An Interview With Mikhail Shishkin (Publishing Perspectives)

Файл:Venerin volos.jpg

Mikhail Shishkin made his literary debut in 1993 and swiftly went on to win acclaim as one of the greatest living contemporary Russian writers. He is the first author to win all three of the major Russian literary prizes- the Russian Booker, the Big Book Award, and the National Bestseller Award- while his work has been translated into twenty five languages. In fall 2012, Open Letter will publish his novel Maidenhair, in translation by Marian Schwartz; while in 2013 the British house Quercus will publish Letter-Book in translation by Andrew Bromfield. In anticipation of his appearance at this year’s BEA, regular Publishing Perspectives contributor Daniel Kalder spoke to him about literature, exile and creating a new language.

You moved to Switzerland in 1995, when you were already in your mid thirties. Were you concerned that distance and detachment from Russia would alienate you from the language and subject matter? How did that “exile” affect you as a writer?

Eine Kleine Rammsteinmusik (The Dabbler)

Daniel Kalder praises some German originals who seem to have sprung fully-formed from the head of Wotan.
I first encountered Rammstein in an almost empty cinema on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street, during an afternoon matinee of the largely unloved David Lynch movie Lost Highway. Balthazar Getty had just broken into a house, a porno starring his lover was unfolding on a giant screen, and something was about to go very wrong- a point underscored on the soundtrack by sinister chanting, tolling church bells and an impossibly low German voice muttering words I didn’t understand. It was ominous, bombastic, absurd, utterly hilarious- and yet also thrilling:

Legends of Russian Rock (The Dabbler)

Today we enjoy some samples from around about 4000 years of Russian rock. What it lacks in groove it makes up for in lyrical folkiness…
Among the titans of Russian rock, few are more legendary than Boris Grebenshikov, founder and sole constant member of the group Akvarium. This year he has been touring with the latest in a seemingly infinite series of line ups to celebrate the band’s 4000th anniversary. In fact, Akvarium only came into being 40 years ago, in 1972 in the streets of Leningrad, but he has a wry sense of humour and a keen sense of the mythic.

Book Review: Maidenhair (Dallas Morning News)

Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American audiences still expect Russian writers to conform to the dissident vs. tyrant stereotype. Contemporary Russian prose is far richer than that, and since 1991 all kinds of writing have blossomed.

Early Jodo Vs. Late Jodo (The Dabbler)

Looking for more bande dessinée lunacy? Then read on…
Recently I reviewed The Incal, the epic psychedelic space opera from the all-round holy madman Alejandro Jodorowsky and French comics master Moebius. It is, as I said, good to a consciousness-scrambling degree. But Jodorowsky has many other works available in English, and today I draw attention to two of them, one of which dates from the beginning of his comics career and the other of which appeared at what we must assume is close to the end of it, given that he is now 83. Connoisseurs of lunacy take note.

Notes From The Underground: The Rise and Fall of Russian Literature (Open Skies)

In Moscow, a statue of the national poet Aleksandr Pushkin stands at the heart of the city, mere minutes’ walk from a monument to Feodor Dostoevsky. Metro stations carry writers’ names, and across Russia the homes of famous authors have been converted into museums.

In Russia the written word has power, and relations between writers and the state have often been antagonistic. Almost every significant Russian author of the last two centuries has battled censorship, oppression and- as often as not- his fellow scribes. Russian writers have thus earned an intimidating reputation as philosophers, martyrs and madmen, responsible for an epic literature that inspires global fascination. In the West, awe at the perpetual turbulence, strife and disaster of the country’s history has led to a belief that Russian literature must contain uniquely profound insights into the terrible depths of the human experience.  But how much of that is myth, and how much is truth?

Book Review: ‘In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire’ examines the roots of Islam (Dallas Morning News)

Since the 1990s, when Islamic extremism replaced the Soviet Union as the main geopolitical foe of the West, there has been an explosion in publishing about Islam. Some of those books have been polemics, while others have highlighted the religion’s more appealing aspects.

What perhaps all these volumes have in common is that the authors accept at face value the account of Muhammad’s life as it has been transmitted through Muslim tradition. Tom Holland, author of In the Shadow of the Sword, does not.

