Literary roundup: Eastern promise and Balla

Natasha Perova, editor of Glas New Russian Writing, has a very interesting piece in PEN America on the Russian literary scene in which she discusses the young generation of writers (some of which Glas publishes due to their association with the Debut Prize) and what differentiates them from the writers of the Russian and Soviet past.

“The authorities have finally realized how harmless intellectuals really are and leave them alone. Now they can say whatever they like and let off steam as much as they want, while the authorities couldn’t care less about their dissent as long as they are published in small print runs, which is usually the case.”

Besides indicating the obviously double edge of this particular sword, she makes some excellent points that are often missed altogether in literary polemics in the English speaking world – for example, in the should long since have been retired “literary” vs. genre writing debate: “Fantasy, grotesque, detective novels, etc., are only literary forms, which they fill with great ideas and images. Suffice to recall that Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a fantasy and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a detective novel.”

She also provides a list of novels and novelists, some well-known, others less so, and points out that the “current profusion of successful female names in both pulp and literary fiction is a new feature of the current literary scene.”

Read some work from Glas published in B O D Y by Valery Ronshin, Irina Bogatyreva, Vlas Doroshevich,  Teffi and another by Valery Ronshin

Andrukhovych on Ukraine

Last week Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov wrote for English PEN on the protests in Ukraine and the brutal government crackdown taking place against them. Now, fellow writer Yuri Andrukhovych has sent out “Defending a free and just society with our own blood”: An Open Letter from Ukraine, which is even more chilling, though there have been some positive developments since the letter was sent out.

Read about Andrukhovych, including my semi-interview with him (we only spoke for about 5 minutes) when he visited Prague for Forum 2000 in 2012


A short story entitled “Spring is Coming” by the Slovak writer Balla and translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood was just published in The Missing Slate.

“Who is this, she kept burbling to herself every day, first thing in the morning, before leaving for her badly paid job, whenever she caught sight of her husband’s thin pale legs with their swollen ankles sticking out from under the comforter. Invariably they reminded her of the extremities of an albino spider.”

Read a story by Balla translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood in B O D Y

Photo – From the cover of Mendeleev Rock by Debut Prize-finalist Andrei Kuzechkin

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