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Nikolai Klimontovich is known as “the Soviet Casanova of Russian literature”. He is a novelist, playwright, and literary journalist, a prolific and successful writer with two dozen prize-winning novels and plays to his name. Some of his stories and plays have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Polish. His novel The Road to Rome came out in English translation from Glas 35 (see excerpt}. Many of his novels were nominated for the Russian Booker and other major prizes.
Born in 1951, the son of a famous physicist, an Academician, he was also trained as a physicist while writing stories and plays from the age of 19. In 1977 he was lucky to have a collection of his early stories published by a big Soviet publishing house (as part of their short-lived campaign of “encouraging young talent”). Although the reviews criticized the book for its lack of “ideological stand” Klimontovich was able to join the Writers Union, which gave him the official status of a professional writer. However, his subsequent works never passed the Soviet censorship and were rejected by publishers and journals alike on grounds of their “erroneous aesthetic and ideological views.”
The appeal of his books lies not only in their infectious eroticism, ready wit and healthy humor but mainly in their masterful portrayal of Soviet and contemporary Russia through a multitude of cleverly observed details. He seems to be playing with the reader but behind his banter there is a serious pondering on profound existential problems facing humans.
His book The Last Behests so enchanted the late translator Kate Cook that she started translating it on her own in her conviction that it would surely find a publisher abroad. Unfortunately she died prematurely having translated only one third of the text.