One of the most popular searches leading to my blog is ’modern Russian literature’. So, I’m starting a series of blog posts about contemporary Russian authors and their books.
I’ll start with one of the most prolific and popular authors, Boris Akunin. It’s a pen name of the writer, blogger and lately political activist, Grigory Сhkhartishvili.
Boris Akunin shot into zenith of the Russian literary world with his book series about a private detective Erast Fandorin and his adventures, mostly set in the dying Russian empire, but also in the Ottoman Empire (The Turkish Gambit) and Japan (The Diamond Chariot). These books could be seen as purely genre detective novels, with each story exploring a new sub-genre. The language is rich yet accessible. The narrative is witty and often humourous. The first several books have already been translated into English and many other languages.
As if creating this massive book series wasn’t enough, Akunin also penned a mystery trilogy called Pelagia featuring a nun acting as a private investigator. The language here is more exquisite and the stories will keep you on the edge of your seats. The trilogy is also available in English, with the final story, set in the Palestine in the beginning of XXth century, describing a fictional second arrival of Christ. This is my favourite. At the same time, Akunin wrote another book series featuring a Erast Fandorin’s grandson, Nicholas, and his adventures in the modern-day Russia.
In the past ten years, Akunin was busy writing more books in the Fandorin series, he also created a ‘book genre’ series with separate volumes called a children novel, a spy novel, a scifi, etc. A couple of years ago the literary beaumonde in Russia was thrilled with arrival of two new genre writers, Anatoly Brusnikin and Anna Borisova (their books aren’t available in English yet) who turned out to be Chartishvilli’s other pen names. So, Grigory Tchartishvili has an astonishing productivity, hell, he writes way faster than I can read.
Chkhartishvili started out in the literary world as a translator of American, English and Japanese novels into Russian, he had lived in Japan, and his Erast Fandorin character has many connections to this country as well. Chkhartishvili also recently wrote a serious literary novel Aristonomia, taking place in Russia during the February and October revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War. Akunin also experimented in transmedia: his 10-volume ‘cinematic’ novel Bruderschaft with Death enjoyed wide popularity in Russia. In addition, he writes non-fiction, my favourite being The Writer and Suicide.
What are the qualities that make Chartishvili/Akunin unique: his incredible erudition and attention to detail, his nicely flowing and humourous writing voice and his keen interest in history. Akunin now plans an eight-volume opus about Russian history, which he promises will be accessible to the broad audience. If you are looking for an entertaining yet witty reads and you like detective stories with mystery and adventure, Akunin is your writer.
Akunin – from Japanese 悪人 – villain.
Learn in more detail about Boris Akunin and his bibliography on Wikipedia.