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Author Daria Desombre Recommends Five Favorite Russian Books

Bookwitty By Bookwitty Published on July 18, 2016
This article was updated on November 9, 2016

Daria Desombre was born in Saint Petersburg and lives in Brussels. She writes for leading film companies in Russia and Ukraine and adapts US and European TV programs for the Russian market, including Drop Dead Diva and The Mentalist. She is finishing the fourth novel of her Intellectual Detective Series and is working on the script for the TV series of her first novel, The Ghost of Heavenly Jerusalem.


Ludmila Ulitskaya: Daniel Stein, Interpreter 

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Ulitskaya, undoubtedly the best Russian author of our time, a specialist of brilliant family sagas, and gem-like short stories, delivers here a novel which could be worth a Nobel Prize, not only for literature, but also for peace, as she touches and explores the problematic of religious fanaticism and the interactions between three monotheistic religions. But first and foremost, it's the marvelous and touching story of the extraordinary Daniel Stein, a clandestine Polish Jew forced by the Germans to serve as interpreter, who secretly helps 300 Jews to escape from their ghetto. After the war he converts to Catholicism, becomes a priest, and settles in Israel. But it's also the story of other people who interact with Stein, telling their lives and becoming better thanks to his kind and sensitive guidance.

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Ludmila Ulitskaya: Short stories 

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Even if I adore Ulitskaya's serious novels, I'm completely in love with her short stories. A bright mixture between Chekhov and Roald Dahl, Ulitskaya brings to her writing another dimension, a woman's point of view. The relationships between her characters are complicated, the intrigue is tight, the end - unexpected. The language is a gem. Although I have always preferred big volumes to short stories I couldn't put her book down, her style, psychological sharpness, and sense of humor are addictive.

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Marina Stepnova: The Women of Lazarus

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This book is a family saga, in which everyone is in love, but this love, even being extraordinary, strong and passionate, rarely brings any joy. It's a story about three women united by one brilliant man, Lazarus Lindt, a genius and a physician, that takes place over the course of the 20th century. One woman is his professor's wife, twice his age, another is Lindt's own wife, too young for him, and the third is his granddaughter, the only one who succeeds in being happy. With humor and sensitivity, Marina Stepnova follows the destiny of her characters, which cannot leave us indifferent.

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Boris Akunin: The Winter Queen

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For many years, Boris Akunin, author of the Erast Fandorin mysteries was known as a brilliant translator of Japanese literature. It is no surprise that his detective novels are written in such a beautiful language. Even literature snobs, who have held a thriller in their hands, were conquered by Akunin’s bright style, wonderful and touching characters, and a great plot, with an exotic setting in the Tsarist Russia of the late 19th century. If you begin with this first one, and I'm sure you'll follow with the other books in the series.

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Eugene Vodolazkin: Laurus 

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The result of a bright idea of a philologist and an historian, specializing in Russian medieval history to write the biography of a saint. Vodolazkin traces the life of an ordinary boy, born in the 15th century, revealing step by step how he became one of the most worshiped saints in Russia. Vodolazkin uses language as a tool, skilfully skipping from archaic language formulations to modern slang, describing medieval life with expertise and humor.

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