Pussy Riot and Russian "Art Protest" (Sabotage Times)

In April a shitty punk band with the excellent name of Pussy Riot attained worldwide fame by performing their less than awesome track “Holy Shit” inside Moscow’sChurch of Christ the Saviour, which until the mid-1990s was the site of an open air swimming pool.  “St. Maria, Virgin, Holy Mother, Drive Putin Out!” they sang, also filming the performance, which they afterward uploaded to Youtube.

Russian Author Dmitri Kosyrev, aka Master Chen, on His Asian Alter-ego (Publishing Perspectives)

MOSCOW: Russia’s Dmitri Kosyrev is a journalist and has written primarily about Asia for such publications as Pravda, Independent Newspaper, and New Newspaper. He also occasionally writes about wines, food, and cigars. Master Chen, his fiction-writing alter ego, writes historical spy novels set in Asia, often working in elements of jazz, love, and politics. Publishing Perspectives spoke to Kosyrev about life and espionage shortly prior to BookExpo America earlier this year.

Yale U. Press Digitizes Stalin’s Massive Personal Archive (Publishing Perspectives)

Over the last two years Yale University Press and the Russian State Archive for Social and Political History have been quietly digitizing Stalin’s personal archive, consisting of thousands of documents, letters, and books, that passed through the Soviet leader’s hands. Vadim Staklo, the editor overseeing the project appeared earlier this month on the BEA panel “Stepping into the Digital Future with Russia” to talk about this and other initiatives. Regular Publishing Perspectives contributor Daniel Kalder caught up with him to discuss some of the intriguing “Secrets from the Russian Archive.”

The Incal (The Dabbler)

There comes a point in every individual’s lifetime when he or she must face the inevitable question: should I read a 307 page mystical- psychedelic Chilean-French science fiction tarot epic that was originally published in the same format as a Tintin book?

Review: Whispers in the Walls and Pandemonium (Coliseum)

My interest in comics ebbs and flows. So much that is published is embarrassingly bad, but I still love the medium, and so I want there to be books that are good. English language comics publishing remains dominated by superheroes, an exhausted genre which was great when the stories were aimed at young lads, but which stinks now that the target audience is 30/40something anally retentive boy-men. Nor have I ever been able to develop a taste for autobiographical “indie” comics, which are often (though not always) a) boring b) poorly drawn and c) solipsistic. As a result, I search hopefully for European comics in translation, where the standard of craft is usually higher, there is a broader spread of genre and there are no images of Cyclops in a red thong.

The Post-Moebius Upholders of a Proud French Comic Book Tradition (The Guardian)

In March, Jean "Moebius" Giraud died. This was a sad day for comic readers as Giraud was probably the finest artist ever to work in the medium. He could draw anything, in any style, and his work was always exquisite.
More than that, Giraud possessed a remarkably free imagination. In the 1970s he co-founded Métal Hurlant, an influential French comic magazine. Ostensibly SF, the strips mixed politics, assorted genre tropes, surrealism and stream of consciousness to create a deliriously trippy stew (man). Moebius' own Airtight Garage – which he improvised on a monthly basis – was a bizarre and beautiful tour de force.

China City Stories: an interview with Ra Page (The Dabbler)

Despite its rise China remains an enigma for many in the West. As fiction can provide a way to get under a culture’s skin – the short story doing so in immediate and concentrated fashion – we thought Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China sounded intriguing.

Meet The Toughest Clerics Who Ever Lived (The Catholic Herald)

Daniel Kalder says that St Ignatius set a high standard when a cannonball tore open his leg

When Writers Censor Themselves (The Guardian)

The suppression of literature is an ancient tradition that probably started with the invention of writing and which thrives today all over the world. In the west we generally venerate those authors who stand up against acts of silencing by the authorities. But what are we to think when an author suppresses himself?

PP Appreciation: Ex-Marvel Man, Pariah, Blogger Jim Shooter (Publishing Perspectives)

Is the best blog in publishing written by a 60 year- old former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics? I think so.

Red Plenty Book Review (Dallas Morning News)

While the “Russia” shelves of American bookstores groan under the weight of heavy tomes on the horrors of Stalin and the Gulag, the relatively liberal period that followed has attracted little interest from authors, scholars and publishers. This neglect is unsurprising as Khrushchev’s reign included much less slavery and killing, so the story is not all that dramatic.

