Alexei Varlamov The Imagined Wolf
Alexei Varlamov’s books brilliantly combine his talents as a fiction writer and as a literary researcher: his writings with elements of narrative literature and documentation have brought him prestigious literary awards. Varlamov has worked for many years with the “Lives of Remarkable People” series, for which he has written wonderful biographies of the twentieth-century literary classics Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Platonov, Alexei Tolstoy, Mikhail Prishvin, and Alexander Grin.
Varlamov sets the action of his novel The Imagined Wolf in a historical context he’s familiar with, 1914-1918. This stretch of time is one of the most dramatic in Russian history: World War One, two revolutions, and the collapse of an entire previous life. Varlamov painstakingly examines the spiritual condition of Russian society at the time, finding the deep, symbolic image of an imagined wolf. The wolf dates back to an ancient Orthodox prayer, embodying alarm, something elemental that forces its way out into the open. Some characters—the engineer Vasily Komissarov and the writer Pavel Legkobytov—try to resist the terrifying beast but others—Vasily’s young wife and his daughter Ulya—attempt to escape it. But can history’s inevitable course be resisted?
Alexei Varlamov was born on June 23, 1963, in Moscow. He is a graduate of Moscow State University and a doctor of philology. He debuted as a fiction writer in 1987. Since October 2014, he has been interim rector at the Gorky Literary Institute. He is a laureate of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Literary Award (2006), the Big Book Award (2007), and the Cyril and Methodius Patriarchal Literary Prize (2013).
Alexei Varlamov’s writings have been translated into German, Chinese, Polish, Spanish, and French.
Novels and Biographies:
The Sunken Ark (novel, 1997): Chinese (2003), Polish (2005)
Mikhail Bulgakov (biography, 2008): German (2010)
Birth (novella, 1995): Spanish (2009)
“Taiga” (short story, 1990): French (1994)
Guzel Yakhina Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes
Guzel Yakhina’s novel Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes is an example of a splendid debut from a young Russian author. The book has generated favorable responses—well-known writer Ludmila Ulitskaya wrote the novel’s preface—and quickly landed on the list of finalists for the Big Book Award. Yakhina’s prose continues a tradition of Russian literature that’s deeply connected with the life and folklore of various peoples who populate Russia.
Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes tells the story of the life of a Tatar peasant woman who is sent into exile in Siberia during the 1930s along with others being resettled or subjected to “dekulakization”. The novel, however, is not about history’s horrors but rather a person’s courage and ability to continue to love, under the most inhuman conditions. The engrossing plot, image-rich language, and vividly rendered colorfulness of the life of a people all compel the reader to get fully absorbed in the novel’s action while also deeply feeling its wonderful atmosphere.
Guzel Yakhina was born in 1977 in Kazan (Tatarstan). She is a graduate of Kazan State Pedagogical Institute and the screenwriting department of the Moscow Film School. She has been published in a number of Russian literary journals. She is a finalist for the 2015 Big Book Award.
Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes (novel, 2015): French excerpt (2015)
Anna Matveeva, Nine from the Nineties
Anna Matveeva, a young writer from Yekaterinburg, is the author of wonderful, deep, and penetrating stories, many of which have brought her prestigious literary awards. The story “Saint Helena’s Island” received the Italian “Lo Stellato” award and her story The Circumstance of Time was a finalist for the Yuri Kazakov Prize. Both those stories are included in her debut collection of short prose, Wait, I’ll Die and Be Right There.
The eleven stories show varied fates and varied characters—such as a female teacher in love with a schoolboy who’s been through his parent’s divorce, and a hundred-year-old museum curator—but a common mood unites them all. Matveeva’s characters attempt to conquer the loneliness and disappointment that have descended upon them and to find themselves a happy corner of the world, even if that doesn’t happen often and the corner exists only in their fantasies and reveries. Matveeva’s real talent lies in the fact that the mysteries of human existence shine through in these common human histories. Her stories, with their elegant word play, vivid characters, and light humor, speak of love, hope, life, and death, as well as the eternal.
