#RivetingReviews: Rosie Goldsmith recommends THE MOUNTAIN AND THE WALL by Alisa Ganieva

At London Book Fair in March this year I met a charismatic and courageous young Russian author and literary critic called Alisa Ganieva, introduced to me as a “literary sensation”. She wore a red dress and chatted away fluently in English. I learned that she came from Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus, but today lives in Moscow. She grew up on Russian literature, as Dagestanian languages weren’t taught at school, and today proudly identifies herself as Russian and Dagestanian Avar.

Alisa Ganieva is a well-known public figure, writing essays, short stories, reviews, and, so far, three novels about Dagestan and its people, the Avars, Laks, Kumyks and others. Her novella Salaam, Dalgat! was published in 2009 under a male pseudonym and won Russia’s literary Debut Prize. The judges called it “brilliant”, and it caused quite a stir: not only was it rare to read about this part of Russia, but there was reportedly “some anger among radical Islamists at this negative portrayal of their homeland by one of their own”. Alisa reacted by saying, “I don’t see any negativism in it, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to soften what’s really happening there, and I have a great sympathy with almost all of my characters. I let them speak and don’t insert my author’s opinion and impose it on the situation.”

Here in the UK we know too little about young authors from any part of Russia, and it was clear to me that Alisa Ganieva was a bold and gifted champion of new writing. I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to appear at August’s Riveting Russian Reads evening at the British Library.

The Mountain and the Wall is Alisa’s first novel to be translated into English, and has been shortlisted for all three of Russia’s major literary awards. Her second novel to be translated, The Bride and the Groom, comes out this autumn.

Thank you to her English-language publishers, Deep Vellum, for permission to print the plot summary and extract from The Mountain and the Wall.

By Rosie Goldsmith

Rosie Goldsmith by Sarah McIntyre

Rosie Goldsmith is Director of the European Literature Network. She was a BBC senior broadcaster for 20 years and is today an arts journalist, presenter, linguist, and with Max Easterman a media trainer for ‘Sounds Right’.

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Category: July/August 2017 - RussiaReviews

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