A list of 104 Russia-related books published this year “that show exceptional promise.”
Starobinets, Anna: The Plucker: A Beastly Crimes Book , translated by Jane Bugaeva; Dover, August 2019. Anna Starobinets is by all accounts a remarkable writer: her thrillers and everyday horror stories, written for children and adults alike, have earned her a prominent position in the mainstream of Russian literary fiction (and more than 30,000 Facebook followers). This detective series for elementary-aged readers has matched her existing popularity in Russian. It follows the Holmesian pair of Chief Badger and his young assistant Badgercat as they attempt to keep the peace in the Far Woods. Three books in the series are scheduled to be published this year with detailed illustrations. Book one can be found here . Alexander Utkin, The Water Spirit: Gamayun Tales Vol. 2 . Translated by Lada Morozova. Nobrow Press, January 2019. Utkin’s series of graphic novels based on Russian folklore features lush illustrations that alternate between crisp figure drawings and natural elements that seem to burst off the page. Aimed at readers aged 10 and up, this series tells the story of a merchant and his son who find themselves entangled in a world of nature spirits. The first book in the series, The King of Birds , can be found here . Rebecca Podos, The Wise and the Wicked . Balzer + Bray, May 2019. This fantasy novel for young adults features an innovative premise: every woman in the Russian-American Chernyavsky family has a vision of her own death at the moment she comes of age. That vision is seemingly the last power that has survived the family’s escape from the powerful men who tried to hunt them down in Russia. Young Ruby Chernyavsky unearths new mysteries about her family’s powers and teams up with her cousin to solve them at great personal risk. Podos, a Lambda Award winner for her previous YA writing, is an author worth following. Yevgenia Nayberg, Anya’s Secret Society . Charlesbridge, March 2019. Anya grows up in Russia, where gossip about her left-handedness leads her to imagine a secret society of left-handed artists like herself. This picture book for beginning readers presents a view on immigration that will resonate with some but that others might find overly optimistic. Regardless, its illustrations look like they have been painted on wood carved in bas relief, and its storyline will get readers thinking about how society treats those who do not match its expectations. Katia Raina, Castle of Concrete: A Novel . Young Europe Books, June 2019. The collapse of the Soviet Union allows Sonya’s dissident mother to return from exile in Siberia, and Sonya begins to break out of her self-conception as a timid, ordinary Soviet citizen. This young adult novel explores her personal growth as the creative Jewish girl navigates a romance with a potentially anti-Semitic boy while her mother dreams of emigration. to share with young minds Historical dramas with strong female leads If you think “women’s fiction” isn’t worth your time, these books may very well change your mind. Their authors are chin-deep in the history of science, theater, war, and more, and that research produces a range of unexpected plots. In this category, women fly apparent suicide missions into Nazi territory and survive, struggle to build their careers as war endangers their loved ones, and shed new light on events from the medieval to the modern. Click for nine books Rachel Barenbaum, A Bend in the Stars . Grand Central Publishing, May 2019. This debut novel has a fascinating plot. Miri and Vanya Abramov are raised by their matchmaker grandmother in a small Jewish community. Miri is poised to become one of Russia’s only female surgeons, and Vanya is hammering at the cracks in Einstein’s theory of relativity. As war breaks out in 1914, both are torn between escaping with their lives and trying to survive in a homeland where they both might make scientific history. However, when Vanya goes missing and Miri decides to look for him, both their safety and their scientific discoveries are at risk. With impressive early endorsements and comparisons to hits like All the Light We Cannot See, this is a novel to watch and to read. Garth Ennis and Russ Braun, The Night Witches . Dead Reckoning, March 2019. The women who flew Soviet biplanes in extremely risky missions against the Nazis are already a historic legend, but this graphic novel approaches that history from a new angle. First, it depicts the life of a single “Night Witch” visually, putting readers in the hands of two veterans in the world of comics. Second, it explores the complications of standing (or flying) between the Nazis and the threat of Soviet repressions, complicating a narrative that tends to be purely patriotic. Janet Fitch, Chimes of a Lost Cathedral . Little, Brown and Company, July 2019. The sequel to Fitch’s highly successful Revolution of Marina M . , this book finds Marina reeling from the aftermath of the October Revolution and struggling to keep herself safe as she carries a child to term during the Russian Civil War. When she returns to Petrograd to try and make a difference in the city’s fate, Marina faces tragedy and continues coming into her own as a poet. Katherine Arden, The Winter of the Witch . Del Rey, January 2019. The final installment in the Winternight Trilogy, which began with The Bear and the Nightingale , follows its gifted heroine Vasilisa in her final effort to save Moscow from the magical forces that threaten it. Heavily