Two years ago, a prominent journalist and editor Yury Saprykin asked a number of Russian authors, editors, critics, educators, and so on, to nominate the works that they considered key in the Russian literary canon. On April 2, 2018, Saprykin’s launched the website, polka.academy with the resulting list of 108 books. It’s a gorgeous website, unfortunately available only in Russian. Another unfortunate part is that this list included only three books by women-authors: Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Petrushevksaya.
Two years later, the editors addressed this problem. A team of writers created a new list that they call “Women’s Canon” of over 70 authors who deserve to be remembered. (This list, too, is unfortunately only available in Russian.) The authors include a thoughtful note that this list isn’t complete and promise to return to this work in the future. We’re delighted to welcome this list and look forward to seeing this work continued.
On a personal note from the creators of Punctured Lines, we’re particularly pleased to see a listing of Aleksandra Brushtein’s delightful young adult novel with a title that’s difficult to translate and that means something like “The road that will lead you to an unknown future.” This book was deeply influential to both of us, and on Twitter we’ve been actively advocating for its re-translation to English. Of the unfortunate omissions, we can point to Julia Voznesenskaya’s novel Women’s Decameron from 1985.
I am a recent convert into the world of podcasts. Once I’d heard a few New Yorker Fiction Podcasts (highly recommend) and the Paris Review podcasts and the Kenyon Review podcasts, among others, I started looking for Russian literature podcasts.
Castbox, the app that I use to listen, turned up very little when I searched for “Russian Literature” in English — well, it turns up audio books from War and Peace to Memoirs of a Revolutionist. Russian-language search connected me with Radio Mayak and Evgeniy Stakhovskiy who, on his podcast Chtenie (I’m transliterating Russian titles for this English-language blog) reads short fiction in Russian. Most often, these are works by foreign authors, from O’Henry to Hu Bo to Herta Müller, in Russian translation. Not exactly what I was looking for, but fascinating nevertheless. I’ve become a dedicated listener and am loving this exposure to world literature through the short form.
Of course, I wanted more and reached out to the Russian Literary Twitter community for their recommendations. Michele Berdy of The Moscow Times sent in this list of podcasts:
- Арзамас — Radio Arzamas provides a seemingly inexhaustible list of cultural topics, only some of which are directly related to literature. Here’s a link to their intro to literary theory.
- Полка — Polka is a project by literary critics Yuriy Saprykin, Varvara Babitskaya, Lev Oborin, and Polina Ryzhova and defines itself as a podcast about the way literature is connected to life, in its everyday challenges and existential dilemmas. I’m yet to listen, and look forward to it.
- Ковен дур — Coven dur — starting from the title, this podcast seems to be very much of the contemporary, millennial approach to literature. It’s a podcast by four female authors, Kozinaki, Spashchenko, Stepanova, and Ptiseva who work in the mode of “literary standup.” I haven’t tuned in yet, but am very excited to check it out.
- Чтение — Chtenie (see my note above).
- Читатель — Chitatel. This podcast is hosted by Bookmate, an ebook reading app with a subscription service. The host, Pavel Grozny, invites guests from different walks of life (often book industry related) to talk about the books that have changed them. I have listened to a few episodes and have enjoyed them a great deal. This podcast gives me a glimpse into a whole different Russia (Moscow?) that feels open and connected to the global marketplace of ideas and trends. I particularly enjoyed Grozny’s conversation with Sasha Shchadrina, who started a No Kidding feminist reading group and writing seminars Write Like A Grrrl Russia. So inspiring!
- (Apparently, there was also a Чтец — Chtets podcast, by Radio Mayak, that featured a colloquial reading situation, a host reading a story to a friend in the recording studio. It looks like they no longer record regular episodes. I’ve listened to a few and found them engaging.) (In Russian, chtenie means to read, chitatel is the person who reads, and chets is the same thing except usually it means the person who reads out loud in public settings.)
I’m sure this list is not exhaustive. If you know more Russian lit podcasts, send them my way, and I’ll follow up on this post soon. BTW, anyone wants to start a contemporary post-Soviet lit podcast in English? There seems to be an opportunity out there!