Russian Literature Festival opens in London

Known for her dramatic poetry readings, often accompanied by a live band, Vera Polozkova has gone from an unknown blogger to an award-winning representative of a new generation of writers. Source: ITAR-TASS

Known for her dramatic poetry readings, often accompanied by a live band, Vera Polozkova has gone from an unknown blogger to an award-winning representative of a new generation of writers. Source: ITAR-TASS

A three-week celebration of Russian literature and culture currently underway in London was launched with a musical perfomance by popular Russian poet Vera Polozkova.

The opening will be followed by 25 captivating events featuring outstanding Russian writers Mikhail Shishkin, Dmitry Bykov, Evgeny Vodolazkin and Vladimir Sharov as well as leading translators and literary critics.

Contemporary Russian writing is just one spotlight of the festival program. Two events will be dedicated to the symbolic 1000-year anniversary of Russian literature, celebrated this year. Evgeny Vodolazkin, a specialist in Russian medieval literature and a prominent writer, will shed light on the first Russian chronicle and then on the lives of medieval holy fools.

Classics will be remembered, too – Professor Ivan Esaulov will speak about Nikolai Gogol and Metaphysics of Russia, while popular writer and literary commentator Dmitry Bykov will lecture on geniuses of the 20th century – poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak.

Another Nobel Prize laureate, Joseph Brodsky will be remembered, too – with a screening of  “Joseph Brodsky: Conversation with a Heavenly Being,” a film that “offers a revealing insight into Brodsky's own identity and understanding of himself, his destiny, poetry and world order” according to the Festival organizers.

All these and more higlights of the SLOVO 2013 program you will find below (for the full program and the tickets, please, visit the web-site).

SLOVO 2013 Opening Night – Vera Polozkova Poetry Performance

Tuesday 5 March, 6:30 pm, MacDougall’s Arts

Known for her dramatic poetry readings, often accompanied by a live band, Polozkova has gone from an unknown blogger to an award-winning representative of a new generation of writers. She now brings her unique style to London to entertain and enlighten with her sharp cultural commentary. 

Vera Polozkova: Poetry Readings (in Russian with English translation)

Thursday 7 March, 6.30pm, Waterstones Piccadilly

Vera Polozkova will read her new poetry, including poems from recently published anthologies ‘Nepoemanie’ and ‘Photosynthesis’.

Rethinking History through Literature. Writer Vladimir Sharov in conversation with translator Oliver Ready (in Russian with English translation)

Friday 8 March, 6.30pm, Waterstones Piccadilly 

Renowned historical novelist Vladimir Sharov will talk about his works, presenting an alternate view of history through literature and philosophy.

He will discuss his books with Oliver Ready, winner of the Rossica Prize, who translated Sharov’s novel Before and During for English audiences and who has most recently translated Crime and Punishment for a new Penguin Classics edition.

Internal Colonisation: Russia’s Imperial Experience. Alexander Etkind in conversation with Dmitry Bykov (in Russian)

Sunday 10 March, 5pm, MacDougall’s Arts

Alexander Etkind, Professor of Russian Literature and Cultural History at King’s College, University of Cambridge, is joined by Dmitry Bykov to discuss Etkind’s book ‘Internal Colonisation: Russia’s Imperial Experience’, which takes a post-colonial approach to Russian cultural history to explore how the Russian empire took control of its own lands in the 19th Century and the role that writers played in this process. 

Dmitry Bykov is one of Russia’s most prominent and admired writers and public intellectuals, renowned for his novels, biographies, essays and literary criticism. 

The Price of the Word: Poetry and Media. An Evening with poet and media guru Demyan Kudryavtsev (in Russian with English translation)

Monday 11 March, 6:30 pm, Waterstones Piccadilly 

Demyan Kudryavtsev has had a hugely successful media career, from working as CEO of the publishing house Kommersant to serving as director for major broadcasting companies such as and TV6, but he is also known for his own creative output as a writer and poet.

He joins us to discuss the relationship between literature and the media based on his own extensive experiences and writings. 

