We just have to wait for quantity to become quality - Interviews from London Book Fair

Alistair Burtenshaw: Now about some of the great classical writers: Tolstoy, Pushkin, various Russian authors that we are all familiar with partly through films and play productions. What really excites me about this, is the fact that I hope through this event and I’ve just had a look upstairs at all of the rights issues going on, people negotiating left, right and central all over the place and I hope that is a result of this event.

A lot of these new contemporary Russian writers will be translated into English, so that the young population of the UK, who are interested in Russia, have a chance to see something of Russian contemporary life style through the views of some of the authors, that we and our partners abroad brought over. That’s a really exciting event for me and I hope it will be for you and for the various audiences around the UK, who are the beneficiaries of all the visits of these authors.

Of course, we all look forward to tomorrow, as Alistair said, it’s the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space flight, very exciting time. I don’t know if we still have a link of Alistair to the ISS. If you are around for that, it’s going to be a very exciting moment. And for those of you, who don’t know, there’s a statue of Yuri Gagarin which will be brought to the UK to be unveiled on the 14th of July at The Mall, right opposite the Admiralty Arch and Captain Cook. That’s a fantastic event to look forward.

That’s all I wanted to say, just to wish you all the very best , please make the most of the authors’ visit while they’re here , get to talk to them, to see their presentations and don’t just stay in this place because the event is going all over London. I wish you all the best, enjoy the week.

Vladimir Grigoryev: I’ve been coming to London for the AST publishers for several years and now as I’m working for the government I’m delighted and I’m happy that together with the London Book Fair, and the British Council, and our friend and partner Academia Rossica we managed to organize the presentation of contemporary Russian literature and Russian publishing industry.

It’s already been mentioned that almost 50 Russian writers representing all the ages and different parts of Russia are here in London, probably for the first time in history, to represent the diversity of Russian literature.

The contemporary Russian literature is based on the great 19th century tradition, but in its diversity, and we’re happy to welcome all the major Russian writers here. Beside the writers, we managed to bring here almost 70 Russian publishers from different parts of Russia, mostly from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but still we have some publishers from other provinces and, as Alistair mentioned, there’ll be more than 100 events connected with writers and publishers, professional seminars and presentations of new books. We’ll exchange opinions, we’ll exchange information about how the fourth publishing industry in Europe and in the world is developing at the moment.

We’ll give you expert access to the insight of current Russian publishing industry, we’ll discuss what the burning issues not only for our industry, but for the European publishing industry are-copyright law, electronic publishing, motivation of the young generation for reading. So, I hope all the seminars and meeting organized by all of us will be interesting and I’ m also anticipating the great three days. Thank you.

Boris Akunin: I just wanted to say that it’s a great honor and still much greater embarrassment for me to be singled out of the 50 writers as the Author of the Day and the main feeling that I experience is uneasiness. I find it hard to look in the eyes of my colleagues, who are more worthy of this honor. But speaking about uneasiness I would like to say that it’s probably the key word to describe being a Russian writer in general. I mean when you are inside Russia it’s OK to be a writer, it’s great, because people do read books in Russia and a lot of people write books. Everybody in Russia wants to be a writer no matter how successful you are, if you are a high-government official, a TV-host, a billionaire, you are not entirely happy before you publish a book. The problems begin when we, Russian writers, go abroad, because literary agents and publishers they look at us with anticipation and you could read in their eyes – are you the new Tolstoy? Well, in fact you’re not, but this impact, this impression that Russian literature produced in the 19th century it’s a big obstacle to all of us, the contemporary Russian writers. We just cannot compete and compare, that’s why we’re feeling this constant atmosphere of disappointment around us when we go outside of the country. I just want to ask you to be patient with us. Now with the Internet, blogging and all that, there’re lots and lots of Russians who’re writing fiction, just this very moment there’re probably a million Russians bending over their computers and writing novels. You just wait and see before this quantity becomes quality. There must, surely, be a new Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky or Chekhov, some time soon. Be patient, please.

Voice of Russia


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