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Booker Winners & Others-II

ISBN 5-7172-0026-9
224 pages, illustrated

Sample writing: Bulat Okudzhava;
Mikhail Levitin; Mark Kharitonov

"GLAS attempts to present genuinely fresh writing from Russia to the English reading public." — The Moscow Tribune

"If you cannot find GLAS in the shops, ask for it. This journal deserves wide distribution." — Irish Times

Excerpts from the novels shortlisted for the third Booker Russian Novel Prize read like complete stories and are followed by summaries of the novels and authors' notes.
Included are: Bulat Okudzhava (Winner), The Show is Over; Peter Aleshkovsky, The Life of Ferret; Yuri Buida, Don Domino; Alexei Slapovsky, The First Second Coming; Mikhail Levitin, Total Impropriety; Igor Dolinyak, The Third World. Also a story by Mark Kharitonov, the first winner of the Russian Booker, which is a sequel to his prize-winning novel.
Others include Asar Eppel whose style and themes are reminiscent of Babel and Sholem Aleichem, and Nikolai Klimontovich, a Soviet Casanova, telling his naughty stories where sex and politics are intertwined.

See Also: Peter Aleshkovsky Skunk: a Life (Glas 15), Nikolai Klimontovich The Road to Rome (Glas 35), Asar Eppel The Grassy Street (Glas 18), Yuri Buida in Glas 7, Alexei Slapovsky in Glas 7.

"The Booker has helped fill the vacuum of official recognition for writers... and Glas publishes translated excerpts from the short-listed novels, offering the Anglophone audience a glimpse of
what all the fuss is about..." — The Moscow Times

Mark Kharitonov was born in 1937 in the Ukrainian town of Zhitomir. A graduate of the Moscow Teacher Training Institute, majoring in History and Philology, he taught at a secondary school, worked on various newspapers and in publishing houses while translating German fiction and writing his own stuff without much hope of ever publishing it. In 1969 he left his regular job and became a freelance literary translator. Among the authors he translated are Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Elias Canetti, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann.
In 1992, he became the first winner of the Russian Booker Prize for his novel Lines of Fate or Milashevich's Trunk which has since been published in French (Fayard), in Dutch (Van Gennep), and in America (The New Press). His novels came out in Japan, Germany, Sweden, and Czech Republic. Fayard has also published his collected works in six volumes. Kharitonov had a raving press in France in such periodicals as Le Figaro, Le Journal de Geneve, Le Monde, and L'Evenement.

Lines of Fate is part of a trilogy, the other two novels are Prokhor Menshutin and Provincial Philosophy. Kharitonov has also published the novels Two Ivans (about Tsar Ivan the Terrible), The Voice, Return from Nowhere, The Guardian, and Study on Masks. His latest book, Amores Novi, is a collection of novellas on love.

"Nabokov would have been interested in Kharitonov's novel Lines of Fate or Milashevich's Trunk. With an intellectual insight rare in any novelist, Kharitonov invents and imagines a great but long forgotten Russian writer whose destiny foretells the coming shape and being of Russian culture, the smell of its consciousness, the prison of its history... As a novel, it has the intense self-consciousness and cultural self-preoccupation of much of the best Russian fiction." — John Bayley in TLS

"Lines of Fate secured its author a nich of his own in Russian literature. The novel is rooted in Russian culture and at the same time reveals its connection with world literature. Loving attention to detail like in Proust, the slow-moving plot, not from one action to another but from one interpretation to another, like in Hesse, an existential feeling of aloneness in the wide world, a courageous thrust for the truth — all these are applied to the unstable and frightening Russian reality that is full of absurdities and yet capable of nurturing a genius." — Alla Latynina, the first chairman of the Booker Russian Novel Prize, Literary Gazette

Alexei Slapovsky, born in 1957, novelist and dramatist, made his name with the novel It's Not Me which was short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize. The First Second Coming, short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize in 1994.
"If Christ were to appear to us today what would we do to him?" asks Dostoyevsky. Slapovsky answers this question by re-playing the story of Christ in modern-day setting. The terrible finale (Peter is crucified by bandits) takes up only the last few pages of the book while the previous three hundred pages are filled with hilarious adventures and clever insights woven into a dynamic plot which, as is typical of Slapovsky, provides a cross-section of today's Russia in a fine mixture of humor and philosophical reflections. On the other hand it could have happened anywhere.

"If I were a publisher I'd be looking at the new Russian writing to find humor that translates... Slapovsky's humor is ebullient and his street language is just right. He writes brilliantly of the late and post-Soviet condition, but he is free from Russian obsessiveness." — Lesley Chamberlain in Prospect

"The author describes his novel as a 'fantasy full of black humor'. It loosely recreates the story of Jesus Christ, transporting the action to present-day Russia. ...Slapovsky shows hopeful signs." — The Moscow Times

Nikolai Klimontovich is equally popular in Russia as a novellist, playwright and journalist.
A Road to Rome, nominated for the Booker Prize in 1995, consists of individual novellas-chapters, each a new love affair with a Western lady as the only way open, or rather half-open, for the hero to take a look at a different life and break out of the stifling Soviet system. His first encounter with Western civilization occurs at the age of 14 when a Cuban girl invites him to her apartment in the embassy. A resident of a closed society he is puzzled by the multitude of gadjets and objects he has never seen before and whose function remains a mystery to him. He has many more affairs with women of various nationalities thus learning exciting new details about a forbidden world. He describes his adventures and his blunders with great wit and humor. Eventually the playboy travels abroad, spends a year in US and comes back home changed beyond recognition. With its multitude of factual material the novel is a precise portrait of Russia in the 70s and 80s and a faithful monument to that epoch.