Short Stories by Mikhail Segal (in Russian with English translation)

Monday 11 March, 8pm, Waterstones Piccadilly  

Known primarily as a film director, Mikhail Segal is also quickly becoming a highly regarded name in the world of Russian literature. His first collection of prose, titled ‘Youth’ was published in 2010, and is followed this year with the collection ‘Short Stories’.

In 2012 he directed the film Short Stories, which won numerous major awards, including Best Screenplay at the 23rd Kinotavr Festival, and was screened at the 6th London Russian Film Festival and the 56th BFI Film Festival. Segal will talk about specifics of working with words and with moving images. 

An Evening with Dmitry Bykov (in Russian with English translation)

Tuesday 12 March, 6.30pm, Waterstones Piccadilly 

Dmitry Bykov is one of the most prolific and influential writers in contemporary Russian literature, with works ranging from the hugely successful biography of Boris Pasternak to the literary sensation ZhD.

His books are always deeply philosophical, but at the same time deal with the hottest contemporary issues. His most recent novel, IKS, was released in 2012 to great critical acclaim. He has also developed the ‘Citizen Poet’ project, a series of performances of satirical poetry with strong political overtones inspired by Russian literature. 


Praktika Theatre Literary Performance (in Russian with English translation)

Wednesday 13 March, 6.30pm, Waterstones Piccadilly

To say that the Praktika theatre is one of the most cultured places in Moscow’s contemporary cultural landscape is definitely an understatement! Under the leadership of Eduard Boyakov, the theatre has become both the leading experimental laboratory for new drama in Russia and the most popular and fashionable theatre amongst the new generation of Russian intellectuals. 

We are thrilled to present an exclusive theatrical performance of poems written by leading contemporary Russian poets, featuring performances from some of the Praktika theatre’s talented actors: Irina Mikahilovskaya, Alisa Grebenshikova and Pavel Artemev. 

The evening will also feature the chance to take part in lottery to win books from the latest Russian poets!

Dmitry Bykov: Lectures . Vladimir Mayakovsky(in Russian)

Friday 15 March, 6.30pm, MacDougall’s Arts  

With a life and death full of controversy and mystery, it can be said that Mayakovsky embodied the hopes, aspirations, and eventual degeneration of the political and cultural ideals that spurred the 1917 revolution. Dmitry Bykov joins us to attempt to unravel the complex strands of Mayakovsky’s writings, political activism and art. 

Dmitry Bykov: LecturesBoris Pasternak

Saturday 16 March, 6.30pm, MacDougall’s Arts 

Dmitry Bykov’s biography of Boris Pasternak  won both the 2006 National Bestseller and Big Book awards. In his lecture Bykov will discuss the controversial life and works of Pasternak, in the context of uneasy relationship between Stalin and the Russian intelligentsia.

Celebrating 1000 Years of Russian Literature. Talk by Evgeny Vodolazkin  (in Russian)

Sunday 17 March, 5pm, MacDougall’s Arts

In 1113 the Russian Primary Chronicle, the first historical record of the Eastern Slavs, was completed after around 100 years of work. This means that it has been 1000 years since the first words were written of the document considered to be the beginning of Russian literature.

To celebrate this we are joined by Evgeny Vodolazkin, known both as a contemporary writer and an academic expert in the field of Early Russian Literature, both of which he combines in his unique novels to bring new life to ancient stories and texts.


The Light and the Dark  An Evening with the writer Mikhail Shishkin

Monday 18 March, 6.30pm, MacDougall’s Arts

Mikhail Shishkin marks the publication of the English translation of his critically acclaimed novel The Light and the Dark (originally published in Russian as Pismovnik) by prominent UK publisher Quercus.

Mikhail Shishkin’s celebrated fiction engages Russian and European literary traditions and forges and equally expansive vision for the future of literature. He has received numerous literary prizes, including the Big Book Award, the National Bestseller Award and the Russian Booker Prize.

