The Best Russian Books in English

Forget War and Peace: this blog offers reviews of fun and interesting Russian books in English, links to their Amazon pages, interviews with new and upcoming Russian authors, with the emphasis on Russian genre fiction: LitRPG, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, romance, mystery and other popular reads.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve is sacred in Russia - it unites the whole nation, regardless of its borders or political agendas. This is a chance to open your heart to the future and embrace whatever it's going to bring into your life... a time of magic and surprise beginnings.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mission to Moscow: 50 facts about Russians

50 Facts about Russians? Aww, you absolutely have to read it!

Not only is this list hilariously funny, but it is also very true. It's lovingly compiled by Mr. Ate The Paint, a Canadian English teacher currently on his mission to Moscow.

Keep these things in mind if ever you set your story in today's Russia Moscow (because quite a few of the facts on his list apply mainly to the Muscovites who are a different human breed altogether).

50 Facts About Russians


Sunday, December 11, 2011

So, who really won the Russian elections, then?

Yes, this blog is mainly about history, but then again, one day this will be history, too. Ironically, a friend of mine (no names, naturally - you never know who might be reading this) is a local political activist in the North West region of Russia and as such, has numerous contacts among local electoral officials. According to her, the reaction of vote counters in their area boiled down to the following:

"I just don't understand it! According to what we've counted, the Communist Party came first, followed by A Just Russia, followed by United Russia
(that's Putin's party). It's not just us, but at other polling stations in the area the results were the same, that's what their vote counters told me! It's a total mystery! Whatever happened to the results later, it was none of our doing! We're just as clueless as you are!"

Well, being a bit more streetwise than my friend, I'll just say I have some idea of what happened, but - also being streetwise - I'll keep it to myself. But here's a highly enjoyable article dealing with another side of this mystery. At least my friend and her colleagues were above ballot-box stuffing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best English Translation of Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita

Hi all,

Sorry I've been out of touch lately, due to the fact that I've just come back home from the hospital and am now lying here in the lounge (the room closest to the bathroom) with a nice set of stitches across poor old me, which actually heal very nicely. In Russian, we have an appropriate expression, "he/she heals like a dog". The problem is, my nice comfy sick bed couch with its cushions, pillows and duvets now attracts everyone else in the house so in the evenings all four of us, including the actual dog Jack Russel Terrier, end up on it watching TV which leaves very little space for me... and I tell you, I've never watched so much TV in my entire life.

But I do heal like a dog which is a good thing because I miss my bedroom with its water bed. :-)

Now if I could only have one book by my bedside (and not this terrible box with Christmas commercials), it would undoubtedly be the weirdest of all Russian classics, Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. It exists in at least half a dozen English translations, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, but I personally prefer the one done by translators Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor. Although I have to admit that every M&M translation I've come across contains some factual errors and sadly, this one is no exception, it definitely succeeds in conveying the wild imagery of the original supernatural story.

Oh, and just in case you thought this was a lighthearted fantasy tale Bulgakov churned out off the top of his head -- it is not. A profound researcher and clever plotter, Mikhail Bulgakov made sure that literally every sentence - and I mean every sentence - of Master and Margarita carried bucketfuls of relevant historical and philosophical context, with hidden allusions to dozens of historical works and anecdotes. Not a single word in the entire novel just for the sake of it, if you know what I mean :-) Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Update! The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Russia goes into second edition

... which means it's temporarily unavailable in Holly Lisle's online shop. I'll post the link to the new, updated edition of my book very soon. But there're lots of other good books there! See you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rare pics of 1920s-1950s Moscow and Leningrad

If one picture is worth a thousand words, then this little collection is at least a novella! With kind permission from a Russian history expert and city guide Sergei, here're some happier summery images of Russia's two capital cities and their people.

