Exploring Georgia past and present with the great mystery writer.
This is an online event. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.
Boris Akunin’s Inspector Fandorin mysteries, which unfold during the Tsarist and early-Soviet empires and pay homage to Sherlock Holmes, have sold 20 million copies in the original Russian, and been translated into 30 languages.
Akunin is the pen-name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, Georgian-born philologist, historian and Japanese translator as well as bestselling Russian crime writer.
The author’s birthplace, which he left aged two and rediscovered only in recent years, appears in the writings of Tolstoy, Pushkin and Lermontov, as well as varied travellers from Knut Hamsun to John Steinbeck.
Chkhartishvili speaks to author, critic and journalist Boyd Tonkin, winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s 2020 Benson Medal, about his Georgian ancestry and his passion for history, how Georgia is seen through Russian eyes, and whether there is an Orientalist literature of the ‘exotic’ Caucasus.
In association with Maya Jaggi and Writers’ House of Georgia. Part of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern: Where Europe Meets Asia (25-28 February 2021), an online festival of Georgian writers from the Caucasus, with food and song, inspired by the café culture of the first democratic republic of 1918-21.
Learn more about the British Library’s Georgian collections in this blog article written by curator Anna Chelidze.
Boris Akunin is a pseudonym of Grigory Chkhartishvili, who was born in 1956 in Zestaponi, in the Soviet Republic of Georgia. His family moved to Moscow two years later. A philologist, critic, essayist, and translator of Japanese, Akunin published his first detective stories in 1998 and is one of the most widely read authors in Russia – named Russian Writer of the Year in 2000. The Erast Fandorin novels set in Tsarist Russia, translated into English by Andrew Bromfield, range from The Winter Queen to Not Saying Goodbye, and include The Turkish Gambit, Murder on the Leviathan and The Death of Achilles. The Coronation won the AntiBooker prize, and All The World’s A Stage was shortlisted for the EBRD Literature Prize in 2017. The History of the Russian State is a series comprising nine non-fiction titles with fiction counter-parts. His other works include the Sister Pelagia series, Genre series, Cinematic series and the Nicholas Fandorin books, whose protagonist is the detective’s grandson.
Boyd Tonkin is an author, critic, journalist and broadcaster, and the 2020 winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Benson Medal for a lifetime’s ‘outstanding service to literature,’ following recipients including Philip Larkin and Tolkien. His prolific writing on books, art and classical music appears widely, including in The Economist, Financial Times, Spectator, New Scientist, New York Review of Books and theartsdesk.com. Until 2016 he was The Independent’s Senior Writer and Art Critic after 17 years as Literary Editor, re-founding in 2001 the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for translated novels. This became the model for the Man Booker International Prize with which it merged in 2015, and for which Tonkin was Special Adviser and inaugural chair of judges. The 100 Best Novels in Translation (2018), his critical book spanning four centuries of global fiction, was admired by novelist Ian McEwan as a ‘brilliant and extremely useful guide’, by Ben Okri as the work of a ‘wonderful, thoughtful and conscientious critic’, and by Victoria Hislop as ‘a towering achievement’. Tonkin’s chosen book on BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read in 2020 was Tolstoy’s novella Hadji Murat, set in the Caucasus.
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