Anna Matveeva was born in Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) on January 19, 1972. She graduated from the journalism department of Ural State University and has worked as a journalist and press secretary. She debuted as a fiction writer in the mid-1990s. She has won the Italian Lo Stellato award (2004), and been a finalist for the Yuri Kazakov Award (2011) and the Big Book Award (in 2013 for the story collection Wait, I’ll Die and Be Right There and in 2015 for Nine from the Nineties).
Anna Matveeva’s writing has been translated into English, French, and Italian.
The Dyatlov Pass (novel, 2001): French (2015)
“The Island of Saint Helena” (story, 2001): Italian (2004)
“Wait, I’ll Die and Be Right There” (story, 2012): English (2015)
Roman Senchin, Flood Zone
For as long as he has been writing, Roman Senchin has been carrying out a difficult and noble task: describing, truthfully, life within Russian reality. Senchin doesn’t turn away from social contradictions but instead depicts them with all the depth required for artistic mastery. Senchin dedicates his novel Flood Zone to the great Russian writer Valentin Rasputin; in doing so, he emphasizes his connection to the traditions of “village prose,” a significant school in twentieth-century Russian literature.
The events depicted in Flood Zone are typical for the Soviet era. Residents of long-standing Siberian villages are being hurriedly resettled in a city so that the Boguchany Hydroelectric Power Station can be built. People whose “small homeland”—their village—has been taken away greet the tragedy in various ways: some resign themselves to it, but others attempt to rebel. As a sequence of evocative scenes and characters unfolds for the reader, Senchin depicts confrontation between human being and soulless bureaucracy, as well as rural life that is departing and civilization that is advancing. Senchin always remains on the side of the human conscience and honesty.
Roman Senchin was born in Kyzyl on December 2, 1971. He attended the Leningrad Construction Technical School and Kyzyl Pedagogical Institute, and graduated from the Gorky Literary Institute. He made his debut as a fiction writer in 1995. In 2009, Senchin’s novel The Yeltyshevs was a finalist for all Russia’s major literary awards in 2009; it was also a finalist for the “Russian Booker of the Decade” award in 2011. Senchin’s Flood Zone is a 2015 Big Book finalist.
Roman Senchin’s writings have been translated into German, Serbian, and English.
Novels and Novellas
The Yeltyshevs (novel, 2009): Serbian (2013)
Minus (novella, 2001): German (2003), English (2008)
“Idzhim” (story, 2002): English (2012)
“24 Hours” (story, 2000): English (2006)
“History” (story, 2008): English (2009)
Boris Yekimov Autumn in Zadon’e
Boris Yekimov is a contemporary Russian writer who can rightfully be called a living classic. Through his writings, Yekimov has been keeping a chronicle of his native area of Russia—Zadon’e, regions in the Volgograd oblast’—for more than forty years now. His books tell of the fates of residents of steppe hamlets, combining personal history with the history of the country as a whole. All of this compels the reader to recall Mikhail Sholokhov’s great novel, And Quiet Flows the Don, as well as the work of Russia’s village prose writers, whose traditions Yekimov continues.
The action of Yekimov’s novella Autumn in Zadon’e takes place in the early twenty-first century, though it feels as if nothing has changed since the 1970s: the hamlets and villages near the Don River are still vanishing, lands are being deserted, and families are falling apart. Ivan Basakin, the main character, returns to his native places and once again attempts to run a household. Awaiting him, though, are struggles for every little patch of land, so it’s unlikely that hopes to resurrect the area are destined to be fulfilled. Yekimov’s book is striking in its epic power and depth: it shows not only social contradictions but also the eternal course of human life, through the cycle of nature, family, life, and death.
Boris Yekimov was born in Igarka, in Russia’s Krasnodarsky region on November 19, 1938. After working in many professions—he has been a lathe operator, metal worker, and teacher in a village school—he graduated from the Advanced Literary Courses at the Gorky Literary Academy. He made his debut as a literary writer in 1965. Yekimov has won numerous Russian literary awards. He lives in Volgograd.
Boris Yekimov’s writing has been translated into English, Italian, Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian.
