Literary roundup: Putin’s gold and an ill-fated coupling

Author of Maidenhair and the just released The Light and the Dark, Mikhail Shishkin, wrote an article for English PEN on the Potemkin village of the Winter Olympics, now underway in Sochi at the cost of a mere $50 billion, a sum we can all agree is well worth it for a few weeks of entertainment and the future possibility of having cool photographs of decaying, abandoned sporting facilities like these. Add to this Putinesque corruption, in which “more has been stolen in Sochi than the previous cost of all winter Olympic Games combined”, land seizures in Sochi, an inability to get into the area without a “fan passport”, and more fun facts, and the whole debacle is…well…a debacle – and it has just started! It almost makes me want to watch.

Read Sam Sacks’ review of The Light and the Dark in The Wall Street Journal

And speaking of Potemkin villages, here is a short story of mine on the subject in McSweeney’s.

Zmeškal in the Congo

In Radio Prague Czech writer Tomáš Zmeškal talks about his latest book Socrates on the Equator. The book recounts his journey to find his father in The Democratic Republic of Congo and the month he spends there reconnecting with the family he never knew. It’s a fascinating interview about coming to terms with an unknown past, a surprising reunion, with international politics and secret service operations. And, of course, about writing about all of it.

Read work by Tomáš Zmeškal in B O D Y

20th century avant-garde Prague

In the Times Literary Supplement Marci Shore writes about two books covering Prague’s vibrant Modernist art movements, including the roles of Karel and Josef Čapek as well as Vítěslav Nezval among others. In the case of Surrealism, Prague occupied a special position. “Prague was Breton’s and Éluard’s fantasy of the coupling of Communist and Surrealist realities.” The love affair was mutual though those two realities didn’t couple quite how they planned.

Photo – The Drinker by Josef Čapek,

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