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The London Book Fair 2011

This year's London Book Fair had Russia as its market focus. For three extraordinary days, Earl's Court was packed with a staggering selection of Russian writers, literary critics, publishers, editors, translators, and books.

The hub of the Russian presence was in Earls Court 2, with a large number of publishing houses presenting the cream of their crop and hosting a wide range of talks. Among others, the Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie (New Literary Observer) section and an open space in the heart of the Russian area had panel sessions, recitals and Q&A featuring some of today's most exciting writers.

A series of more formal panel sessions were held on the first floor of Earls Court 1, organised by the British Council, the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication of the Russian Federation, and Academica Rossica. Most involved the set-up of a panel of Russian writers scene taking questions from a western chair and then from the audience on a specific aspect of modern Russian literature. Some were more focused on the publishing trade itself.

Below is a summary of the Slavonic specialist's experience of the London Book Fair and other activities which tied into the week. You'll find a mixture of lengthy and considered entries for some events and briefer ones involving excited lists of Russian literary celebrities for others. Use the links provided to see details of featured authors' books in the UL and books on order. Please don't hesitate to contact the UL at if you'd like to put your name down for any of those on order. My thanks to Academica Rossica for generously arranging my pass for the Book Fair.

Day 1 - Monday 11 April

Beyond the headlines (L-R: Mikhail Elizarov, Zakhar Prilepin, Polina Dashkova, Bridget Kendall)

Overview of the Russian market - an interesting session with the CEOs of AST and Eksmo (who each introduced their own company as the top publisher) and Azbuka-Atticus (content at number 4). The message of the session was clear - publishers are facing an extremely difficult time, with sales dropping as a result of the economic crisis and decreased interest in reading. The CEO of Eksmo quoted a study that found that the percentage of Russian adults who say they never read books rose from 20% in 1996 to 39% in 2009. The speakers expressed concerns about the threat to e-books (the main growth in the market ) by widespread piracy. The AST CEO said he saw this as a fight the publishers had to win in the next two years.

Digital publishing in Russia - this brought e-book publishers and one of Russia's most popular writers, Boris Akunin (of whom more below), together to debate the future of digital publishing. The two publishers (LitRes and Ripol'-klassik) made positive noises, recognising the threat of piracy but either expressing confidence in anti-piracy measures or stating that use of pirated versions leads to greater sales in legitimate copies, acting as a kind of taster. Boris Akunin took a more pessimistic view. He hired a company to monitor the illegal downloads of one of his books for three months - the figure was 150,000. His approach is to make e-books so lavish, with illustrations and features that pirate versions would struggle to copy, that legitimate downloads are the only way forward.

Boris Akunin struggling to contain his excitement at meeting the Slavonic librarian.

Beyond the classics

Lev Danilikin, Mariia Stepanova, Ol'ga Slavnikova, Leonid Iuzefovich - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

Beyond the headlines

Mikhail Elizarov, Zakhar Prilepin, Polina Dashkova, Bridget Kendall (chair) - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

What's new about new Russian writing?

This session, chaired by Ellah Allfrey, feature five of Russia's brightest new talents: the prose writers Alisa Ganieva, Pavel Kostin, Andrei Kuzechin, and Igor' Savel'ev, and the poet Lev Oborin. These writers have all been recognised by the jury of the Debiut prize. It was a great pleasure to hear these young writers speak, and an even greater one when they came to Cambridge to speak again later that week. More details are provided further down in connection with that talk.

Day 2 - Tuesday 12 April

A snap taken in passing of Vladimir Tarasov, Grisha Bruskin, and Lev Rubinshtein.

Echoes of the past

Leonid Iuzefovich, Evgenii Vodolazkin, Elena Chizhova, Aleksandr Terekhov, Liudmila Ulitskaia, Rosie Blau (chair) - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

London Book Fair author of the day

Tuesday's author of the day was detective great Boris Akunin, speaking to Tibor Fischer. They talked for an hour about inspiration, pseudonyms, and modern Russia, before Mr Akunin was left to the mercy of fans seeking autographs and photos. Click here to see which Akunin books the UL has got.

Bestselling genre fiction in Russia

Sergei Lukanenko, Tatiana Ustinova, Dmitrii Glukhovskii, Rosie Blau (chair)- Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

Literary prizes in Russia

Leonid Parfenov at the London School of Economics.

Vladimir Makanin, Ol'ga Slavnikova, Vladimir Tolstoi, Mark Lipovetskii - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

Russian memory and memoir

Lev Danilkin, Zakhar Prilepin, Pavel' Basinskii, Rosie Goldsmith (chair) - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

Leonid Parfenov at the LSE

In the evening, the journalist Leonid Parfenov spoke at the LSE about his work, including the televisual documentary projects 'Namedni', covering Soviet/Russian history from the 60s onwards, and 'Zvorykin Muromets', about the engineer Vladimir Zvorykin. The accompanying 'Namedni' books published so far (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s) are available for consultation in the West Room - class marks S950.a.200.3484-3487. The accompanying 'Zvorykin Muromets' book is on order.


Day 3 - Wednesday 13 April

Academic and professional publishing in Russia - this session, chaired by Lynette Owen of Pearson, featured Natasha Bochorishvili of Cambridge University Press in Russia, Oleg Zimarin of Ves' Mir, and Vladimir Stabnikov of Olympus (Olimp-Biznes). It was largely aimed at publishing professionals interested in expanding into the Russian market, but was of general interest too. Oleg Zimarin shared statistics which showed that, in 2010, academic titles (a fairly even divide of scholarly works and textbooks) published numbered nearly 45,000 - 36.76% of titles in the wider Russian market. Unsurprisingly, the print runs did not echo this. The 2010 academic titles sold just under 25 million copies in total - 3.8% of the wider market. Overall, the future is not bright. Mr Zimarin explained that the rapid fall in numbers of school leavers means that university enrolment in 2015-2020 is expected to halve, with the possible result that a quarter of Russian academics (a current figure of 400,000) will lose their jobs.

Solving the case : crime and detective writing from Russia

Sergei Kostin, Polina Dashkova, Tat'iana Ustinova, Master Chen - Click here to see what the UL has got and is getting by these authors.

Crimes and misdemeanours : Russian detective fiction

This event, held at Foyle's on Charing Cross Road, starred Boris Akunin, again in conversation with Tibor Fischer.

Saturday 16 April

L-R: Igor' Savel'ev, Alisa Ganieva, Pavel Kostin, Lev Oborin, Ol'ga Slavnikova, Andrei Kuzechin.

Ol'ga Slavnikova and young writers of Russia

The Cambridge Russian-speaking Society arranged an evening event at Kings College involving the young writers who had appeared earlier in the week at the London Book Fair. They were accompanied by the Ol'ga Slavnikova, who is closely involved in the Debiut prize, and Natasha Perova of Glas New Russian Writing.

The five Debiutants read selections of their work in Russian and English, and in the case of one, with the accompaniment of a mouth organ. It was a wonderful experience to round off an incredible week. The young authors were extremely impressive and touchingly wowed by their trip.

The UL has already got Alisa Ganieva's novel 'Salaam, Dalgat!' at C202.d.4140. Several of the others kindly donated some of their work to the UL. Lev Oborin's collection 'Mauna-Kea' is currently being processed, as are copies of the journals 'Ural' and 'Novyi mir' which feature work by Andrei Kuzechin and Igor' Savel'ev.