From March 24 to March 28, the international fair of intellectual literature Non / fiction will present the main literary novelties of the season at the Moscow Gostiny Dvor. Forced in 2020 due to the coronavirus to reduce to the format of online meetings, this year the fair is returning to its previous scale – 29 participating countries, more than 300 publishers and bookselling companies, and an expected 30,000 visitors. The choice of books for them is the broadest and therefore difficult. Vedomosti chose 13 editions.
Portraits of the era
At the stand of Elena Shubina’s Editors (RESH) will be waiting for several portraits of the era, written in different genres and on different materials. The leaders of the readers’ attention predictably turned out to be the future literary blockbuster by Guzel Yakhina “Echelon to Samarkand”, created, obviously, with an eye to a possible film adaptation.
The theme of the famine in the Volga region is masterfully packaged in the cinematic format of “red Eastern”: in the train, nicknamed the “garland” and hastily formed from the former field church, an “aristocratic” carriage with candelabra and painted chamber pots and passenger cars of all stripes, they are evacuated from Kazan to Samarkand five hundred children dying of hunger.
On the two-week journey, they meet people of different mental dispositions, social status and origins, from die-hard red commissars to miraculously survived former White Guards and drunken people to the point of complete loss of emotional sensitivity of the Chekists. But all of them, in extreme circumstances, show empathy for the sake of saving children. There are no good and bad people, there are good and bad deeds, the author convinces us, who has created a fascinating literary road-movie based on tragic historical material.
“Literature, it seems, is still assuming the function of a historical science, which is just getting closer to the analytical comprehension of the topic of dispossession, hunger, arrests, camps,” says Elena Shubina, head of the RESH. – The transformation of a tragic theme into lofty prose is a very difficult task. “Echelon to Samarkand” in this sense has taken place. The author was able to strike a balance between the horror of the existence of heroes – street children are taken to the warm south to save them from hunger, some of them die on the way – and the formal artistic task: to write so that the reader can read, and the heroes are not humiliated. “
Another journey in time from RESH is the “Schultz Archive” by culturologist Vladimir Paperny, woven from the author’s personal memories and reflections. The main character of the book, Alexander Schultz, emigrates from Russia to Los Angeles, where one day he receives a parcel with archival materials from his family, and childhood memories of the 1950s – 1960s come to mind, Moscow, Leningrad, the Caucasus, Milan are mixed, recognizable faces flash, folding into a mosaic portrait of the era.
The release of the Individuum Publishing House “The Newest History of Russia in 14 Bottles of Vodka” by Denis Puzyrev is an example of the syncretic genre, beloved by the publishing house. This book can be read, for example, as a historical non-fiction about the situation in the alcohol industry in Russia after the collapse of the USSR, told through the key names familiar to everyone (for example, “Dovgan”, “Putinka”, and “Stolichnaya”, of course), which drag along much more voluminous plots.
Political and criminal motives are naturally interwoven into the conversation. “The book can also be viewed as a kind of stress test for business in Russia,” comments Felix Sandalov, Editor-in-Chief of Individuum. – Despite the gigantic turnover and the external attractiveness of the vodka business, there are a lot of people who got burned at this, literally and figuratively. So the story in which what happened in Russia is viewed through vodka as through the prism is rather bloody and exciting. “
Place in history
Every publisher knows how important it is to choose the right time for a book to come out. In the opinion of Sergei Turko, editor-in-chief of the publishing house Alpina Publisher, the writer Mikhail Zygar has a talent not only to respond in his books to questions of concern to people, but also surprisingly accurately choose the time for them. This is what his book “All Are Free” has turned out to be.
From a formal point of view, it is about the 1996 elections, but in fact – about what happened after. “Once having broken democratic procedures over the knee, the country was left hostage to new methods of convincing the people of which ruler to vote for,” comments Turko. – If someone does not like the current state propaganda and the logic “as if it didn’t get worse,” then in search of its origins, it is worth paying attention to 1996, when the elections could really become free, but they didn’t. The oligarchs were ready only for freedom controlled in their interests – well, that’s how we live. “
As is well known today, more than a hundred years later, the German sealed carriage of the third class, which returned Lenin to Russia from Switzerland, had radical consequences for the country. Catherine Merridale, British writer and historian, in her book Lenin on the Train. The Journey That Changed the World, ”published by Corpus, explored all aspects of this journey in detail. Sounds authentic, reads captivating.
The study of the empire as a form of government is devoted to the new book of the publishing house “Alpina non-fiction” “Empires of the Middle Ages from the Carolingians to the Genghisids” edited by the French historian-medievalist, professor from Lyon Sylvain Guggenheim. Sixteen scholars talk about empires that existed in the same historical period in different parts of the world. “Among them are the well-known Carolingians, Plantagenets, the Mongol Empire and Byzantium, and the much less famous Serbian and Japanese empires, the Aztecs and Mayans, and even the Malay thalassocracy of Srivijaya,” says Pavel Podkosov, the publishing house’s general director. “The purpose of the book is to show what is common in these very different formations, to understand what power is in the Middle Ages.”