Teenagers in Leningrad, 19 July 1925

Leningrad, CPKiO park, May 18 1930, by N. Yanov:

Leningrad, Neva Embankment, May 1932:

Leningrad, boat rental at CPKiO park:

Leningrad, CPKiO park, June 24 1934, greeting the Cheluskin hero crew, by V. Fedoseev:

Leningrad, CPKiO park, Elagin Ostrov, August 1936, by V. Fedoseev:

Leningrad, CPKiO park promenade, August 1937:

Leningrad, CPKiO park, May 22 1939, by B. Utkin:

Moscow, cafe terrace, 1930s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Gorky park, 1930s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Gorky park, boy on bike, 1930s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, park, 1930s, boat, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, park, 1930s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, park, 1930s, hammocks, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Gorky Park, 1935, by B. Ignatov:

Moscow, Gorky park, 1937, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Poonchi the Elephant and her trainer Carel Stvora, late 1940s-early 1950s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Poonchi the Elephant and kids, late 1940s-early 1950s, by E. Evzerikhin:

Moscow, Gorky Park, Ferris wheel, mid 1950s, by I. Shagin:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

About Ignat Avsey, the best translator of Dostoevsky

I continue sharing the Russian links I've unearthed while rummaging through Amazon pages. My favorite Dostoevsky's novel is undoubtedly The Village of Stepanchikovo And its Inhabitants(especially considering the fact that I personally know someone who is an exact copy of the novel's main character, Foma Opiskin -- just in case you wondered if surreal creatures like him did exist in real life: I swear to you they do).

And my favorite translator of Dostoevsky -- in fact, the only true translator of Dostoevsky -- is British scholar Ignat Avsey. It is incredible how he grasped the supposedly "untranslatable" vulnerability of Dostoevsky's voice. I just hope Mr Avsey perseveres with his brilliant work and translates the whole body of Dostoevsky's writings (and yes, that does include A Writer's Diary-- a decades-long collection of literary-journal entries which actually qualifies Dostoevsky to be called the first blogger on planet Earth, an almost hundred and fifty years before the invention of the Internet).

So below is the link to The Village of Stepanchikovo and its Inhabitants, a short-and-sweet tragicomic reading, so unlike Dostoevsky's other novels. Highly recommended!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm back!

Sorry about the hiatus everyone, I was actually seriously ill (heh!) and had to spend some time in hospital -- both experiences truly new and exciting for me :-) Now I'm back albeit facing a major surgery some time in the future (heh again) but in the meantime, I'll try to be as busy as possible.

Browsed Amazon yesterday in search for some title inspiration for my baby book -- no luck, but I did brainstorm it myself in the end, and I love it (the title and the book). But in doing so, I got constantly sidetracked reading reviews for some great Russian books and movies, so I think I'll post a few links here, starting today.

Here's one recent Russian film that very few Western viewers know about, which is a shame because it's a true flippin' masterpiece. Although the subject matter is religion, I was happy to discover that even atheist reviewers loved it -- in fact, not a single negative review overall. Rightly so, because Ostrov (The Island), directed by Pavel Lungin and starring some of Russia's finest actors, including the tragic Pyotr Mamonov (a rock star-turned-practicing Orthodox Christian), is a perfect artistic and philosophical experience. I'm not telling you what it's about, go and watch it yourselves! Here's the link to its Amazon page, five-star reviews and all:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paul Bradbury: Always Look on the Bright Side of... Russia

Writing about Russia is not easy. Being funny about Russia is plain hard. What's there to be funny about, after all?

Writer, traveler and humanitarian aid worker Paul Bradbury describes his adventures in the 1990s Russia with endless humor and wit, while offering some precious insights into the period's mentality and values. The 1990s remain a very special and different time in Russia's history, with its own cultural and social code that's almost completely forgotten by now. In his blog, Paul Bradbury manages to grasp and preserve the very aura of that daring and desperate time, and he peppers the hilariously funny stories of his Russian travels with plenty of detail that is by now almost impossible to come by.

Here're just a few entries to get you going:

Homeless In The Soviet Union - A Long Way From Manchester

The Scary World of the Aeroflot Internal Flight in the Nineties

How To Get Arrested In a Bathrobe At St. Petersburg Train Station