The only author to win all three major Russian literary prizes (including the Russian Booker Prize), Mikhail Shishkin is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Russian literary figures. The Guardian said of Shishkin's writing: "richly textured and innovative. . . arguably Russia's greatest living novelist."
The Wall Street Journal raved that "Shishkin has created a bewitching potion of reality and fantasy, of history and fable, and of lonely need and joyful consolation. An exquisite novel... His sovereignty is over the invisible and the timeless. Mr. Shishkin traces this sad story with great beauty and finesse."
In The Light and the Dark Shishkin has created an evocative love story of two young lovers, Vladimir, a solider flighting the Boxer Rebellion, and Alexandra. Known fondly to each other as Vovka and Sashka, the two young lovers sustain their love by writing passionate letters to each other.
But as their correspondence continues, it becomes clear that the couple's separation is chronological as well as geographicalthat their extraordinary romance is actually created out of, as well as kept alive by, their yearning epistolary exchange, which defies not only space but time. With this contrapuntal literary testament to the delirious, transcendent power of love, Mikhail Shishkinthe most celebrated Russian author of his generationhas created a masterpiece of modern fiction.
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About the Author
AUTHOR Mikhail Shishkin was born in Moscow in 1961. Today, he is one of the most acclaimed Russian writers and the only author to have won all three major Russian literary prizes. Shishkin shares his time between Moscow, Berlin, and Switzerland.
Andrew Bromfield has translated into English many notable Russian authors, including Boris Akunin, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Bulgakov, and many more. He is a founding editor of Glas, a Russian literary journal.
Read an Excerpt
Probably, in order to become real, you have to exist, not in your own awareness, which is so uncertain and subject to the influence of sleep, for instance, when even you don’t know if you’re alive or not, but in the awareness of another person. And not just any person, but one for whom it is important to know that you exist. You know that I exist. And here, where everything is topsyturvy, that makes me real.
When I was still a child I avoided death by a miracleI got up at night to go to the toilet and the book shelves collapsed onto the bed.
But I only started thinking seriously about my own death for the first time at school in a zoology lesson. We had an old teacher, an invalid, and he warned us to put a tablet from his pocket in his mouth if he ever fell unconscious. We put the tablet in, but it didn’t help.
He always used to wipe his glasses with his tie.
At first he taught us botany and I took such a liking to him that I was always collecting herbariums, but later I decided to become an ornithologist, like him.
It was very funny the way he used to lament the disappearance of various plants and birds.
He stands there at the blackboard and shouts at us, as if we’re to blame for something.
"Where’s the shady crocus? Where’s the weak sedge? Where’s the caldesia? And the summer snowflake? And Dubyansky’s cornflower? Well, say something, will you? And the birds? Where are the birds? Where’s Steller’s sea eagle? Where’s the bearded vulture-eagle? Where’s the glossy ibis? I’m asking you! And the crested ibis! And the marbled teal! And the shikra! Where’s the shikra?"
And when he asked this, he himself looked like some sort of bird with ruffled feathers. All the teachers had nicknames, and he was called Shikra.