The American edition of Foreign Policy published an article that American readers who grew up on the books of Leo Tolstoy and Boris Pasternak, hoping for a revival of Russian literature in connection with the fact that in 2015 in Russia – the year it was literature. They want to return to the magical land that found in the books, according to the article. So far, everything is quite deplorable that those who are nostalgic for Natasha Rostova and Yuri Zhivago, hardly can name at least one modern Russian writer, the article says.
Photo: RIA Novosti
The last Russian novel, which became a sensation in America, it was the “Doctor Zhivago”, published the year before, as its author Boris Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (this happened in 1958). In 1973, the West was published “The Gulag Archipelago” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and since then not a single Russian writer did not become famous.
The noble efforts to translate and disseminate modern Russian literature are taking place, but today in the United States of all translated into English books only 4.6% – Russian. Russian language in the literature left far behind French, Spanish and German. “Great book written in Russia today, but not enough to translate them” – leads words of Foreign Policy of the Russian poet Dmitry Bykov, a literary critic and biographer Pasternak. Journalist Masha Gessen not agree with it – it believes that the decline in interest in Russian literature at the global level due to the fact that Russia now do not write books “world class”. Russian literature is not so popular, because little is left that is worth reading, Hesse said. Total Russian cultural “rot”, she said, has affected to a greater extent on the literature.
At the same time there are at least two explanations for the fall in popularity of Russian literature. First – this is bad US distribution network. However, the director of the Moscow publishing house “Voice” said Natasha Perova second: in her opinion, the American distributors now “allergic to everything Russian.” In the early 1990s, she says, Russian is very welcome, because the world had high hopes for Russia, everybody thought that Russia is integrated into the European context. “But in the end Russia has returned to the old, and the people turned away from us,” – said Perov.
Perhaps, says the author of an article in Foreign Policy, the characters in Russian novels incomprehensible to modern Western readers. As heroes of the novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward”, treated with a chemotherapy forever changed because of received poison Russian life became too bleak, that they immediately called empathy. However, the article says, users hashtag #FirstWorldProblems ( in fact, it is in the records of a rather small problems. – Ed. ) can hardly understand, what avalanches despair faced by their Russian counterparts.
Many Russian authors themselves strongly oriented to the West, writes Foreign Policy. Boris Fishman and Gary Shteyngart live in New York. Mikhail Shishkin, who loved and appreciated in the West and whose books have been translated into many languages, living in Zurich. His 2005 novel “The Lady’s Hair” – the gap between Russia and the bourgeois, smug Switzerland and last novel reflects not only a difficult moment in Russia, but also the past.
translator and founder of the publisher Deep Vellum Publishing in Dallas Will Evans offers another theory why Russian books have become less popular in the West, and says that Americans understand and “read” Russia in a special way. Given the Cold War and its unstable consequences, they tend to politicize the whole of Russian literature, reading for greater political acumen. Indeed, as in the middle of the last century, when the great power politics was reflected in Pasternak’s work, some well-known in the West, the new Russian authors have “political goods”. For example, Zakhar Prilepin, whose novels “Sin” and “Sanka” has recently been published in English, served in Chechnya and became radical opposition. Then, after joining the Russian Crimea in the last year, he surprised his fans by praising the militia of New Russia.
The Western readers see and surreal image of Russia – many translated into English now books are written in the genre of dystopian. For example, in the debut collection of stories of young Muscovite Anna Starobinets “awkward age” Moscow destroyed during the war between humans and androids. A novel by Victor Pelevin “Helmet terror” creates a nightmarish reality in which the characters encountered in internet chat, trapped in a virtual maze.
For all its merits, the modern Russian products can not meet the nostalgia that American feed readers towards other novels. Russian literary culture has changed. Russia is still “produces” more books than other countries: in 2013, about 120,000 new books were published in Russian. But the current writers – content providers, who are fighting for attention in a busy market of entertainment and information.
In the past, Russian looked at their literature as a model of life philosophy, spiritual writers were legislators of the country. In the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Chekhov Russian found his moral “nuts and bolts” to fight the forces of history, which threatened to break them apart. Writers were anything more than mere mortals. Today, Putin promised revival of literature, but Russian writers no longer deify at home (not to mention other countries). But, in any case, in the last 23 years the Russian publishing was free from censorship, the article says Foreign Policy. Even if Russia takes another “cycle of oppression,” the writer will document every “turn of the screw” – and the best of them will write things that will become a classic.