No one knows Russian authors better than literary agencies. After all, they have been poring over these homegrown talents’ works, promoting them, and negotiating and signing deals for them. So “PW” asks four agencies—Banke, Goumen & Smirnova; Elkost; FTM; and Galina Dursthoff (covered in “The Rights Side of Business”)—to recommend 12 contemporary authors that might represent the new Russian voice, in alphabetical order.
This is a name familiar to newspaper, magazine, television, and radio audiences around Russia. An outstanding essayist and literary critic, Bykov’s most famous work is “Boris Pasternak,” which took the 2006 Big Book and National Bestsellers awards. Last year, his novel “Ostromov, or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice” won him the National Bestsellers Prize again, as well as third place at the Big Book Award. Despite having more than a dozen prose titles, poems, and essays to his name, Bykov was introduced to the English-speaking world only two years ago with the publication of his 2006 work “Living Souls” by Alma Books.
Buida’s novels “The Zero Train” (shortlisted for the 1994 Russian Booker) and “The Prussian Bride” (1999 Apollon Grigoriev Prize winner), published in English by Daedalus Books, won for their translator, Oliver Ready, the inaugural Russian Translation Prize in 2005. Most reviewers regard “The Zero Train” as “a Kafka-like parable of Russian history.” In 2011, his recent work, “Blue Blood,” took the Znamya Literary Magazine Prize and was nominated for the Big Book Award. Buida’s surreal and mythical writings have been very successful in Europe.
The Russian literary community took notice of Pavlov’s writing when he was just a 24-year-old with a debut novel entitled “A Military Tale” shortlisted for the 1995 Russian Booker. Seven years later, he won the Russian Booker for “Funeral Rites in Karaganda, or a Tale of Recent Times,” which was inspired by his stint as a prison guard in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. This book was also shortlisted for the 2011 Russian Booker of the Decade. His Russian Trilogy (“Military Monologue,” “Matyushin’s Case,” and “Funeral Rites in Karaganda”) was bought by And Other Stories Publishing (U.K.) last year and is now being translated by Robert Chandler.
Pelevin is riding high in Russia with two works—“Pineapple Water for the Fair Lady” and “S.N.U.F.F.”—among the top 10 sellers in 2011. Selected by the “Observer” (U.K.) as one of the “21 Writers for the 21st Century,” he catapulted to fame with the 1992 satire “Omon Ra” and went on to win the 1993 Russian Little Booker Prize with a collection of short stories, “The Blue Lantern.” His later work, “DTP (NN),” won the 2003 National Bestsellers and Apollon Grigoriev prizes, while “T” was placed third at the 2010 Big Book Award. His books written before 2009 are available in English, mostly translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Petrosyan’s 2009 novel about a boarding school for disabled children was never meant for public consumption. Still, “The House That...” went on to win the Russian Student Booker and the Literary Award for Best Novel in 2010, in addition to being shortlisted for that year’s Russian Booker. The novel has defied classification by literary critics, who have resorted to making references to works by Faulkner, Salinger, Murakami, Steinbeck, Carroll, and others. Dmitry Bykov regards it as “a door leading to that new literature we all have been waiting for.” Rights have been sold to Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Norway, and Poland.
The multitalented writer, painter, playwright, singer, and songwriter Petrushevskaya is hailed as one of Russia’s premier fiction writers, with about 30 titles. Her earlier works “The Time Night” (1992) and “The Number One” (2004), recently bought by Penguin Books, were shortlisted for the Russian Booker. “There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby,” a collection of short stories published by Penguin in 2009, went on to win the 2010 World Fantasy Award. Her writings have been compared to those by Gogol, Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, Poe, and Ishiguro.
Winner of the 2008 National Bestseller Prize for “Sin,” controversial political activist Prilepin is the regional editor of the independent (and crusading) newspaper “Novaya Gazeta.” In 2007, “Sankya,” a novel about young political extremists (based mostly on his own experiences), won him the Yasnaya Polyana Award as well as China’s Best Foreign Novel Award. “Sankya” also took both the Russian Booker and National Bestseller prizes. Even though some of his short stories have been translated into English, his novels have yet to find a publisher in the U.S. or U.K.
It all started with a review in “Afisha” magazine comparing his 2005 self-published semiautobiographical novel to “a Russian Grisham.” Offers soon poured in from major Russian publishers, and two months after its publication by Limbus Press, “Do Time, Get Time” was shortlisted for the National Bestseller Prize. His seven other novels include “Great Dream,” “All That Glitters,” “Chlorophilia,” and “Psycho Agent” (2011 National Bestseller Prize finalist). The latest, “Gods of Gods,” was Moscow Book Store’s #1 sci-fi bestseller last year. Only “Do Time, Get Time” is available in English, published by Old Street Publishing (U.S.).
Here is an award-winning novelist who remains unknown in the English-speaking world. A two-time winner of the Big Book Award (for “Maidenhair” and “The Letterbook” in 2011 and 2006 respectively), Shishkin also wrote the 2000 Russian Booker winner, “The Taking of Izmail.” Open Letter Books has engaged Marian Schwartz to translate “Maidenhair,” also the 2006 National Bestseller Prize winner, and expects to publish it soon. Quercus Books (through a deal by Seamus Murphy) has acquired the English-language rights for “The Letterbook” and has hired British editor Andrew Bromfield to translate it.
Sorokin’s first novel, “The Queue,” was translated into English by Readers International, in Minnesota, before any of his works appeared in Russia. Eighteen years later, in 2011, his novels “Ice Trilogy” and “A Day of Oprichnik” were released on the same day by American publishers NYRB Classics and FSG respectively. Banned during Soviet times, his books, like “The Blue Lard,” were deemed antigovernment. Now hailed as a “living classic,” Sorokin took second place at the 2011 Big Book Award and bagged the NOSE Literary Prize with his latest novel, “The Blizzard” (rights acquired by FSG).
This young author with five novels to her name has been compared to Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ray Bradbury. Her debut short story collection, “An Awkward Age,” was nominated for the 2005 National Bestseller Prize as a manuscript. Upon its publication, she was dubbed “the queen of Russian horror.” A fantasy novel, “Asylum 3/9,” soon followed. Her dystopian novel “The Living One” was published last year. So far, only “An Awkward Age” is available in English (from Hesperus Press).
Ulitskaya’s latest novel, “The Green Tent” (or “Imago” outside of Russia), ranked among the top 10 sellers at every bookstore last year. Rights agency Elkost, which has sold it to nine countries, is currently looking for an English-language publisher. “Daniel Stein, Interpreter,” her fourth novel in English, is published by Overlook Press. Together, her 14 novels have won numerous awards, including the 2007 Big Book Award (for” Daniel Stein, Interpreter”), the 2004 Novel of the Year Prize (“Sincerely Yours, Shurik”) and the 2001 Russian Booker (“Kukotsky’s Case”). Last year, she received the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, an international human rights award for promoting women’s freedom.