One-Armed Gunslingers and Germans in Teepees: A Brief Guide to the Euro-Western (The Millions)

The Western is the quintessentially American genre. However played out it might seem at times, it offers an incredibly versatile context for near-mythic narratives about good and evil, tales of man against nature, man against man, man establishing civilization in the wild, and the sins man commits when establishing that civilization. From Zane Grey to Cormac McCarthy, even the pulpiest narratives articulate some aspect of America’s sense of self. Perhaps it’s surprising then that Europe also has strong traditions of the Western, including mega-bestsellers that are practically unknown on this side of the Atlantic. But what happens when you feed profoundly American tropes into the psyche of a German or a Frenchman? Do you get something wild and interesting, or derivative dullness? Does the reader receive startling new insights — or merely a glimpse of a distorted looking-glass America?

Review: Sandcastle and Robot (The Dabbler)

The other day I was watching a Channel 4 news segment about the now ubiquitous “occupy” facemasks, in which they dragged around the aged hippy & magician Alan Moore, introducing him to various youthful idealists/scrofulous layabouts camped outside St. Paul’s as the “man behind the mask”. As the Channel 4 voice patiently explained, the grinning Guy Fawkes face originated in V for Vendetta, his dystopian graphic novel (in fact, Moore is co-creator as V was a collaboration with the artist David Lloyd.)

What struck me was the intro: “You won’t recognize this man unless you read comics…’ which was then followed by some wittering about how the medium still remains “underground”, at the “cultural margins”. And I thought: Really? Alan Moore? Watchmen? You mean the influential adult graphic novel that in 2005 was (absurdly) put on Time magazine’s list of the 100 greatest novels published since 1923; has sold 2 million+ copies; and which in 2009 was made into a dire blockbuster?

The Secret Afterlife of Roy Orbison (The Dabbler/Sabotage Times)

Had he lived, Roy Orbison would have been 75 this year. Here, Daniel Kalder writes about the Big O’s transcendental power…
For me, like most people, memory is intricately intertwined with music. Another Brick in the Wall pt 2 was a hit the year I started school, and so the song always resurrects those early experiences of classroom tedium. Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus,playing on the ferry that brought me from England to Holland in 1986, summons textures of my first trip abroad from the sinkhole of amnesia; while Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity is forever fused with a 6am walk I took around Amsterdam ‘sSchipol airport. Endlessly and subjectively I can listen to a track and landscapes, people, places and moods return.

Explaining Philip K. Dick's Exegesis (The Guardian)

The private papers documenting his cosmic illumination by a pink laser have long gilded the PKD legend. Published at last, do they shed much light for the rest of us?

Philip K Dick rewired my brain when I was a mere lad, after I plucked Clans of the Alphane Moon at random from a shelf in my local library. This was in the 1980s: PKD had not yet become a multi-million dollar industry and his best endorsements came from counterculture figures such as Timothy Leary or fellow denizens of the SF ghetto such as Michael Moorcock.

Mr Blair Goes to Kazakhstan (The Spectator)

Ah, Tony Blair — you can’t keep a good hustler down. One minute he’s singing the praises of formaldehyde at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan (£90,000 for a 20-minute talk), the next he’s accepting a gig ‘consulting’ in Kazakhstan. For his advice on ‘issues connected with policy and the economy’, he could reportedly make as much as £8 million a year.

In May, Blair and a gang of his associates were spotted at a meeting of the Foreign Investors’ Council in Kazakhstan. Among them was Lord Renwick of Clifton, vice-chairman of JP Morgan, which (coincidently) pays Mr Blair £2 million a year for advice — and Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s richest man, a generous Labour donor, and the largest employer in Kazakhstan. Blair praised the nation’s ‘wonderful’ achievements.

How things have changed. Ten years ago an authoritarian leader of an ex-Soviet state would get excited if Vanessa Mae came to town. These days, they find that if they toss enough coins and crank up the organ, former leaders of western governments will dance for them like performing monkeys.

Storytelling is a Deadly Business: Krzhizhanovsky's "The Letter Killers' Club" (The Millions)

Anyone who has ever strolled into a Barnes & Noble and felt a certain despair at the sight of all those books lying on tables and shelves, many of them not very good, all of them emitting that silent, deathly scream: please decipher our inky squiggles and bring our stories to life, will identify with the central conceit of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s The Letter Killers Club. Set in Moscow in the 1920s, it features a series of tales told among the members of the mysterious, secretive eponymous organization. Each Saturday, seven individuals known to each other by nonsense sounds instead of names (Rar, Tyd, Zez, etc.) meet in an unfurnished room to spin yarns which they are forbidden to write down. Why? Well, says the group’s president: