Russia 'surprised' by top writer's book fair snub

8th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Friday it was "surprised" and disappointed by top novelist Mikhail Shishkin's refusal to join its delegation at a US book fair after he reportedly described the government as a "pyramid of thieves".

Russia's state publishing and media agency had asked Shishkin to be part of the delegation at the BookExpo America fair in May to help promote Russian literature abroad.

However Shishkin turned down the offer, saying he could not represent a state with whose politics he categorically disagreed, the RIA Novosti news agency said.

"We are surprised. We regret this," the deputy head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications (RosPechat) Vladimir Grigoryev told RIA Novosti.

"This is what happens when a Russian writer is separated from the motherland for so long. There are many examples in history," he added.

In a letter quoted by Britain's Guardian newspaper, Shishkin said he could not represent Russia at the book fair as "power has been seized by a corrupt, criminal regime."

He described the state as a "pyramid of thieves", elections as a "farce", and condemned "laws that are returning everyone to the Middle Ages." He said he wanted to represent "another Russia, my Russia."

Shishkin has lived in Switzerland since 1995 but has won numerous Russian literary prizes with novels penned in Russian, although he has also on occasion written in German.

His novel "The Taking of Izmail" won the Russian Booker prize in 2000 while his more recent novels "Maidenhair" and "The Letter Book" have also won awards in Russia.

In separate comments to the Moscow Echo Radio, Grigoryev brushed off the attack on Vladimir Putin's Russia, which he blamed on the author's foreign publishers.

"I fear that Mikhail has fallen into temptation under pressure of the PR-department of an English publisher who want to create a certain image before his book comes out.

"I can only regret that one of the most talented modern authors is starting to give into political vanity. And, as we all know, the muse does not tolerate vanity."

BookExpo America is due to be held in New York in late May.

© 2013 AFP

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