One of our goals is to introduce the new Russian literature to readers in America. Despite the appearance of many talented new authors, only a few of them have had works translated into English and become known to the western public. Even less known in the West is the younger generation of Russian authors, whose talented and fresh voices have begun to change the literary landscape in Russia in recent years.
Since 2000, the Russian Foundation’s Debut Prize has helped to discover and aid a new generation of Russian literary talent by nominating and awarding the Debut Prize to the most outstanding and original works by young authors.
The director of the Debut Prize , Olga Slavnikova, is one of the most prominent Russian writers today, herself the winner of the prestigious Booker Prize for her novel 2017 (2006). As a talented and successful writer, she is committed to helping talented young Russian authors: “The authors never lived in the Soviet Union – or were very young when the USSR collapsed. They are new people, and entirely new writers. They are free of the Soviet legacy in every sense. They have no nostalgia and do not resonate with the sort of art that attempts to turn everything Soviet into vintage chic…one may say without exaggeration that this is the most ingenuous and honest literature in Russia since 1917.”
This new generation of writers and poets has the potential and ambition, and most importantly – the talent – to become potential future classics of Russian literature. The works of the finalists of the Debut Prize create a vibrant, colorful image of the new Russian literature, free from the limitations of the past and now more open to the world.
As part of the outreach program, the New York-based non-profit Causa Artium, in partnership with the Debut Prize Foundation, started the New Russian Literature Program and in February 2012 sponsored a tour of the prize-winning young writers from Russia: Alisa Ganieva (2009), Dmitry Biryukov (2005), Irina Bogatyreva (2006), and Igor Savelyev (2004). The thematic and literary styles of these authors are different, as different as their experiences. In all of their works, however, one can see the talent, humor, and optimism which are influencing the phenomenon of the New Russian Literature – genuine, multifaceted, and fearless.
Among the works submitted to American audiences in Washington DC, Boston, and New York were “Salam, Dalgat!” by Alisa Ganieva (2009) and collections of short stories like “Off the Beaten Tracks” and “Squaring the Circle“ (short stories by winners of the Debut Prize), 2010.
Olga Slavnikova is one of the most renowned contemporary writers in Russia. She was born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) in the Urals to the family of aerospace engineers. After graduating from Yekaterinburg State University, Slavnikova worked as a fiction editor, then managing editor of the literary magazine ‘Urals’. She has lived and worked in Moscow since 2001. Her first novel was published in 1988. Among her acclaimed novels are Стрекоза, увеличенная до размеров собаки (‘Dragonfly the Size of a Dog’), Бессмертный (‘Immortal’).
But her real magnum opus is 2017 – a fascinating love story set in her native Urals Mountains region. The novel is also a philosophical reflection on the dramatic history of Russia and its future, beauty of the nature, and it’s full of references to the mythology of her native Urals. It won the Russian Booker Prize in 2006.
Alisa Ganieva was born in 1985 in Moscow, but soon moved with her family to their native Dagestan. A graduate of Moscow’s Literary Institute, Ganieva has since won numerous awards for her prose and also a prize for her literary criticism.
She was propelled to true stardom by her work Salam tebe, Dalgat! (2009).
From the first strophes of Salam tebe, Dalgat! one is introduced to the marvelous world of the Caucasian Dagestan village where people are discussing subjects unimaginable from a Western perspective – how to steal a bride and where you need to drink your vodka till the last drop – which are all happening at a party with various colorful personages. And there the party could end in the assassination.
Sometimes the tale is written with an incredible sense of humor, but beneath the exotic facade is an exploration of the problems of humanity written with such talent that it makes the story about Dalgat the true discovery.
It is all the more unusual that this work was a written by a young woman, who was hiding behind the name of a young Dagestani fighter named Gulla Khirachev, and who uncovered her true identity only after the announcement of the award of the Debut Prize. This literary mystification only adds to the charisma of Alisa Ganieva. Salam tebe, Dalgat! has since been translated into English.
Dmitry Biryukov was born in 1979 in Siberia and lived in Novosibirsk’s “Academic City.” Novosibirsk holds a special place in Russia; it is situated in the heart of Siberia and is populated by a special kind of people who are called “sibiriak” in Russian – strong and independent people.
Biryukov holds degrees in history and philosophy in addition to his post-graduate work at the Institute of Philosophy and Law and the famous Literary Institute in Moscow. After the success of his short story, Birukov has started work on a long novel.
In America Burykov was reading the excerpts from his story Uritsky Street.
Irina Bogatyreva was born in 1982 in Kazan, Tatarstan. She is a graduate of the Literary Institute in Moscow in 2005. Since then she has been recognized by numerous literary awards for her stories published in Russia’s leading literary journals.
Bogatyreva’s autobiographical hitchhiking trip from Moscow to Altai was described in her work Off The Beaten Track. What made this story so fascinating to young people? It is a story about a girl alone on the road having adventures and meeting all kinds of people. It is an everyday story but written with a talented eye to the details and understanding of the psychology of young people.
Igor Savelyev was born in 1983 into a family of writers in Ufa, Bashkiria. He still lives there and works as a crime reporter for the local news agency. In 2005, his short novel Pale City won the Debut Prize. It is a wonderful narrative about his native Ufa and young people. One can see the freshness of his style and association with modern cultural icons which attract the young readers to him.