inspired by Russian folklore, this series also relies on extensive research into the everyday lives of medieval Slavs. Martha Hall Kelly, Lost Roses: A Novel . Ballantine Books, April 2019. The bestselling author of Lilac Girls , which centered on the very real World War II-era philanthropist Caroline Ferriday, returns with a prequel set a generation earlier. In it, Eliza Ferriday and her friend Sofya, a Romanov cousin, struggle through war and revolution. Varinka, a member of Sofya’s domestic staff, brings a working-class point of view to their story. C. W. Gortner, The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna . Ballantine Books, July 2019. This novel follows the life of Russia’s penultimate empress from her childhood as a Danish princess named Minnie to the aftermath of the revolution that cost her family their lives. While the revolutions of 1917 have been fictionalized plenty, the queen mother’s unique perspective on the intrigues and the downfall of the Russian aristocracy is featured here for the first time. Kate Quinn, The Hu ntress , William Morrow Paperbacks, February 2019. This latest book from a bestselling author of historical fiction features three central characters: a Soviet Night Witch who barely survived World War II, a war correspondent-turned-Nazi hunter, and a 17-year-old budding photographer living in postwar Boston. What brings them all together is the mystery of a Nazi assassin known as the Huntress who, like many real-world Nazis, has escaped to the United States. Susana Aikin, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling . Kensington, January 2019. Lily, who has eluded her family’s domestic expectations by becoming an actress, is forced to flee London for St. Petersburg when a mentor sets out to destroy her reputation. When she falls into an affair with a radical aristocrat, however, Lily must find a new role for herself in the eastern city of Vladivostok. Unlike most of the novels in this category, which center on the two world wars, this story features the Russian-Japanese War that set the stage for those conflicts. Imogen Edwards-Jones, The Witches of St. Petersburg: A Novel . Harper Paperbacks, January 2019. Edwards-Jones, an experienced author in multiple genres, based this novel on real historical figures who practiced black magic in pre-revolutionary Russia. In the book, two sisters from Montenegro must navigate the erotic and social obstacles of the Romanov court despite their outsider status. As the Tsarina, who is perceived as a foreigner herself, becomes increasingly desperate to give birth to a male heir, she turns to the sisters and their skills in the occult, inadvertently introducing Grigory Rasputin into her family. and girl power for the ages Revolution! The Russian Revolutions of 1917 are known in English for a handful of charismatic leaders and an explosive effect on the politics of the 20th century. These stories fill out that picture by introducing figures who dove into revolutionary activities without conspiring to rule Russia themselves, leaving a detailed paper trail behind them. In addition, these books make clear that 1917 was just one very major mark on a long timeline of Russian revolutionary thought. Click for three books Alexandra Kollontai, Alexandra Kollontai: Writings from the Struggle . Translated and edited by Cathy Porter. Haymarket Books, March 2019. Victor Serge, Notebooks: 1934–1947 . Translated by Mitchell Abidor and Richard Greeman. NYRB Classics, April 2019. Victor Serge was involved in socialist anarchism from a very young age and faced the threat of repression in Belgium, France, Spain, Russia, Vichy France, and ultimately Mexico. In the process, he managed to write multiple novels, do his best to expose the injustices of the Stalinist regime, and create a record of his eventful life. These notebooks include appearances by André Breton, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Leonora Carrington, and Octavio Paz along with elegies to Lev Trotsky, Osip Mandelstam, and Maxim Gorky. Boris Savinkov, Pale Horse: A Novel of Revolutionary Russia . Translated by Michael R. Katz. University of Pittsburgh Press, May 2019. Michael Katz follows his translation of Crime and Punishment with this classic novel, whose plot adheres closely to the assassination of Sergei Alexandrovich, a son of Alexander II. Savnikov aims to delve into the psychology of a group of revolutionary conspirators and explore the motivations that underlie political violence. on a century of drastic change Jewish life and history Even with the enormous impact Eastern European Jews have already made on Anglophone culture, there is always more to write and read about them. The number of remarkable books on Ashkenazi culture that will be published this year only underscores that fact. Among them is a formally impressive first-person novel, a volume of military history on the seventh to 11th centuries CE, and multiple new accounts of 20th-century border-crossers who managed to build meaningful lives out of chaos. לייענט וועגן אַכט ביכער Margarita Khemlin, Klotzvog . Translated by Lisa Hayden. Columbia University Press (Russian Library), August 2019. This novel about Jewish identity, wartime trauma, and Soviet life is a character study of the insufferable Maya Abramovna Klotzvog. Klotzvog, in the tradition of first-person narrators like Dostoevsky’s man from underground, has far too much to tell you about her Ukrainian childhood, her evacuation to Kazakhstan, and her series of unfortunate husbands, but that