Winner of the Solzhenitsyn Prize 2012 and the Russian Booker Prize 2002
Oleg Pavlov is one of the most highly-regarded Russian writers today. He has won the Russian Booker Prize (2002) and Solzhenitsyn Prize (2012) among many other awards. Born in Moscow in 1970, Pavlov spent his military service as a prison guard in Kazakhstan. Many of the incidents portrayed in his fiction were inspired by his experiences there: he recalls how he found himself reading about Karabas – the very camp he had worked at – in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. He then became Solzhenitsyn’s assistant and was inspired to continue the great writer’s work. Pavlov’s writing is firmly in the tradition of great Russian novelists such as Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn.
He was only 24 years old when his first novel, Captain of the Steppe, was published, receiving praise not only from critics but from the jury of the Russian Booker Prize, which shortlisted the novel for the 1995 award. Pavlov went on to win the Prize in 2002 with his next book, The Matiushin Case (English translation published in 2014 by And Other Stories). The Matiushin Case was the second novel in what would become the thematic trilogy set in the last days of the Soviet empire: Tales from the Last Days. All three novels in the trilogy are stand-alone novels and And Other Stories will publish the third book, Requiem for a Soldier in 2015.
- Oleg Pavlov visited the UK in April 2013. Details of this are on our blog.
- And Other Stories found Oleg Pavlov via discussion in our 2011 Russian Reading Group.
- If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before Captain of the Steppe’s publication, you would have received one of the first copies of the book, in which you are thanked by name – as well as up to 5 other And Other Stories titles per year. Find out about subscribing here.
Requiem for a Soldier
- Translated by Anna Gunin. Anna has translated I am a Chechen! by German Sadulaev and The Sky Wept Fire by Mikail Eldin. Her translations of Pavel Bazhov’s folk tales appear in Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics), shortlisted for the 2014 Rossica Prize. She has also translated poetry, plays and film scripts by Denis Osokin and Yuri Arabov.
- Requiem for a Soldier is the third volume in the Russian Booker winning trilogy, Tales from the Last Days. Volume One, Captain of the Steppe and Volume Two, The Matiushin Case are also published by And Other Stories.
- Requiem for a Soldier is forthcoming from And Other Stories on 14 July 2015.
- Find out more about Requiem for a Soldier in the book section.
Praise for Requiem for a Soldier
- ‘Pavlov describes the madness of an infirmary and firing ground somewhere near Karaganda in a manner that would make Faulkner envious.’ Aleksei Mokrousov
- ‘Certain philological jesters try to present the talented Russian author Oleg Pavlov as the most gloomy and hopeless of writers. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not true! First prize goes to our everyday life itself – that is what’s truly monstrous and absurd. The author of [Requiem for a Soldier] loves his characters and feels their pain … Intent observation of all living beings forms the basis of Pavlov’s perception.’ Natalya Dardykina,Moskovsky komsomolets
- ‘Pavlov is patently charismatic. His language is dense and viscous, and the terrible world of his prose is almost fairytale-like.’ Vladimir Berezin, Exlibris
- ‘Novels like this seldom appear in our literature. Something similar might have emerged from Franz Kafka’s pen, had he served in the army and written a military-themed novel.’ Viktor Kanavin, Itogi
- ‘Oleg Pavlov is a powerful writer, and [Requiem for a Soldier] is his finest work. […] You can certainly read Pavlov’s Booker-winning tale as “army-themed gloom”, a “bad joke” about a half-wit soldier who has done his service in a desolate firing ground and after being demobbed is meekly continuing his service in the military infirmary, waiting for a savage paramedic to fit him with a steel tooth (to replace a perfectly healthy one), but instead of his “eternal tooth” he ends up being charged with homicide. Yet the more penetrating reader will discern not so much a social flavour as an apocalyptic tone in this novel subtitled “A Tale of the Last Days”.’ Alla Latynina, Vremya MN
The Matiushin Case
- Translated by Andrew Bromfield.
- Read more about The Matiushin Case in the book section.
- The Matiushin Case is the second volume in the Russian Booker winning trilogy, Tales from the Last Days, published by And Other Stories in July 2014.
