Alma books shares its passion for Russian fiction

Having studied Russian at university, I felt I had to share my passion for Russian literature with British readers. At Hesperus Press I published many lesser-known works by major Russian writers such as Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Leskov and Tolstoy. Since launching Oneworld Classics and Alma Books in 2005, I have continued my original project on a more ambitious scale and have expanded it to include works by contemporary Russian authors.

Alexander Terekhov's novel The Rat-Killer - published by Alma Books in June 2008 and influenced by the author's experience of growing up in a small industrial town in central Russia - is definitely one of the best Russian books I have ever read. It is a work, which has the power both to inform new, non-Russian audiences about contemporary Russia, and to communicate a universal message about what lies behind the veneer of civilization, wherever it is found. The novel deals with greed, corruption and self-delusion, as the powers-that-be seek to create and commodify a non-existent pre-Soviet history for their town. The Rat-Killer points uncomfortably to the unpalatable possibility that human society is no more civilized than a rat's colony. With its black humour and piercing satirical insight, this book can be located in the classical Russian tradition, but also incorporates elements from the experimental aesthetic of Soviet-era writing. I strongly believe this book can become a classic of the future, and recommend it to all readers who enjoyed Bulgakov's Master and Margarita (which Oneworld Classics has just published in a new translation by Hugh Aplin) or Bely's Petersburg (to be published in November by Pushkin Press in a new translation by John Elsworth).

Another book I am looking forward to publishing (in the autumn of 2009) is Live Souls, by one of the greatest living Russian authors, Dmitri Bykov. The book has become a bombshell in Russia since its publication two years ago, and I am sure it is destined to leave a profound mark on the consciousnesses of Western readers.

I believe that Russian writing has been and continues to be one of the greatest driving forces of world literature, and I hope that more and more people will be converted to its charms.

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