doesn’t mean readers will be able to look away. This is not the first time Hayden, a major translator of contemporary Russian literature, has tackled Khemlin’s work. Mikhail Zhirohov, David Nicolle, and Christa Hook, The Khazars: A Judeo-Turkish Empire on the Steppes, 7th–11th Centuries AD . Osprey Publishing, January 2019. The Khazar Empire, which controlled areas from southeast Europe to western Central Asia for seven centuries, was also the largest Jewish-ruled state in world history. This detailed study of the empire includes numerous illustrations and diagrams. It depicts military strategies and groundbreaking metalworking technologies that would lay the foundations for Ukrainian and Russian statecraft. Luba Jurgenson, Where There Is Danger . Translated from French by Meredith Sopher. Academic Studies Press, October 2019. Jurgenson, a Jewish writer, scholar, and translator who is widely recognized in France, published this account of living bilingually to great acclaim. In it, she analyzes her own experiences standing between Russian and French in a series of anecdotes. Steven J. Zipperstein, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History . Liveright, July 2019. An accomplished historian writes on a 1903 anti-Semitic rampage that served as a prototype for pogroms and genocides to come. As he investigates the attacks that killed 49 and left 600 raped or wounded, Zipperstein aims to sift through widespread misconceptions about Kishinev and uncover the origins of civil rights institutions that still operate today. Francine Klagsbrun, Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel . Schocken, April 2019. The author, a frequent columnist on both Jewish and women’s issues, has created an extensive biography of Israel’s controversial fourth prime minister—and its first representative to the USSR. This book includes Meir’s most prominent actions as a politician but moves beyond them to shed light on her background and her final years. Kadya Molodovsky, A Jewish Refugee in New York: Rivke Zilberg’s Journal . Translated from Yiddish by Anita Norich. Indiana University Press, April 2019. Educated in present-day Belarus, Poland, and Russia, Molodovsky was one of the 20th century’s best-known Yiddish writers. This journal is actually fictional: Molodovsky imagines the life of a 20-year-old Jewish refugee in New York to shed light on the development of one of today’s most impactful Jewish communities. Doba-Mera Medvedeva, Daughter of the Shtetl: The Memoirs of Doba-Mera Medvedeva . Translated by Alice Nakhimovsky; edited and translated by Michael Beizer. Academic Studies Press, April 2019. Moishe Rozenbaumas, The Odyssey of an Apple Thief . Translated by Jonathan Layton; edited by Isabelle Rozenbaumas. Syracuse University Press, June 2019. Moishe Rozenbaumas’s autobiography begins in a Lithuanian yeshiva town and takes its readers through the author’s struggle to convince his family to flee the oncoming war, his escape to an Uzbek collective farm, a second escape to a reconnaissance unit in the Red Army, a brief career in the Communist Party, a third escape to Paris in search of an openly Jewish life – and, of course, a tale of apple theft. because reading is what we do Art and art history Art lovers will have much to celebrate this year when it comes to books on Russian and Soviet visual traditions. Though they include a significant smattering of much-lauded European men, these books also open their pages to women artists, contemporary photographers, and African-American actors and models who changed the way Russian speakers looked at the world around them. Click for eight books Ivan Lindsay and Rena Lavery, Soviet Women and Their Art: The Spirit of Equality . Unicorn Publishing Group, February 2019. Edited by a group of prominent art dealers, this collection walks its readers through Soviet women’s art from the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century through the rise of Nonconformism and the Soviet Union’s collapse. Along with over 200 pages of contextualizing essays, this volume includes 100 color plates. Vincent Antonin Lépinay, Art of Memories: Curating at the Hermitage . Columbia University Press, April 2019. This study from an accomplished academic makes two major intellectual moves. The book treats Russia’s State Hermitage Museum as a laboratory of curation and conservation rather than an elaborate display case. At the same time, it probes the tension between the Hermitage’s need to protect itself from the outside world and its impetus to join a global art community. What emerges is a unique account of how art history is made. Yevgeniy Fiks, The Wayland Rudd Collection . Ugly Duckling Presse, Fall 2019. Representations of Africans and African-Americans pervaded state propaganda, the performing arts, and civil rights activism in the USSR. As many readers might expect but few mainstream English speakers know, those representations were a highly complex mixed bag. For this book, Yevgeniy Fiks invited contemporary artists and writers to respond to 200 Soviet images in his collection with either essays or new artworks. To anchor their responses, Fiks puts a particular focus on Wayland Rudd, an African-American actor who lived in the Soviet Union for 20 years, acting and modeling for images like these along the way. Evgeny Berezner, Irina Tchmereva, and Wendy Watriss, Contemporary Russian Photography . Schilt Publishing, September 2019. This gorgeous collection compiled by key figures in the Russian photography scene stretches