Novel and Novella
Collected Stories: Italian (1999)
Night of Healing (novella, 1986): Lithuanian, Latvian
“The Chelyadins’ Son-in-Law” (story, 1986): English (1991)
“House for Sale” (story, 1986): English (1988)
“Hay-Straw” (story, 1983): Estonian (1983)
“Tarasov” (story, 1984): Estonian
Valery Zalotukha The Candle
Valery Zalotukha found fame in Russia as the screenwriter who wrote the scripts for such films as Makarov, The Muslim (winner of a Nika award, 1996), and 72 Meters. Zalotukha, however, is also the author of four books and he worked on his final book—the two-volume The Candle—for more than ten years. The book went to print in 2014 and Valery Zalotukha passed away several months later.
As fate would have it, The Candle became the author’s last will and testament: it’s a splendid example of Russian classical prose that contains both an absorbing plot and philosophical depth. The fate of his main character—Evgeny Zolotorotov, a Moscow veterinarian and member of the intelligentsia—turns after he stops, by chance, at the church where Alexander Pushkin and Natalya Goncharova were married. Zolotorotov wants to light a candle. Torment and suffering, as well as grappling with the vortex of history in the 1990s, all lie ahead for Zolotorotov. With The Candle, Zalotukha has created an ambitious epic about belief and nonbelief, about friendship and love, and about the injustices of fate and the joy of life. At the end of this honest, tragic, and piercing book, the main character acquires happiness as a reward for not having betrayed his credo—“We live in order not to do evil”—despite all his misfortunes.
Valery Zalotukha was born on July 3, 1954, in the Tula oblast’. He graduated from the journalism department of Moscow State University and the Higher Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors. He worked as a journalist, debuting in 1984 as a screenwriter and in 1992 as a fiction writer. He has been a finalist for the Russian Booker Prize (2000) and for the Big Book Award (2015). He passed away on February 5, 2015.
Valery Zalotukha’s writings have been translated into Hungarian and French.
The Muslim (novella, 1995): French (2005), Hungarian (2005)
The Last Communist (novella, 2000): French (2002)
Igor Virabov Andrei Voznesensky
Journalist Igor Virabov’s book about poet Andrei Voznesensky is Virabov’s first biography written for the “Lives of Remarkable People” series. His debut is a success, despite the complexity of Voznesensky as a subject for artistic research. Even today, the figure of Andrei Voznesensky (1933-2010), a representative of the legendary pleiad known as the “sixties-ites”, is cloaked in political and literary mysteries and myths. Why, for example, was Voznesensky not awarded the Nobel Prize, though there were plans to do so?
Virabov does not simply write Voznesensky’s biography: he resurrects the entire multifaceted era of the sixties. The author performed a colossal task in collecting documentary material: thanks to his quotations from letters and interviews, many historical figures of the time, as well as Voznesensky’s friends and colleagues, come to life on the book’s pages. Boris Pasternak, Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline Kennedy, Martin Heidegger, Joseph Brodsky, and Jean-Paul Sartre are only a few of the names swirling around the figure of the poet himself. Virabov passionately examines secrets of literature and history, and there is an elegance and lightness in his unfolding of a plot that feels no less gripping than what might happen in any work of fiction.
Igor Virabov was born on February 10, 1959, in Baku. He graduated from the philology department of Azerbaijan State University. He has worked as a journalist for regional and central publications (Komsomolskaya pravda, Izvestia). He has been the editor of the culture section of Rossiiskaya gazeta since 2013. He is a finalist for the 2015 Big Book Award.
Aleksandr Grigorenko Ilget. Fate’s Three Names
Krasnoyarsk writer Aleksandr Grigorenko’s creative biography includes numerous sketches, screenplays, and essays, but it was the publication of his novel Mebet in 2011 that brought him fame throughout Russian. Grigorenko is one of very few contemporary Russian writers to turn to national legends and myth—in Grigorenko’s case, the folklore of Siberia’s indigenous Evenki, Selkup, and Nenets peoples—and transform them into colorful novelistic canvases in the best traditions of magical realism.
