The ROSczytani Open Literary Club
In 2018, we invite you on a fascinating trip to the land of Dostoyevsky and Gogol, where literature has always had a privileged position, and writers were known as the engineers of the human soul. We want to dive together into Russian literature, but the contemporary kind. Together we’ll discover what people in Russia have been writing about since the collapse of the USSR, and what subjects are important both for readers and for writers. Join us for four [NM1] meetings looking at what contemporary Russia’s literature tells us about the country, but most of all what it can tell us about ourselves.
MEETING #1: ALEXANDRA MARININA, 27 March
MEETING #2: EUGENE VODOLAZKIN, 14 May
MEETING #3: GUZEL YAKHINA, 25 September
Special guest: GUZEL YAKHINA
Moderator: Agnieszka Sowińska
When: 25 September 2018 (Tuesday), 7 pm
This third meeting of our Open Literary Club featured Guzel Yakhina, whose celebrated novel was published in Poland a year ago. We spoke with the author not only about her book, which has been translated into more than 10 languages, but also about the subjects it addresses: confrontation with the machinery of power, cultural resistance and totalitarianism described via the female experience.
This book is the kind of literature that it seemed had disappeared completely with the collapse of the Soviet Union. There’s a whole constellation of bicultural writers, who belonged to one of the nations of the empire but wrote in Russian. Fazil Iskander, Yuri Rytkheu, Anatoli Kim, Olzhas Suleimenov, Chinghiz Aitmatov.… The traditions of this school are a deep knowledge of and love for their nation, a relationship to people of other cultures that’s full of dignity and respect, the subtle use of folklore. It seemed that this genre wouldn’t be continued, that it was a lost continent. But something rare happened, something joyful: a new prose writer, the young Tatar Guzel Yakhina, who has – entirely naturally – taken her place in the ranks of those masters.
The novel Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes is an outstanding debut. It has the greatest attribute of true literature: it reaches straight to your heart. The story of the fate of the heroine, a Tatar peasant from the times of dekulakisation, pulses with an authenticity, credibility and charm that hasn’t often been found in the huge flood of prose in recent decades.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Guzel Yakhina is a Russian writer, a Tatar born in Kazan. Her celebrated debut novel, Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes, has made a splash in Russia, winning awards including Big Book and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award. She studied foreign languages as well as screenwriting at a film academy.
MEETING #2: THE RUSSIAN UMBERTO ECO
Special guest: EUGENE VODOLAZKIN
Moderator: Tomasz Stawiszyński
When: 14 May 2018
We met the writer hailed as “the Russian Umberto Eco” and discussed his novel Laurus, which deals with faith and doubt, history, God and philosophy. The meeting was moderated by Tomasz Stawiszyński, a philosopher and commentator affiliated with the quarterly Przekrój and TOK FM Radio.
Vodolazkin was born in Kiev in 1964, completing a degree in the Philology Department of Kiev State university in 1986. After receiving his doctorate, he started working in the Department of Old Russian Literature at the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House), which was run by Dmitry Likhachov. His novel Solovyov and Larionov was a finalist for the 2009 Andrei Bely Prize and the 2010 Big Book. Laurus, his next book (Polish translation by Ewa Skórska published in 2015) – won this award in 2013. In 2016 his next book, The Aviator, was also honoured with this prestigious award.
ABOUT THE BOOK
What is the connection between literature and history? And why would a person devote his life to philosophy? During the meeting we’ll take a journey from Northern Rus to the Holy Land. Laurus has been translated into more than 20 languages, winning recognition in numerous competitions. This novel has brought the author the greatest acclaim. The story seems simple: the history of a medieval doctor and healer who commits a sin in his youth, and whose later path is filled with repentance and reparation. But Laurus is first and foremost a study of God and faith in God, about time and about lack of time, and also about love and self-denial. Laurus: A Non-Historical Novel is without a doubt good philosophical literature, and it could only be written by a specialist on medieval Rus’. “Everything in life comes back to us, and sooner or later we will have to answer for every action,” Vodolazkin writes.
MEETING #1: DINNER WITH A KILLER
Special guest: ALEKSANDRA MARININA
Moderator: Renata Kim
When: 27 March 2018
Alexandra Marinina is the most famous and most widely read Russian crime novelist. Her books have sold 50 million copies in her homeland, and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages, including Korean and Chinese.
“My success came exclusively because I didn’t expect it,” Marinina says. She was born in 1957 in Lviv to a family of lawyers, and worked for almost 20 years as a criminological researcher in the Militia. Her first story, co-written with Alexander Gorkin, was published in 1991 in Militsiya magazine. A year later she published her first novel, Confluence of Circumstances. That was the start of her most famous crime series, about Anastasia Kamenskaya, an analyst with the Moscow police.
Our meeting with the Tsarina of Russian crime fiction on Tuesday 27 March was the launch of ROSczytani, an open literary club. The author’s visit took place a few days after the Polish premiere of her new book Death as an Art (published by Czwarta Strona). In this novel Anastasia Kamenskaya and her young colleague, the detective Anton Stashis, investigate an attack on the director of the Novaya Moskva Theatre. During the investigation numerous suspects appear, all of them lie and the unravelling of the mystery turns on an inconspicuous event from the past.