for 360 pages. It begins with the Khrushchev thaw and tracks the evolution of Russian photography through the present day within a clean, minimalist design. By all appearances, these shocking yet insightful images will be a treat for any art lover. Igor Golomstock, A Ransomed Dissident: A Life in Art under the Soviets . Translated by Sara Jolly and Boris Dralyuk; afterward by Robert Chandler. I.B. Tauris, January 2019. Golomstock’s early childhood education came from the profanity-filled expanses of the gulag system, in which his mother worked as a doctor. Nonetheless, he became a leading art historian in the Soviet Union — until the state demanded that he pay more than 25 years’ salary for the right to leave the country. These memoirs, which offer an inside look at elite institutions from the Pushkin Museum to the BBC, are in the hands of capable translators. John J. Curley, Global Art and the Cold War . Laurence King, January 2019. This book is the first ever attempt to synthesize art history around the world as it developed during the Cold War. Drawing on more than 100 artworks, Curley argues that a focus on tensions between American abstraction and Soviet realism shuts out a global range of nuanced visuals that express diverse political and social perspectives. Vladimir Mayakovsky and Vera Terekhina, ROSTA Windows . Schilt Publishing, December 2019. Yes, this is the Vladimir Mayakovsky. Best known as a brash avant-garde poet, he joined a group of Soviet artists and writers to create a new genre of satirical propaganda posters that were named ROSTA windows after the Russian Telegraphic Agency where the artists worked. This collection brings together approximately 200 posters that are preserved today in Moscow’s Mayakovsky Museum. Mikhail Piotrovsky, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg: Director’s Choice . Scala Arts Publishers, July 2019. Mikhail Piotrovsky has directed St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum for almost 30 years. Here, he has filled 80 pages with personal favorites from the museum’s collection with the aim of making them accessible to a broad readership. What more is there to say? This book is for anyone looking for a skillfully curated look at classic European art from the Renaissance to the Dutch Golden Age to Impressionism. and thousands of glorious images On literature and philosophy While many of the books on this list demonstrate by example that Russian literature is not limited to the bearded greats of the 19th century, it is another matter to see the broader scope of Russian letters described explicitly. This mix of biographies, memoirs, criticism, and reading guides is targeted in large part toward popular audiences but will certainly find scholars among its readers as well. This year’s haul is notable for highlighting truly charismatic figures that classic translations of Russian literature often (unfairly) overlook. Click for seven books Edythe Haber, Teffi: A Life of Letters and of Laughter . I.B. Tauris, September 2018. This book may have been published last year, but thanks to its January 10 American release, I simply had to include it. Teffi, one of the most beloved Russian writers of the 20th century, has been making readers laugh themselves to tears for decades, but this book is the first biography of this literary star in any language. Thanks to Haber’s extremely meticulous research on Teffi’s encounters with Tolstoy, Rasputin, and others, English speakers can finally get a glimpse into a remarkable life. Thanks to translators like Robert Chandler, they can also begin reading Teffi’s oeuvre in English translation. Robert Zaretsky, Catherine & Diderot: The Empress, the Philosopher, and the Fate of the Enlightenment . Harvard University Press, February 2019. Zaretsky takes Denis Diderot’s four-month visit to the court of Catherine the Great as a starting point for examining the lives of both figures along with the cross-cultural connections that shaped both Russian history and Enlightenment-era political philosophy. The first book-length study of the encounter between these two thinkers is based on an expansive archive of primary sources. Vladislav Khodasevich, Necropolis . Translated by Sarah Vitali. Columbia University Press (Russian Library), May 2019. The central players of the so-called Silver Age of Russian literature began their careers at the turn of the century before being tossed headlong into war and revolution. The lives they created read in many retellings like a Greek myth crossed with an explosive celebrity gossip column. Vladislav Khodasevich, who outlived many of his contemporaries, catalogued those lives as they ended one by one. Vitali, an emerging translator and scholar, has done readers a service by bringing these unusual memoirs into English. Brian Boeck, Stalin’s Scribe: Literature, Ambition, and Survival: The Life of Mikhail Sholokhov . Pegasus Books, February 2019. This seems to be the year of groundbreaking literary biographies. Mikhail Sholokhov was the author of an epic novel that emerged in English as Quiet Flows the Don , which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1965. This is the first English-language biography of the well-known writer, but his most famous work is not its focus. Instead, Boeck uses new archival materials to examine how Sholokhov rose through the Soviet elite and still managed to survive its purges, even earning personal protection from Stalin himself. Marietta Chudakova, Mikhail Bulgakov: The Life and Times . Translator