Monday, 20 July 2009

From Russia with a Book


One of the most unexpected contacts I’ve received thanks to this blog was an email from a Russian lady called Anya Ru. She told me that she was a translator, and that together with various colleagues from Moscow State Unviersity who were fans of traditional mysteries, she was involved with the production of a forthcoming anthology of Golden Age classics. This was the start of a truly agreeable correspondence, of a kind impossible before the advent of modern technology.

It turned out that the group had already put together one book, comprising stories from the Sherlockian era. The title, translated, is Not Only Holmes, as the aim is to showcase some of the great man’s rivals. They have even produced a video about the book.

Anya is currently in Britain, but our paths haven’t crossed, though we have spoken on the phone. When she visited Liverpool, I was sunning myself on an all too brief trip to Anglesey. She was, however, kind enough to call at my office and leave a note together with a copy of the book – and it’s a beautifully produced piece of work. I hope I can meet Anya, and some of her colleagues, one of these fine days, to congratulate them in person.

Meanwhile, I find it delightful that young Russian people have developed an interest in our great mystery writers of the past (and also in one or two obscure writers with whom I’m much less familiar). And I also think it’s marvellous that the global reach of the internet has put me in touch with them – and that some Russian whodunit fans have actually read this blog….

11 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's amazing how small the world has become since the advent of the internet. Great story.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Frank Loose said...

It is truly exciting what the internet offers us all. Your story is a great example of how writing crosses borders.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Elizabeth and Frank. I share your enthusiasm for the new possibilities of the internet and blogging.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I have read, in connection with Boris Akunin, that Russian interest in crime stories did not burgeon until after the Soviet Union fell. Now, there's a statement rife with sociological interest.

I'd be interested in knowing how Anya Ru came across the authors whom she has chosen to have translated in that anthology. I hope they include the excellent Arthur Morrison!
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, Peter, Morrison's Martin Hewitt is in there. I don't know how the stories were chosen, but they are a very well read bunch, and have come across some obscurities that I've never encountered.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I discovered Morrison in a rivals-of-Sherlock Holmes anthology, and I was thunderstruck. He gives voice to what must have been some daring political sentiments about Indian independence (OK, he puts them in the mouth of a villain, so the political heresy is properly punished, but the villain is a surprisingly sympathetic character for someone who perpetrated an act of political terrorism. That the target was a rail line gives the story an especially contemporary feel.)

But the real revelation was Morrison's prose. It was astonishingly fresh, with not a whiff of the archaic about it -- amazing for stories written in the 1890s. I don't know why he is not better known today.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

I suppose Hewitt's ordinariness made him unmemorable, but I agree ahout Morrison as a writer. The Dorrington Deed Box is also interesting.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll have to look for the anthology when I get home to see which Morrison stories so caught my eye. Morrison was a journalist, which may have had something to do with the freshness of his prose.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

tacente said...

I'm one of the compilers of the anthology (which, I should add, was from the very start the brain-child of Dr. Alexandra Borisenko and twelve other dedicated people), each of whom deserves a honorary mention. It was the result of three and a half years of diligent research, translation and editing; I don't think any recent Russian-published book was so carefully prepared. Special thanks should also go to the publishers and the famous designer Andrei Bondarenko, who loved our project (and it shows).

As for Mr. Rozovsky's comment, no, the Russian interest in crime stories predates the fall of the wall; Sherlock Holmes was one of the most popular fiction heroes ever, and the books of "Masters of Foreign Detective Story", as they were usually called in Soviet days, were feverishly sought after and could fetch ten times their official price on the black market. Post-Soviet time was rather marked by a decline, with pseudo-historical fiction (like Akunin's) or unfortunate hybrids of crime and 'women's fiction' (examples are too numerous to mention) took the place of the honest detective genre.

Martin Edwards said...

Tacente - great to hear from you, and thanks a lot for that additional information.

Anonymous said...

Peter Rozovsky said:

/// I have read, in connection with Boris Akunin, that Russian interest in crime stories did not burgeon until after the Soviet Union fell. ///

Perhaps, you will interested with the post in my Live Journal - about the deficit of Conan Doyle's books in USSR

Whether Soviet People read Conan Doyle books:
http://alek-morse.livejournal.com/7045.html

Alexander Sedov