Oleg Pavlov is one of the few new Russian writers published in English. So why’s he such a reluctant figurehead?
Oleg Pavlov’s life has given him plenty to write about: he worked as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s secretary, guarded a military prison in Kazakhstan, spent time in a psychiatric ward and won Russia’s most prestigious literary prize. And now Pavlov, one of Russia’s most respected writers, is being published in English for the first time. The novel in question, Captain of the Steppe, was written nearly two decades ago, when Pavlov was just 24 years old.
It can be surprising for foreign readers to discover that Russian writing is flourishing and diverse; as far as most are concerned, Russian literature centres on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov and stops somewhere around Doctor Zhivago or The Master and Margarita. But the past decade has seen a literary renaissance in Russia, with new authors producing ambitious works across all genres.