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Boris Akunin is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili (born May 20, 1956) , a Russian essayist, literary translator, and fiction writer. "Akunin" is a Japanese word that translates loosely to "villain". In his novel "The Diamond Chariot", the author redefines an "akunin" as one who creates his own rules. The pseudonym "B. Akunin" also alludes to the anarchist Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin and to Akuna, the home name of poet Anna Akhmatova.
Chkhartishvili was born in Tbilisi into a Georgian family, and since 1958 has lived in Moscow. Influenced by Japanese Kabuki theatre, he joined the historical-philological branch of the Institute of the Countries of Asia and Africa of Moscow State University as an expert on Japan. He worked as assistant to the editor-in-chief of the magazine Foreign Literature, but left in October 2000 to pursue a career as a fiction writer.
Under his given name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, he serves as editor-in-chief of the 20-volume Anthology of Japanese Literature, chairman of the board of for a large "Pushkin Library " (Soros Fund), and is the author of the book The Writer and Suicide (Moscow, The New Literary Review, 1999). He has also contributed literary criticism and translations from Japanese, American and English literature under his own name.
Under the pseudonym Boris Akunin, he has written several works of fiction, mainly novels and stories in the series "The Adventures of Erast Fandorin", "The Adventures of Sister Pelagia" and "The Adventures of the Master" (following Nicholas Fandorin, Erast's grandson). Akunin's specialty is historical mysteries set in Imperial Russia. It was only after the first books of the Fandorin series were published to critical acclaim that the identity of B. Akunin (i.e., Chkhartishvili) was revealed.
For some reason, when it comes to crime fiction, I tend not to go near it, other than some Conan Doyle. I had a spell of reading the crime genre in my teens but it did feel a bit samey. For some reason, though, I think I would give Akunin a go, probably on the basis that it's Russian and would make change from gritty crime stories from the UK or US. I know, blanket dismissal, but I can't help it.
I too tend to skirt round crime novels, but have, of course, noticed the name of this author. Not least because 15 (!) of his books have been translated into Estonian - which is more than into English. From the following webite I see a few more Akunins are coming in English, though:
The Georgians appear to enjoy making the most impossible initial consonant clusters, as in Chkhartishvili.
Here is, in English, Akunin's own website:
I saw that Akunin published a short opinion piece for the Russian service of the BBC several days ago. This was not about his detective Fandorin, but about Georgia:
??-??-?? | ? ???? | ????? ??????: ?????? ?? ????? ???? ????????? ???????? (http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/hi/russian/international/newsid_7559000/7559826.stm)
(Despite the question marks, you can access this article, if you read Russian)
Boris Akunin (real name: Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili ) is in a bit of an awkward position. As you can clearly see from his name - ending in "-shvili" - he is of Georgian origin, at the same time as being one of the most popular authors in Russia.
His plea, quite understandablly, is for peace and he takes a neutral position.
I must warn: books of Akunin are not typical Russian modern crime stories (these terrible pulp fiction books). Akunin's books are rather good stylizations to the literature of 19th century. Quite a good books. If you will try, let start from the Fandorin series.
GreenDoor, could you recommend a few more younger Russian authors. We, in the English-speaking countries don't have so many translations. For us, people like Buida are "new" Russian literature, when Buida was in fact born in the 1950s, if I remember rightly. Russian literature surely didn't stop in 1991. After all, Svetlana Martynchik is already 40 (shockingly old!) and lives in Vilnius, rather than Saint Petersburg or Moscow.
Ok, Eric, I will do prepare some list of "must read" in modern Russian literature, but not in the thread about Akunin, ok?
I've got one book by Akunin called Azazel' in the original (I have a translation). Is it any good, one of his best?
Yes, Azazel is the first book of the Fandorin series, reading it you will have some apprehension about the books of Akunin.
Not read any much more about Fandorin on the book pages, but this curious information was in the International Herald Tribune on October 20th:
This month marks five years since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was seized in his private plane at the Novosibirsk airport. He was subsequently convicted of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in labor camp, and his oil company, Yukos, was dismantled and sold off to Kremlin loyalists.
Now 45, Khodorkovsky was denied parole in August on the grounds that he had not been attending sewing classes at his labor camp in the Russian Far East. Earlier this month, his lawyers said he was put in solitary confinement for 12 days for giving a written interview to the Russian edition of Esquire magazine.
The interviewer was Grigory Chkhartishvili, who, under the pen name Boris Akunin, is one of the most popular writers in Russia today. He said many people asked him why he was making a fuss about an oligarch who, after all, didn't get fabulously rich by always obeying the law.
Curiouser and curiouser. Maybe a case for Fandorin to sort out in Akunin's new crime novel called "The Oligarch Who Missed Sewing Classes".
Source: Serge Schmemann: The case against and for Khodorkovsky (Robert Amsterdam) - Politics - Europe - Putin - Vladimir Putin - Russia Blog - Russia - KGB - Kremlin (http://www.robertamsterdam.com/2008/10/serge_schmemann_the_case_again.htm)
My way to Akunin was a little funny. The fact is that I don't like the crime genre but one of my friends likes all books by Akunin and tried to interest me in his fiction. Several times I saved myself but then I got The Diamond Chariotas as a New Year present. And I have to tell that I liked that book :). Good style, light, interesting and qualitative. Soon after I read some more books by Akunin but, to my opinion, The Diamond Chariot is the best.
Nobody's bothered discussing Boris Akunin for a couple of years, but he's alive and kicking. In fact, today (24th December 2011, aka Christmas Eve) he's going to be on the same stage as Mikhail Gorbachėv (remember the man with the birthmark on his bald pate?) and several other worthies on the symbolically named Sakharov Avenue (anyone remember Sakharov?) in Moscow, protesting against something or other (really can't remember what; I'm so out of touch with the world).
A recent profile (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/07/boris-akunin-russias-dissident-detective-novelist.html) of the writer in The New Yorker. Quite an excellent piece, I must say. The dude's got quite an intelligent face, too.
I also wonder if his Sister Pelagia series was to some degree inspired by Peter Tremayne's longer and much more exciting Sister Fidelma series--it's curious how the former came to nought after only three books while the latter is growing strong at 20+ books, and counting.
Fascinating recent lecture (http://www.newwriting.net/writing/translation/paradise-lost-confessions-of-an-apostate-translator/).
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