During Book Expo America in New York there was an interesting discussion on the future of Russian literature, as reported in Russia Beyond The Headlines. Participants included Debut Prize director and author of the novel 2017 Olga Slavnikova, author of Thirst (reviewed on Literalab here) and The Lying Year (currently being read) Andrei Gelasimov and poet Maxim Amelin. The article only touches on the issues but it seems clear that there is no shortage of young writers in Russia today, pursuing a wide variety of literary directions, interests and styles.
For evidence of that you can look at publications of two Debut Prize finalists published and about to be published in B O D Y just this week. Poet Polina Barskova’s “Manuscript Found by Natasha Rostova During the Fire” in a translation by Ilya Kaminsky speaks for itself. Then, in the next Sunday European Fiction I have a novel excerpt from Irina Bogatyreva’s Off the Beaten Tracks, a book that is set among Russia’s hitchhiking subculture.
Antal Szerb’s “The Incurable”
Speaking of fiction in translation, the latest Recommended Reading has a pick by Pushkin Press from a short story collection entitled Love in a Bottle, by the Hungarian writer Antal Szerb. “The Incurable” deals with an eccentric writer going through the hellish amount of work needed to scrape by (and this was written about 80 years ago, so it’s nice to see how much things have improved) getting an offer to be paid not to write. He responds ecstatically, saying he will now devote himself to fishing and chasing women, though of course things can’t turn out as planned. And if one of Literalab’s millionaire readers wants to make me a similar offer please get in touch, though I have to say at the outset that I’m not going fishing.
Photo – Lyudmila Saveleva as Natasha Rostova in Sergei Bondarchuk’s film of War and Peace, 1967.