passage that had offended the upstanding patriot (more on him later). “Of course, I started leafing through the novel in a frenzy. Could it be that my beastly hatred of the Fatherland with its titular nation and my cannibalistic views have somehow burst to the surface? And lo and behold! I found the passage. I found it and shuddered,” he wrote on his blog. “Oh dear, how could I have been so careless?”

He refused to cite the “monstrous” passage but luckily the translator at Rights in Russia puts it in a footnote. It is a scene where Fandorin’s Japanese servant says that Russians cannot distinguish between udon and soba noodles. “That’s it, I’m off to burn the cyphers and destroy the evidence,” Akunin concludes.

Moscow’s National Investigative Committee concluded somewhat differently, issuing a statement that there would be no criminal proceedings “on the grounds that no crime has been committed.” Their representative went on to say how they had received a complaint from “Voyevodin, who is serving a term of life imprisonment, to the effect that Boris Akunin’s book All the World’s a Stage contains extremist statements. This has not been established…” Voyevodin, it turns out, is an ultranationalist racist, who was given his life sentence in June for racist murders.

And in what could only have been a coincidence, Akunin responded very negatively in September to Putin’s announcement of his third presidential term, writing on his blog that “Russia is doomed to become not the country of authoritarian rule, as it has now been for twelve years, but a country with a lifelong regime of personal dictatorship.”

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Categories: Literary Controversy


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