Quick Study: Alexander Genis is well-known in Russia and the Russian émigré community for his cultural commentary and media work.
The Genis File: Alexander Genis is an essayist and journalist whose books cover a broad range of cultural and literary topics, and are suffused with Genis’s knowledge of American and Russian culture. A book of Genis’s essays, Red Bread, was translated into English in 2000. Genis’s media work includes hosting the “American Hour” program on Radio Liberty since 1984 and writing for New Newspaper. He also hosted a television show on the Russian “Culture” channel and wrote six books in collaboration with the late Peter Vail, a journalist colleague from Radio Liberty.
Psssst………: Genis noted in an interview that he was born on February 11, 1953, and Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953. He says his father, who worked in a radar factory, lost his job because he spoke favorably of Vladimir Dudintsev’s thaw-era novel Not by Bread Alone, which Genis calls a popular anti-Soviet bestseller.
Genis’s Places: Born in Ryazan, grew up in Riga, emigrated to the U.S. in 1977, lives in New Jersey.
Genis on Genis: Genis has said he likes being outside, “I spend a lot of time in the forest, started writing in the woods, and wrote my last books outside. I also love mushroom picking, fishing, and living in a tent.” He added later that he loves museums, too, saying, “I think the forest and the museum have a lot in common, life in those places least resembles human life. The tree and the picture don’t resemble a person.”
On Writing: Genis discussed his thoughts on philology in an interview, saying, “I don’t believe philology is a science. Science studies objects that repeat, meaning philology isn’t a science but an art instead; in addition, the same criteria are applied to philology as to art. I believe that great philology can be equal to great literature. An example is Mandelstam, who wrote brilliantly about literature, about Dante, for example. Or another example that’s closer for us: Sinyavsky’s book Strolls with Pushkin. I think that’s wonderful prose.”
Genis Recommends: In an interview, Genis listed contemporary Russian writers he finds interesting: Vladimir Sorokin, Tatyana Tolstaya, Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Makanin, and Sergei Gandlevsky. He adds that he’s less interested in what was written two years ago than in what was written two millennia ago.