debut Russian books
to read this year
When we typically think of Russian literature, we think of the classics typically written under the Tsar dynasty and later under Stalin’s rule. We are already familiar with the Tolstoys, the Checkhovs, the Pushkins and Dostoevskys of the 19th and 20th century authors that you’ll find in any local library, yet the same isn’t being said for contemporary Russian writers. So we’ve assembled a list of Russian writers of our time as well as Russian related books you should have on your TBR list.
A Swim In The Pond In The Rain
by George Saunders
Winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017 and finalist for his story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December in the National Book Award, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University for the last twenty years.
Already dubbed as one of the books to look forward to in 2021 by The Guardian, and recommended by the likes of best-selling author Glennon Doyle and Parul Sehgal, book critic at The New York Times, A Swim In The Pond In The Rain already has much accolade buzz. This book is a masterclass in writing and reminds readers that writing, though romantic, is also a technical craft that one has to train and retrain in all the time. It also asks the seemingly-lofty question, “what ethics should be in a writer’s arsenal?”.
by Varia Bortsova
Following the popular Instagram and Twitter, Soviet Visuals by Varia Bortsova is a witty, nostalgic and closer glimpse at life behind the Iron Curtain.
The digital archive and online community curates images, photographs, illustrations, propaganda art and occasional soundbites. Everything from architecture to fashion, and travel, this is the next coffee table book you’ll need.
Bride and Groom
by Alisa Ganieva, translated by Carol Apollonio
A novel set in Dagestan, Russia, Bride and Groom follows the relationship of two people struggling to get married due to family chaos, politics, religion and all the things that can come between love itself.
Adapted into a radio broadcast, Bride and Groom has received a wide reception due the themes it isn’t shy away to cover. Most definitely an author to watch out for.
Dostoevsky in Love
by Alex Christofi
Most of us may be familiar with the title Crime and Punishment, some of us may even have it on our shelves, but what’s not common knowledge is the love that followed the Russian icon.
In Dostoevsky in Love by Alex Christofi, excerpts of the author’s work are entwined with Dostoevsky’s life itself. Whether it’s the three women whose lives were connected to Dostoevsky or the Siberian prison camp he spent four years in to the shy and empathetic friend he was, Christofi’s shapes the memoir that Dostoevsky never had time to write. A biography that’s also going to be a must-read.
Love and Youth: Essential Stories
by Ivan Turgenev
Though this listicle is about contemporary Russian writing, Love and Youth: Essential Stories is a new collection of lyrical translations by Nicolas Pasternak Slater and Maya Slater of Turgenev’s great novella First Love in addition to his classic stories.
Having written about interconnected lives, with complexities which affect everyone from the gentry to the layman, Turgenev’s observations were a social commentary of the changing times. One even we can learn from in 2021.
Three Apples Fell From The Sky
by Narine Abgaryan
Set in an isolated village in the Armenian mountains, Three Apples Fell From The Sky is a modern romance novel that’s sold over 160,000 copies.
In the midst of ordinary village life, a romance happens between two of the most stubborn and single residents. As this relationship typically becomes something new for the villagers to gossip about while harvesting, making baklava and tidying their houses, this is a tale about intimate communities and what takes place when the unimaginable serendipitously happens. Three Apples Fell From The Sky should be your next comfort read.
Illustrations: Khadia Ulumbekova