- The Matiushin Case makes it on to Bookstrust‘s Best of 2014 translated fiction list.
Praise for The Matiushin Case
- ‘This lucid translation of Pavlov’s powerful quasi-autobiographical novel confronts the horror of Russian history … a timeless quest for existential meaning and deals with the horror of Russian history through the microcosm of an individual’s journey into hell.’ Phoebe Taplin, The Guardian
- ‘Pavlov is revered by some as a philosophical genius whose books capture the essence of Russia and dismissed by others as a drunken grumbler. His powerfully intimate, quasi-autobiographical 1997 novel The Matiushin Case, now in English, charts the experiences of an impressionable conscript gradually dehumanised by army life.’ Phoebe Taplin, The Guardian
- ‘Russian Booker Prize winner Pavlov (Captain of the Steppe) plunges readers into the grim realities of Soviet military life in the early 1980s . . . Bromfield, well-known for his translations of contemporary Russian literature, ably renders Pavlov’s prose with extremes of lyricism and banality. Pavlov pulls off a harrowing tale about institutional cruelty and the perversions of character that it produces.’ Publishers Weekly
- ‘Written in a bare, stilted style, it never plays for the high drama … choosing instead to beat steadily on from one absurdity to the next, coolly piling horror on top of horror…Seen through a lens softened by exhaustion and cheap vodka, Pavlov’s dark picture of existence becomes wryly amusing and often almost whimsical in its black humour.’ Ross McIndoe, The Skinny
- ‘Images of violence and pain linger with the reader long after the book is finished. Not for the faint hearted.’ Scarlett MccGwire, Tribune
- ‘[A] descent into an uncaring military world.’ San Francisco Book Review
- ‘[A] small stunner: brutal, salty, pulsing with hallucinatory beauty and lyrical grace … Pavlov’s portrait of helpless young men trapped in an insane system comes out as a sly, sad, occasionally joyous tragicomedy about power, helplessness, escape, and what it’s like to be young.’ Pete Mitchell, Booktrust, Best Translated Books of 2014
Captain of the Steppe
- Translated by Ian Appleby.
- Read more about Captain of the Steppe in the book section.
- Captain of the Steppe was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize 2012 and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger 2012.
Praise for Captain of the Steppe
- ‘Pavlov imbues his world with a very particular flavour: the mixture of tragedy, absurdity and black comedy that runs in the veins of Russian literature as far back as the work of Nikolai Gogol … Pavlov fashions a disquieting and comic elegy.’ Marcel Theroux
- ‘Captain of the Steppe combines a traditional Russian faith in the humanising power of literature with a boisterous energy and imagination. Pavlov wrote two further army novels which, along with Captain of the Steppe, have become known as the Tales of the Last Days trilogy, and we can be grateful that both are due for publication by And Other Stories.’ Michael Nicholson, The Times Literary Supplement
- ‘A comedy as dark and bitter as ersatz coffee.’ Daily Mail
- ‘Pavlov skillfully navigates the razor-thin gap between dark comedy and tragedy’ Words without Borders
- ‘His tales delve into the world of soldiers sent to the bleakest regions of central Asia, where their hopelessness ends up matching that of their prisoners, whose absurd routine, hunger and boredom they share. This is Berg’s Wozzek set in Buzzati’s Tartar Steppe.’ Jacque Franck, lalibre.be
- ‘An extraordinary portraitist, with a nose for trenchant, black humour, Oleg Pavlov delves into the shadowy outer edges of existence.’ France Culture
- ‘Poetry, sensuality, humour, metaphoric genius’ Philippe Delaroche, L’Express Culture avec Lire
- ‘Oleg Pavlov is one of the best contemporary Russian authors … There are moments of great humanity in this book, for Pavlov gives a voice to every human being, even the most pathetic. When nothing of value remains, we still have language.’ Nils C. Ahl, Art Press
- ‘A dark, absurdist satire: both funny and depressing … Pavlov has great powers of description and the translation by Ian Appleby is consistent in tone, and both fluent and flowing … It is not hard to see why it was shortlisted for the Russian Booker.’ Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books