Anthony Marra’s debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, comes out this week. It’s set during the Chechen wars, and author Marra, who had long been interested in the region, was inspired to write it when he realized there was no English language literary novel about the conflict. In writing the book, he used first-hand accounts of the wars, including those by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who covered the conflict from its start until her death in 2006 under suspicious circumstances. These days Chechnya may show up more often in the news and in spy novels than literary fiction, but, as Marra told PW, it has a “rich literary history”:
"Pushkin set work in Chechnya. As a child Lermontov spent his summers in Chechnya, where much of his most famous work, A Hero of Our Time, is set. Chechnya forms the bookends to Tolstoy's career. He began writing his first novel, Childhood, while in Starogladovskaya in Northern Chechnya, and his final novel, Hadji Murad, is set in the Russo-Chechen War of the 19th century. During the 20th century, Chechnya was written about by local poets and novelists, as well as writers from Russia and Central Asia, but very little is available in English translation."