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WAR & PEACE

Contemporary Russian Prose

anthology, 400 pp. , ISBN 5-7172-0074-9

a compelling portrait of post-post-perestroika Russia

Part I: WAR.

Army problems are currently much debated in Russian society. There is a vast online library of army stories but publishers are reluctant to print them since their exposure of the real situation in the army, particularly in the Caucasus, would anger the authorities. The overarching message of these stories is that any war inevitably sows hatred among otherwise peaceful people.

Arkady BABCHENKO's Argun, an autobiographical account of life as an ordinary young soldier in Russia's Chechnya war, takes the raw and mundane reality of army life and twists it into compelling, chilling, and eerily beautiful prose.

Arkady Babchenko, born in 1977, lives in Moscow. Winner of the Debut Prize for his cycle of first-hand accounts of the Chechnya cam-paign which is both a fictionalized documentary and narrative non-fiction. The stories are united by the same characters, the same place and time. Babchenko was drafted from Law School and sent to Chechnya after a brief course of training. On discharge he finished his education and wrote a cycle of graphic stories about his war experiences so as "to get the war out of my system". Currently he works as a journalist on the opposition paper Novaya Gazeta. His book Alkhan-Yurt came out in Russian in 2006. A Soldier's War in Chechnya will be published in book form by Portobello and Grove Atlantic, and is also coming out in France, Germany, and Italy.

Denis BUTOV's Five Days of War plunges you into the midst of fierce fighting and a miraculous salvation from sure death. His How Dreams Don't Come True is about an ex-serviceman's inability to reintegrate into peaceful life after his army stint in Chechnya.

Denis Butov, born in 1975, lives in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. He spent two years in active service in Chechnya. He is an IT specialist by training and currently works as Chief Information Officer at the Light Industry Factory in Krasnoyarsk. His war stories have appeared in various collections and magazines.

Dmitry BYKOV's story Christ's Coming depicts the army as a harsh male world with crude practices and sadistic hazing that drives young men to suicide and insanity. Two episodes from Jewhad, a futuristic anti-utopia about imminent ethnic conflicts and a crisis of democracy and liberalism as we know them today, are drawn from the present-day Russian army.

Dmitry Bykov, born in 1967, is the author of several prize-winning futuristic novels and alternative histories invariably inspiring heated debates in the press. He is also a noted poet with eight poetry collections to his name and author of the defin-itive new biography of Boris Pasternak. A famous TV presenter and journalist he is a deputy editor-in-chief of the Sobesednik weekly and a prolific essayist and critic contributing to Moscow's leading periodicals.

Roman SENCHIN's story, 24 Hours relates the events of one day in his bleak existence as a border guard. He depicts vividly the soldiers' longing for discharge.

Roman Senchin, born in 1971 in the Siberian town of Kyzyl. Later the family moved to Minusinsk where he lived until recently before moving to Moscow. Winner of several prestigious literary prizes he is one of the most talented and expressive spokesmen for his generation. His work has been translated into German, French and other languages. His most celebrated novel, Minus, written in colourful and rich language, shows a bleak portrait of provincial life today. It is an autobiographical story of a trapped soul desperately trying to change his life. All of Senchin's writings give you information that cannot be found in guidebooks. Each character represents thousands of people living their lives in small villages and towns in post-Soviet Russia.

Julia LATYNINA exposes corrupt administrations in the Caucasus. They openly disregard the law in order to maintain their totalitarian rule, but they also have to comply with the local mafia lords and rebel chieftains.

Julia Latynina, born in 1966, a Muscovite, comes from a famous literary family. She is a topmost business journalist, with a Ph.D. in Economics and Philology, and is a prolific writer widely known for her "economic" thrillers and futuristic fantasies - more than 20 titles in all. By wrapping fiction around facts and real people, she can tell the real story behind Russia's often misleading appearance. "When it comes to interpreting the Russian economy, Latynina is, to borrow Isaiah Berlin's term, both a fox and a hedgehog, and that is what makes her books so fascinating." (Globe & Mail)

Part II: PEACE.

Women's stories are a sharp contrast to the "War" section. They immerse you in the world of basic human values such as love, children, and family; but also highlight problems with aging, generation gap, and violence against women.
The stories reflect the current stage in the evolution of Russian women's fiction which displays confident craftsmanship, wide thematic range, and high stylistic standards.

Olga SLAVNIKOVA's The Secret of the Unread Note paints a vivid portrait of a small provincial town where a very average, modern, young woman still yearns for love and tries various ways of getting it.

Olga Slavnikova, a leading name in Russian letters today, rose to fame as a writer back in her hometown of Yekaterinburg in the Urals before moving to Moscow five years ago to coordinate the Debut Prize for young writers. She is the author of five prize-winning novels and is noted for her highly individual style and psycho-logical depth. Critics praise her for her exceptional power of imagination and precision of comparisons. Her books have been translated into French and Italian.

In Maria GALINA's story End of the Summer the mysterious appearance of a little clairvoyant girl wreaks havoc on the leisurely life of a childless couple. The wife's longing for motherhood turns out to be stronger than her love for her husband.

Maria Galina, born in 1960, is a poet, critic, translator, and science fiction writer with ten SF books to her credit. A graduate from Odessa University majoring in marine biology she took part in several sea expeditions. She has been a professional writer since 1995. She has won many prizes for both her prose and poetry. Her fiction contains a strong element of magic realism while gender issues have always been the focus of her attention.

Maria RYBAKOVA looks at the eternal drama of aging in her fine psychological narrative A Sting in the Flesh in which an old lady inadvertently kills the emerging love between two young people.

Maria Rybakova, born in 1973 in Moscow, comes from a famous literary family and has become a star herself with her prize-winning books. She has always been fascinated with the mystery of death which is a constant presence in her work. Her first novel Anna Grom and Her Ghost an epistolary novel written by a soul travelling in the underworld was published in 1999 and translated into German and Spanish. Losers' Brotherhood (2005, French translation 2006) focuses on a character daydreaming about China but never actually going there. Rybakova is currently teaching Classics at the California State University Long Beach. She was a writer-in-residence and Capstone Scholar at Bard College in Jan.-Dec. 2005. She has received several literary awards including the Sergei Dovlatov Prize for the best short story (2004).

Maria ARBATOVA's My Last Letter to A. conveys the modern woman's rebellion against the traditional dependency implicit in male-female relationships.

Maria Arbatova, born in 1957, is a novelist, dramatist, noted public figure and leading activist in the feminist movement in Russia. Her 14 plays have all been staged in Russia and some in the USA, England, Sweden, and Germany. She has seven novels and a collection of short stories to her credit published in hundreds of thousand copies. Her books are all based on personal experiences from her private and public life. The Moscow Times called her "The Erica Jong of Russian literature," and World Literature Today wrote about our women's collection: "Arbatova's two selections are reason enough to read this collection of Glas."

Marina KULAKOVA's story Alive Again, investigates the psychology of the rapist and the victim as well as showing the roots of such phenomena and the public's indifference to the problem.

Marina Kulakova, born in 1962, is mainly known as a poet and critic. She lives in Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga where she teaches at the local university and edits the philological journal ORBI. She has five collections of poetry to her name and numerous publications in various literary journals. Recently she started writing prose, which won her immediate critical acclaim.