A useful reframing skill – the ability to look from a new angle at well-known literary texts – is taught by Leonid Klein’s book Useless Classics, published by Alpina Publisher. “It’s amazing Klein’s ability to see what others may not notice,” says Anna Vasilenko, project manager of Alpina Publisher. “His interpretations of classical literature (and, by the way, cinema) provide new knowledge and advice for business, but, more importantly, inspire learning to work outside the box with different sources of information.” For example, Klein regards Dead Souls as a brilliant business idea that Chichikov failed to implement, and War and Peace as a case for the successful implementation of a large-scale project.
In this world, as you know, only death and taxes are inevitable (the authorship of the statement is attributed to Benjamin Franklin). Discussions around taxes are ongoing and active, but the topic of death in society is still largely taboo. Alpina Non-Fiction went against taboos and published a book by the physician and scientist Haider Warrich, Modern Death.
How medicine changed the way out of life ”, which touches upon all aspects of modern death at once, from the molecular mechanisms of cell death to the legal battles over voluntary euthanasia. “Everything changes, and even such an eternal phenomenon as death is undergoing radical changes,” says Podkosov. “We die much later than our ancestors, and the rituals of death are now completely different. The ethics of death is also gradually changing. Until recently, doctors were omnipotent in matters of dying, but now in many countries the patient has the right not only to life, but also to death. In Russia, it is still not the patient who decides, but the doctor. This book may well start a discussion about palliative care in the country. We need a public dialogue about death, because everyone has the right to decide what his death will be like ”.
Well, next to death, of course, love. The main bestseller of spring from the publishing house “Sinbad” – Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel “My Dark Vanessa” – just about love. European critics have already christened the novelty “Lolita” of the #MeToo era “, and for good reason – the reader has to learn not a light, but a dark story. Russell writes about the first love with dire consequences – the love of a teacher and a student, doomed from the beginning and predictably ending badly. This is the story of a victim who, even years after what happened, cannot find the strength to comprehend what she has experienced and continues to seek excuses for the terrible plot of her youth.
On the market of illustrated books today you can find anything you want, but the publishing house “Belaya Vorona” / Albus Corvus managed to release a truly unique craft book – a comic strip based on Pushkin’s poem “Gusar”, made in the technique of lithography. The book was painted in an old workshop on lithographic stones, the illustrations were made by Tanya Kormer, and the text was written backwards. “This is a very complex and interesting technique, colossal work and, moreover, an attempt to re-read ‘our everything’, to make it more accessible for adolescents,” says the editor-in-chief of the publishing house Ksenia Kovalenko. – The poem was written in 1833. According to one of the versions, its plot is taken from a Little Russian demonic fairy tale, according to the other – it is borrowed from Orest Somov’s story “The Kiev Witches”.
The benefits of optimism
The Midnight Library by British writer Matt Haig, published by Livebook, is a tale of the art of going through life without regret for what has been done or not done. And also about the ability to believe in yourself and that the right decision is the one you made. The protagonist of the novel, a 35-year-old music teacher from Bedford, is on the verge of death and ends up in the library. The library is not easy: each of the books you read gives you the opportunity to live life anew, and each time differently.
Periods of life turbulence, of varying duration and severity, fall on everyone. At such moments, requests appear on social networks to advise a book that will help restore psychological tone. Here’s a piece of advice: “On the Benefits of Optimism” – the first literary portrait in Russian by Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, written by Alexander Livergant and published by RESH. Palem Grenville Woodhouse, the greatest English writer of the twentieth century, lived a long and fulfilling life, the attitude towards which is wittily and accurately characterizes the extremely apt title of his biography.
The book by Rimma Rappoport, a teacher of Russian language and literature at the Sirius school in Sochi, is called “I don’t want to read. What prevents a child from falling in love with books ”(Individuum). The author has a versatile background in this sense: she grew up in a family of writers where refusing to read was, if not a crime, then a trauma – both for the parents and for the child.
Rappoport unravels numerous tangle of parental fears associated with the fact that the child prefers something else to books. In particular, it examines whether hanging on the Internet really reduces empathy, affects socialization, and impairs imagination. “For Rimma, the question is not how to get high school students to read Dostoevsky, but how to interest them, draw parallels with modernity,” Sandalov notes. – She is interested in talking about whether it is appropriate to discuss Oksimiron on a par with the poets of the Silver Age. So that literature turns into a fascinating journey for children from an obligation. “