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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Summing Up a Year In Books




The first week of September is sacred for every Russian book lover. This is when the International Moscow Book Fair is traditionally held at the All-Russian Exhibition Center, as the former VDNKh is now known.


Thousands of publishers from throughout Russia, along with participants from 50 or so foreign countries, will show and sell at record low prices tens of thousands of new titles released over the last year.


To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, this and the next two Bookworm columns will be devoted to an overview of last year's major winners in the Rus sian book market.


In compiling an annotated list of bestselling titles in different genres, I was previously guided by the weekly ratings published in the journal Knizhnoye Obozreniye (Book Review). I had to take into consideration the well-known fact that the ratings did not always give an objective picture. Any publisher could buy his place on the bestsellers' list of Russia's leading national book periodical for a few hundred bucks in cash.


But no longer. Now there is a new editor and new personnel at Knizhnoye Obozreniye, and they have decided to fight corruption in the office by eliminating their ratings and selling the space to several large booksellers. The lists these companies compile are so biased they're no longer of any use to anyone.


So this year I'm going solo.


Russian quality fiction


I could have given you the five dozen titles in the Smirnoff-Booker Prize long-list, released in July, but if we're talking about bestselling quality titles, widely sold throughout the country, then the list is much shorter:


"Generation P" by Viktor Pelevin, "Blue Lard" (Goluboye salo) by Vladimir Sorokin, "The Russian Book Of People" (Russkaya kniga lyudei) by Vladimir Tuchkov, and "Star Disease, or a Misanthrope's Maturity" (Zvyozdnaya bolezn, ili zrelye gody mizantropa) by Vyacheslav Repin.


Of these, the satirical post-modernism of Viktor Pelevin exerts the widest appeal on the young post-Soviet readership. Vladimir Sorokin, another young, cult author, has also won several thousand devoted fans of more sophisticated palates with his macabre surrealism.


Vladimir Tuchkov's short stories, a refined blend of journalism and modern psychological prose, have helped make him the literary darling of Russian glossy magazines, while Vyacheslav Repin's hefty debut novel has been labeled a modern saga and has been compared to Leo Tolstoy's "War And Peace" - whatever that might mean.


To be continued next week.