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akunin's plot thickens

Published: June 18, 2004 (Issue # 978)



  • Akunin: Now available in English
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Boris Akunin's thrillers have sold more than eight million copies in Russia to date. U.S. publishers hope to cash in on his success.

In most respects, Erast Fandorin is an exemplary specimen of the late 19th century. Though he is only 22 years old and in exceptional health, he never fails to take a walking stick out for his midday stroll. Supper with company demands a starched white collar and a red carnation in the buttonhole. A cigar requires a small silver knife for cutting off the tip. And so on.

But Fandorin, the dapper detective of Boris Akunin's bestselling novels, is a century ahead of his time when it comes to putting two and two together. While strategists these days turn to digital PowerPoint displays to help them organize their thoughts, Fandorin does it without external support, introducing each piece of evidence in order of logical deduction and then stamping it with the no-nonsense bullet point: "That is one ... That is two ... That is three."

Fandorin picks up this habit as a rookie sleuth from a clever (though, ultimately, too clever) superior in "The Winter Queen," or, as it's known locally, "Azazel," the inaugural installment in the crime series that has made Akunin one of the most widely read writers in Russia today. For a country whose underlying chaos never seems far from bubbling to the surface, the neat logic and packaged endings of Akunin's graceful mysteries have flourished like a wistful fantasy. "The main thing is not to rush things, not to jump to the wrong conclusion," Fandorin's superior tells him when introducing the deductive method. Clearly, there is something about this reasoning that appeals to Russians, who have snapped up more than eight million copies of Akunin's Fandorin books to date.

Hoping for a repeat of the Fandorin phenomenon abroad, Random House has timed the paperback release of "The Winter Queen," which came out in English translation by Andrew Bromfield last year, to coincide with the second Fandorin translation, "Murder on the Leviathan." If Western audiences bite, the publisher will have hit the jackpot; the adept and industrious Bromfield has another eight Fandorin mysteries waiting in the wings.

Analysts have spilled a considerable amount of ink explaining why Russians, heir to one of the world's most glorious literary traditions, have gone batty over Akunin's Fandorin mysteries. Literary purists group Akunin into the same heap of thriller writers - Alexandra Marinina, Daria Dontsova, Polina Dashkova - whose paperback books, with their lurid covers and luminescent type, light up Moscow's metro cars during rush hour traffic.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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