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Russian Writers on the World Book Market, Part 1
June 27, 2015 19:34

Foreign readers’ review is an important test not only for a particular writer as such, but also for the Russian culture in general. Success or failure of domestic books abroad shows how competitive we are in respect of ideas: to what extent the meanings created by our culture today are demanded and influential in the world.

A writer’s success abroad depends on translation first of all, but not only that. For example, Germany has preserved a good school of translators from Russian since the GDR epoch ajf publishing houses are traditionally interested in Russian prose, while the Leipzig Book Fair has always been a gate to the west for all the East European literature. Thus, success in Germany can promote Russian writers’ popularity in other markets as well.

Apart from translation and publishing environment, an author's demand abroad greatly depends on what, to whom and about whom he or she tells. That is eventually it depends on that image of the country and one’s own self that he or she “sells” to foreigners.

01. Polina Dashkova

What does she sell?

Normal Russia for normal people

Where is she most successful?

In Germany


Over one million book copies sold

Story of Success

Polina Dashkova is the most popular modern Russian-language writer in Germany: her detective novels have been translated there since the early 2000s. Her books are also translated into French and very well sold in France too. German publishers explain Polina Dashkova's success with an opt combination of several factors. On the one hand, Germany has always kept up interest in the Russian subject matter, and the Russian-language prose in particular. On the other hand, in the 1990s they were familiar only with classics, such as Feodor Dostoyevsky, or experimental post-modernist texts, such as those by Vladimir Sorokin who enjoyed wide popularity among student and academic circles.

However, neither Vladimir Sorokin nor Feodor Dostoyevsky could tell much about life in modern Russia. Thus Polina Dashkova, writing in the intellectual detective genre free from unwanted gore  and sheer glamour came pat: it is high-quality mass popular literature telling about today's Russian life everything that Germans want to know, but do not know whom to ask. Besides, every book authored by her has a captivating plot and a suspense intrigue. As a result Polina Dashkova's novels were highly estimated by both common readers, and experts: in 2006 she won the Bremen Radio Award for authors of detective and action prose.

02. Dmitry Glukhovsky

What does he sell?

The recipe of survival in the post-apocalyptic world

Where is he especially successful?

In Germany


Over 250 thousand book copies sold

Story of Success

His novel Metro 2033 was sold out in Germany with the circulation of more than 150 thousand copies, and a quarter of one million copies of the dilogy with its sequel Metro 2034 were sold. The action is set in post-apocalyptic Moscow, where the remains of population survived after a nuclear war found shelter in the Moscow subway and founded ten states that are at war with each other. In spite of the location, Dmitry Glukhovsky’s stories are quite international.

The matter is that Metro 2033 is a classical novel of growing-up, while Metro 2034 is a beautiful fairy tale about love and hatred against all the odds of monsters and epidemics.

The Europeans’ thirst for eschatology in the recent years has resulted in popularity of anti-Utopias and books about the end of the civilization on the Earth. Dmitry Glukhovsky, having lived in Europe for a few years, promptly fitted into this world trend. Besides, he has overcome usual Russian-centricity of domestic literature: he tells about the world where national borders are not as important as struggle for survival in general.

Russian Writers on the World Book Market, Part 2


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Literature Russian Writers Polina Dashkova Dmitry Glukhovsky  

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