not listed.Glagoslav Publications, April 2019. Marietta Chudakova is one of the world’s best-regarded experts on Soviet literature in general and on the author of The Master and Margarita in particular. Here, she brings her lifelong engagement with Bulgakov’s work to bear in English for the first time, and readers are unlikely to find the same shade of dedication and scholarly diligence in English-language writing about Russian literature. Global Russian Cultures . Edited by Kevin M. F. Platt. University of Wisconsin Press, January 2019. As the previews you are currently reading collectively demonstrate, there is no one Russian culture and no one place where Russian culture resides. This volume brings top scholars together to examine Russian art and thought in Russia, Central Asia, Israel, and North America as well as on the Internet, among other places. The result is a highly contemporary series of essays on how and why Russian culture moves that likely contains both challenging analyses and entertaining anecdotes. Nataliya Dolinina, Page by Page through War and Peace . Translated by Michael Denner and Victoria Juharyan. Tolstoy Studies Journal, November 2019. This book will be published by a scholarly journal, but it is not a scholarly work. Instead, it is a companion intended for first-time readers of Tolstoy’s 1000-plus-page classic. As Dolinina walks readers through the highs and lows of that reading adventure, she offers both cultural background Tolstoy may have neglected to explain and encouragement for those times when readers may want to throw War and Peace out the nearest window. Denner and Juharyan, who are both experienced guides for students of Russian literature in the U.S., should be fitting translators for this volume. for those who like books in their books On classical music Russian music has found such a welcoming adoptive home in the Anglophone world that Americans celebrate both Christmas and Independence Day by listening to Tchaikovsky. These books pick up on that global level of interest and take it in both reliable and entirely new directions. They make an excellent starting point for readers who have heard the big names but want to think beyond them: this category includes a novel that turns the Shostakovich era into an international thriller as well as a biography of a violinist who crashed through glass ceilings to change modern classical music. Click for five books Auguste Corteau, Sixteen . Translator not listed. Etruscan Press, February 2019. Thomas Wolf, The Nightingale’s Sonata: The Musical Odyssey of Lea Luboshutz . Pegasus Books, June 2019. Lea Luboshutz was one of the world’s very first internationally recognized women violinists and a founding faculty member of the prestigious Curtis Institute. Before she gained fame, however, she was a young Jewish girl from Odessa. Here, the violinist’s grandson offers classical music fans the first biography of Luboshutz and weaves in brief solos by Pablo Casals, Lev Tolstoy, and others. Nadine Meisner, Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master . Oxford University Press,June 2019. The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote are still massively popular, but this is the first English-language biography of their choreographer. Meisner uses this opportunity to illustrate the development of ballet throughout the nineteenth century and beyond with extensive research and newly published photographs. This book, which promises readable court intrigues alongside historical context, will shed light on an artist without whom Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and much else in modern dance would never have developed. Stephen Johnson, How Shostakovich Changed My Mind . Notting Hill Editions (NYRB), May 2019. Johnson means this title literally. The BBC music broadcaster has found solace in Shostakovich’s music during his struggle with bipolar disorder, and his book explores the intersection of music and mental illness from both scientific and philosophical angles. As Johnson asks why the most disconsolate music can often be the most consoling, he turns to academic experts as well as members of the orchestra that played Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony during the devastating Siege of Leningrad. John Suchet, Tchaikovsky: The Man Revealed . Pegasus Books, June 2019. Suchet was a well-regarded British television reporter before he turned his voice toward classical music. Now the presenter of Classic FM’s English morning program, he is the author of recent biographies of Verdi and the Strauss family. This biography of Tchaikovsky may read more vividly and smoothly than some of its counterparts that are already on the market. with the stories behind the score Now in paperback I’m certainly not the only one who waits for paperback editions to read major hits at a more accessible price. This final handful of books is limited to just a few bestsellers that are already available but will be published in new editions or reach U.S. bookstores this year. They are listed chronologically in the order of their planned publication dates. Boris Akunin, The State Counsellor: A Fandorin Mystery and The Coronation: A Fandorin Mystery . Translated by Andrew Bromfield. Grove Atlantic, February 2019. U.S. releases. Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds . Translated by Anya Migdal. Vintage, February 2019. Paperback release. Eugene Vodolazkin, Solovyov and Larionov . Translated by Lisa C Hayden. Oneworld Publications, May 2019. U.S. release.