Film Night: Written by Sergei Dovlatov (in Russian with English subtitles)

Tuesday 19 March, 9 pm, Mari Vanna

This unique animated documentary is made up of fragments of well-known émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov’s works, letters and interviews, consisting of details, photographs, drawings, sounds, sorrows… Shot in St Petersburg, The Komi Republic, Tallin, the Pushkin mountains and New York, this film tells a story about living, reflection, and trying to see the world through the eyes of a writer.

Evgeny Vodolazkin: Russian Glass Bead Game  (in Russian)

Wednesday 20 March, 6:30 pm, MacDougall’s Arts

Ever wondered what the life of a holy fool looked like? Evgeny Vodolazkin’s latest novel is a dynamic postmodern page-turner which gives a vivid impression of life in medieval Russia and enables the reader to understand the minds of people living at this time.

It is full of adventure, playful, witty, but never didactic. This is the real world of Old Russia.

Originally known as an academic expert in Old Russian Literature, Evgeny Vodolazkin was catapulted to prominence in 2009 by his hugely popular debut novel Solovyov and Larionov, which was shortlisted for three major awards: the Andrei Bely Prize, the Big Book Award and the Nos Literary Prize.

Vodolazkin’s latest novel, Lavr, shuns the clichés of historical fiction in favour of capturing the spirit and power of the ancient texts that he knows so well. 

Translating Russia. Translators Arch Tait, Hugh Aplin and Oliver Ready in conversation

Thursday 21 March, 6:30 pm, Waterstones Piccadilly

This conversation will represent three generations of literary translators as Oliver Ready was taught by Hugh Aplin who was in his turn taught by Arch Tait!

This event also marks the launch of an exciting new online resource for translators of Russian: This website will serve as a central hub for translators of Russian literature, publishers, literary agents and students of translation.

It will feature masterclass blogs from leading translators, a showcase of the best recent translations, and information about upcoming literary events and prizes, but will most importantly provide a social media platform for publishers and translators to contact each other in order to collaborate on new projects.

Nikolay Gogol and Metaphysics of RussiaTalk by Ivan Esaulov

Friday 22 March, 6:30 pm, Waterstones Piccadilly

Gogol is one of the most mysterious of all Russian authors, but is simultaneously one of the keys to understanding both future literary eras and the past foundations of Russia’s great spiritual and literary traditions.

As a Russian Dante, Gogol travels through the metaphysical geography of Russian life, culture and history, leaving clues for future travellers. The only question is whether we can now interpret those clues. 

Professor Ivan Esaulov is a well-known researcher of Russian literature and author of numerous books and articles. The title of his latest work, ‘Russian Classics, a New Understanding’, speaks for itself. In an attempt to identify the archetypal paradigms of Russian literature, Esaulov turns to the world of Gogol to find a new path. 

An Evening with Irina Yasina (in Russian)

Saturday 23 March, 6:30 pm, MacDougall's Arts

Irina Yasina is a leading human rights activist, journalist, and writer who has worked for major publications and news agencies including Interfax, The Moscow News, The Moscow Times and Echo of Moscow, as well as having been on the board of directors for the Open Russia Foundation established by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

She is also well known as a blogger, providing insightful commentary into Russia’s often turbulent political situation. Her autobiographical novel ‘History of an Illness: an Attempt at Happiness’, an account of living with multiple sclerosis, was shortlisted for the NOS Prize in 2011, and Yasina now campaigns tirelessly for an improvement in rights for disabled people in Russia. 

Joseph Brodsky: Conversation with a Heavenly Being. Presented by Valentina Polukhina (in English with Russian translation)

Tuesday 26 March, 8 pm, Mari Vanna

This evening is dedicated to the life and work of Joseph Brodsky, featuring a screening of ‘Joseph Brodsky: Conversation With a Heavenly Being', a film based around a conversation that took place in New York in 1993 between Brodsky and critic Solomon Volkov which offers a revealing insight into Brodsky's own identity and understanding of himself, his destiny, poetry and world order.

The event will be joined by Brodsky expert and biographer Valentina Polukhina. 

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