"The beauty of this book is not only in its hot eroticism but in the way it masterfully portrays the epoch it is set in." — critic Olga Timofeeva, Obschaya Gazeta

"The Road to Rome is a veritable Moscow Decameron." — Novy Mir.

"These are confessions of a Soviet Don Juan desperately trying to attain existential freedom by always going against the official current. The novel owes part of its charm to its vivid colourful language and a fresh angle of vision." — Peter Aleshkovsky, Literaturnaya Gazeta.

Yuri Buida, born 1954, grew up in Kaliningrad (formerly Koenigsberg), moving to Moscow in 1991. Of mixed Polish, Belorussian, Russian and Ukrainian origin, he is very sensitive to the nationalities problems and national co-existence which find original artistic interpretations in his fiction "full of inventions and exaggerations". He has more than 60 stories to his name, including the novels Don Domino, Ermo, Boris and Gleb, The Prussian Bride.

Don Domino is about a life lived uncomprehendingly in the service of Stalinism. Ivan Ardabiev lives in an NKVD-run railway settlement which serves a massive train, the Zero. Ivan's parents were denounced as enemies of the people. When he was ten his father shot his mother dead in front of him, and then shot himself. For Ivan the Motherland is the orphanage he was brought up in, the director who sexually abused him, the women in his life who have all smelled of cabbage. Once a day, at midnight, the Zero comes through over the bridge they have built. It stops at Station Nine to change crews and refuel, but nobody knows, or will tell, what its cargo is. Aliona, a vagrant whom Ivan takes as his wife, is convinced that it is conveying people. She lies between the tracks and calls for her exiled mother and father as the train roars over her. She is killed as the train derails (for which crime "enemies of the people" are immediately found and shot).
With no contact with the outside world Ivan has little concept of the political changes in the country, except that the Zero ceases to stop at Station Nine. He is left in charge of Station Nine as the buildings tilt and collapse, and still rushes out with his lantern to meet a phantom Zero, unaware that the Line has been taken up years ago and only the section by Station Nine left through an oversight.

"As all major writers Buida brings in his own distinctive style and literary devices, and, moreover, his own territory, like Babel and Faulkner, where his characters live on the ruins of history, in a timeless multinational unreal world. His works radiate irrepressible energy and genuine passion..." —
Obschaya Gazeta

"Buida is more stylistically sophisticated than his fellow writers — ... a remarkable writing talent..." — critic Lev Anninsky in Novy Mir

Bulat Okudzhava, winner of the 1995 Booker Prize for The Show is Over. This novel is a family history. Okudzhava's Georgian father and Armenian mother were both senior figures in the Communist Party in the 1920s and 1930s, and he tells the story of the times through their lives and those of their parents and many brothers and sisters. The story ends in 1937 with the arrest and execution of his father ("Ten years exile without correspondence rights"), and the subsequent arrest of his mother. Three of his Georgian uncles are exiled, two of them Bolsheviks accused of being unrepentant Trotskyites, and one a cranky old anarchist revered for having thrown a bomb at the governor of Kutaisi.
The theme unifying the novel is the deep-seated but concealed jealousy and animosity of Lavrenty Beria, eventually Stalin's Chief of the Secret Police, towards Shalva Okudzhava, the hero's father. This can be seen as the hidden spring of the disasters which systematically befall the family. It is after a visit to Beria to intercede for her husband that Ashkhen, the hero's mother, is arrested at the end of the novel.
Another unifying factor is the settings. The first of these is the squalid communal apartment where the Caucasian communists settle in Moscow. Here neighbouring rooms are shared by a Polish factory owner, his wife and daughter, the former owners of the whole apartment, who are constantly visited in the night by NKVD officers on confiscatory raids. The mad years between the murder of Kirov in 1934 and the Party purges of 1937 coincide with the early difficult adolescence of the hero. His father is made first secretary of the municipal party committee in the Urals city of Nizhny Tagil. His parents' faith in the Party begins to be tested to breaking point as Shalva leads the attack on supposed enemies of the people, even as his own brothers are being picked off by Beria back in Tiflis.
The strength of Okudzhava's novel is the directness which comes from the fact that a major writer is describing the fate he saw befall his immediate family. He speaks of "a tragic and relentless tune as one person after another was taken away from him, one thing after another, more and more frequently, faster and faster... This tune would accompany him throughout his life. Its slurred half-tones, drowned out by daily events, were written in his memory, or perhaps in his soul."