Grigorenko’s second book, Ilget, Fate’s Three Names, continues his dilogy about taiga life. After enduring a series of wondrous adventures, the main character attempts to find his own place in the world. At the beginning of the novel, he’s a poor foster child, but his path leads him from being a slave to becoming a tribal chief, though at the end he becomes a slave again, to Mongols who capture the land: the circle of fate has closed. Grigorenko populates his book with fantastical figures such as an immortal old man named Kukla Cheloveka (Man’s Puppet). This fabulous parable opens up a new world for readers, bewitching them with the music of unusual names, epic scale, and tragic resonance.
Aleksandr Grigorenko was born on January 10, 1968, in Novosibirsk. He graduated from Kemerovo State University of Culture and Arts. He lives in Divnogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region, where he works as a journalist. He has been a finalist for the Big Book (2012 for Mebet, 2014 for Ilget) and NOSE (2013) awards.
Viktor Remizov Volya volnaya
The action in Viktor Remizov’s fiction takes place against the harsh, beautiful natural backdrop of the tundra and the taiga, places well-known to the writer through his work in geological prospecting. Remizov creates vivid, solid characters for the people of the region and his prose style seems to adopt the severity and power of nature in the taiga, but simultaneously distinguishing itself with lyricism and gentleness.
The plot of Remizov’s novel Volya volnaya (provisionally titled Ashes and Dust in English) unfolds in the Far East. At the center of the book is a conflict that pits a settlement’s hunters and fishermen against the police, who collect tribute from poachers. Some of the settlement’s residents are willing to accept new conditions but others are prepared to stand up for their freedom. They go into the forest to hide from their pursuers or to completely break their ties with civilization, which they see as unjust and lacking order. Remizov has written more than just a book with a detective novel plot: it is a deep, complex novel about the yearning for liberty. As the author shows things, liberty is a sense of the world’s divine beauty, its endless forest expanses, and the possibility to love and sacrifice oneself. Remizov’s characters must fight for all those things.
Viktor Remizov was born on January 11, 1958, in Saratov. He studied at the Saratov Geological Prospecting Technical School and graduated from the philology department at Moscow State University after his army service. Remizov has worked in geological prospecting in the taiga and as a teacher; he has been a journalist since 1988. He lives outside Moscow. His first publications appeared in literary journals in 2004. He was a finalist for the Russian Booker and Big Book awards in 2014.
Viktor Remizov’s writings have been translated into French, Estonian, German, and Romanian.
Ashes and Dust (novel, 2013): Arabic (in progress)
Alexei Makushinsky Steamship to Argentina
Alexei Makushinsky’s prose stands out strongly when contrasted with many books of contemporary Russian literature. In Makushinsky’s writing, one senses the influence of nineteenth-century classical Russian novels as well as—to an even greater degree—twentieth-century European intellectual prose (Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust). Makushinsky’s writings distinguish themselves with their grace, precision of literary characters and details, narrative lyricism, and the inimitable music in their syntax. He is a splendid stylist who plays all the instruments of language, both Russian and foreign.
In Makushinsky’s novel Steamship to Argentina, the storyteller (the writer’s alter ego) is traveling around Europe to reconstruct the fate of Alexander Voskoboinikov, a first wave émigré and member of the (anti-Bolshevik) White movement who has become the world-renowned architect Alexander Vosco. Vosco becomes for Makushinsky the ideal figure of a twentieth-century Russian person, someone who—despite all the adversities that fell his way during the period, such as defeat in the Civil War and the loss of his native country—is able to find his calling and gain love, the joy of creativity, friendship, and glory. In this multilayered, colorful novel-within-a-novel, the writer sends his storyteller not just to collect material for his future book but also to search for the genuine purpose of creativity and history, so that in the end he can gain a lost past and speak its language.
Alexei Makushinsky was born on March 8, 1960, in Moscow. He is a graduate of the Gorky Literary Academy. He has worked as a translator from German and English, and he debuted as a prose writer in 1998. Makushinsky has lived in Germany since 1992 and has been an instructor at the University of Mainz’s Institute of Slavistics since April 2010. He is a winner of the Rudomino Prize of the (Moscow) Library of Foreign Literature (2012), a Big Book Award finalist (2014), and a laureate of the Russian Prize (2015).
A collection of Alexei Makushinsky’s poetry is being translated into Serbian.