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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Readers, Writers Turn to Memoirs




For many years fiction was much more popular in this country than non-fiction. Not any longer.


So far this is only a trend, not yet a hard fact. The number of new novels published every month is still much higher than that of any other genre. But the many literary critics, as well as ordinary readers, attest to the growing popularity of the memoir.


Post-Soviet freedoms have made it possible to be quite frank and open about the past. And readers have very quickly realized that memoirs can be as fascinating as any novel, with the additional attraction of being true.


Andrei Voznesensky, who since the early 1960s has been one of the most popular and famous of Russian poets, published last month a voluminous book of reminiscences "Na Virtualnom Vetru" ("A Virtual Wind") with Vagrius publishers, selling for 25 rubles.


Each chapter of the book is devoted to the poet's meetings with celebrities: Pablo Picasso and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Henry Moore and Bob Dylan, Lilya Brik and Jean-Paul Sartre, Vladimir Vysotsky, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Kerensky.


"It is not important to our conscience whether a person is dead or alive," says Voznesensky. "For example, Pasternak for me is much more alive than hundreds of the present members of the Writers Union. ... And every fate is a sensation if it is the fate of a true personality. In the 1960s, I was the first to start many things. Reading poetry at Luzhniki stadium -- I was there. The first evening of Russian poetry in Paris -- I performed. At Town-Hall in the [United] States, the same thing. I was the only Russian author who was illustrated by Mark Chagall. The only one who talked with [Martin] Heidegger."


Vitaly Amursky's collection of conversations with famous Russian authors Zapechatlyonniye Golosa ("Recorded Voices"), came out in April with MIK publishers. Voznesensky is not among Amursky's dozen and a half interlocutors, but many other names, no less famous, are in the book, including Iosif Brodsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Andrei Bitov and Oleg Volkov.


The first copies of a contemporary memoir by Sergei Romanov, who is still in his 30s, were presented at Dom Knigi on Tuesday by the author himself. Journalist, publisher and author of crime novels, Romanov collected several hundred of his short sketches, previously published in periodicals, in a 320-page hardcover Baiki pro... ("Tales about..."), published by Eksim.


Not all of these stories are about famous people, and they are closer in style to the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets than to Voznesensky. But they are fresh, some are rather amusing and could easily enrich future books by foreign journalists writing about contemporary Russia.