|About the Book|
When the Booker Prize Committee decided to institute a special Booker Russian Novel Prize, there were no other literary prizes in the post-perestroika Russia, the official Soviet prizes for literature having been abolished shortly after the collapseMoreWhen the Booker Prize Committee decided to institute a special Booker Russian Novel Prize, there were no other literary prizes in the post-perestroika Russia, the official Soviet prizes for literature having been abolished shortly after the collapse of communism, when most state-subsidized publishing also closed down. This left Russian authors with little choice but to flee abroad in search of employment and publishers, while most of those who stayed declared that the end of Russian literature had arrived, and set about dividing up the property of the Writers Union among themselves. Authors, who earlier had not been published for political reasons, now were not published for economic reasons.But Russian literature did not die. It went through a period of crisis--together with the rest of the country--and gradually began to recover, bringing forth of profusion of styles and a new freshness of vision. Into the atmosphere of confusion reigning in literary circles, and the overall public indifference to literary developments, the Booker Prize came like Santa Claus, offering not only a substantial money prize (which after all can only be awarded to one writer each year) but an exciting literary race which generated much needed publicity for everyone involved. In spite of mutterings from the nationalistically minded that Russian writers should be ashamed of themselves for accepting money from abroad, the excitement generated by the Booker Prize spread like wildfire, with heated debate breaking out in the press and among critics and readers alike. Passions ran high, and public interest in literature was markedly boosted.Perhaps, however, the greatest achievement of the Booker Prize to date is the fact that it has inspired a number of Russias new rich to institute national prizes themselves. Let us hope that this process of revealing new talent and giving publicity to short-listed authors will ultimately lead to change in the publishing business in Russia. Russian publishers currently focus on translated literature, which the Russian public was starved of under the Communists and which, naturally, excites much interest today. They are not at present in any great hurry to publish new Russian authors. The time will come, however, when Russias readers will want to know what has been happening in their own culture all this time, and at that moment they will be particularly appreciative of all the present efforts to preserve Russian culture which, in the past, has given the world so many outstanding writers.