“This is life, this is the reality in Russia today”
Steele began by asking Politkovskaya what the reception of the book had been in Russia. Politkovskaya explained that the book was not published in Russian, and that the book’s subject matter [a critical appraisal of the Russia that has emerged under Putin’s leadership] meant that it was unlikely to ever find a publisher in Russia. In fact, the English edition (published by Harvill), is currently the only edition available in the world, although rights have now been sold into eight other languages.
Anyone who has read the book will agree that its defining characteristic is the level of pessimism which pervades it. Steele was keen to gage whether Politkovskaya could see any cause at all for hope in Russia. Politkovskaya explained that the tone of her writing was something that she thought about and discussed with other Russian journalists endlessly: to what extent should they try to show some light at the end of the tunnel?
Steele wondered what Politkovskaya felt about the oft-cited view that at least Putin has managed to introduce a period of stability to the country: a sharp contrast to the more chaotic Yeltsin years. Politkovskaya was adament that this was not the case, questioning how one could possibly have stability under a President who planned to scrap the direct elections of provincial governors, replacing them instead with governors that he nominated himself. Things were worse now than under communism she said, with fewer children in school, people starving, and elderly people left to die by themselves.
Not surprisingly, a lively question and answer session followed, during which members of PEN and the Frontline Club
quizzed Anna further. A full transcript of the evening, including these questions, will be available shortly: please check back soon.
We are grateful to the Frontline Club for their partnership in this event, and for the assistance of Elena Cook who interpreted for Anna during the evening.
This event was organised through Writers in Translation, which chose Putin’s Russia as the inaugural title for the programme to support.
Learn more About Writers in Translation
Who is Anna Politkovskaya?
Why is English PEN working to promote translation? Read about Writers in Translation’s roots in the PEN Charter
Buy the book from Amazon
Putin’s Russia on sale
Report by Catherine Speller
We are grateful to Edward Zaslavsky for the photographs. All images are subject to copyright, and may not be reproduced.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/annapolitkovskayainconversatio/