When I heard that 2010 was the Year of Russia in France (it’s a cross-cultural initiative by French and Russian foreign ministries), I couldn’t resist ordering some Russian books, via Bookmooch. A recent French magazine explains in an article roughly called “Back to hell” that the contemporary Russian literature is now very dark, and deals with economic chaos and political stiffening by painting the fringes of society and the new “lost generation”. The names in this article were all unknown to me, and perhaps untranslated into English: Alexandre Ikonnikov, Natalia Klioutchareva, Zakhar Prilepine, Arkadi Babtchenko… Apparently 2 writers are most controversial: Vladimir Sorokine and Viktor Pelevine. Have anyone heard of them? Would you recommend any particular title by contemporary Russian writers?
Before I get to investigate this latest Russian production, I chose “safer” books by Nina Berberova. I’ve read her autobiography, Italics are mine, and several of her short novellas a few years ago, and I feel ready for another series of them. So I got from a generous Bookmooch-er:
– Le laquais et la putain (the lackey and the whore?), a novella following an ambitious young woman in the Russian refugee community in the aftermaths of the 1917 revolution
– De cap et de larmes, another novella about 2 sisters in Russia in 1920
– The dangerous life of Baronness Budberg, a biography of an obscure refugee celebrity who was part spy, part woman of letters (she was involved with Gorki). Apparently this book is also available in English through NYRB under the name “Moura”. This one looks so good that I already started the first few chapters!