A WRITER’S SENSE OF HIS OWN IMPORTANCE

Interview with Mikhail Shishkin
January 9, 2012

By Phoebe Taplin 

Novelist Mikhail Shishkin, who has won all of Russia’s major literary awards, is just now being recognized in the west as a worthy successor to Russian literary giants. He spoke to Russia Beyond the Headlines’ Phoebe Taplin about writing, politics and how living abroad affects him as a Russian writer. 

Russia Beyond the Headlines: You seem to be a writer for whom linguistic concerns are crucial. Do you think this makes translating your work particularly challenging?

Mikhail Shishkin: If you've read my books, then you know that the problems of love, death, human dignity, brutality, humiliation are all no less important for me than the linguistic aspects of prose. Text is only the means. Simply, it has long been the case that you can’t say anything with the usual words; they lead nowhere. You have to pave your own unique road. Of course, some things vanish in translation – word games, rhymes – but there are things that are translatable and understandable in all languages​​, for example, the need for love. Words are glass. You need to look not at the glass, but through it to God's world. Words, like glass, exist so that light can pass through them. Read further