3 December 07 | E.J. Van Lanen

The distancing of the Russian provinces from Moscow has thus far brought little change to the intellectual provincialism of the regions. Only the rocky Urals have turned out to provide fertile soil for a cultural blossoming. There are in particular three literary figures from the Urals who need fear no comparison with modern writers from other areas: Alexei Ivanov, 38, from Perm; Igor Sakhnovsky, 50, from Yekaterinburg, and Olga Slavnikova. These authors are noteworthy for the variety of genres in which they work – short stories, historical novels, intellectual thrillers, fantasy, social-issue novels – and for their stylistic mastery, richness of language and use of local colour. Even eroticism, which tends to be denigrated in literary circles today as almost an outdated, compulsively repetitious theme, makes an unexpected comeback in Sakhnovsky’s short story collection, “The Happy and the Mad” (2003). The intensity and refinement of treatment, the striking freshness and casualness of the erotic experience, prompt the reader to virtually swallow the book down at a gulp.


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