Quick Study: Alisa Ganieva is a literary critic and fiction writer who won the Debut Prize in 2009 for a novella about one young man’s day in Makhachkala, Dagestan.
The Ganieva File: Ganieva won the Debut Prize for Salam, Dalgat!, which she wrote under the pseudonym Gulla Khirachev because of Dagestani cultural norms: Ganieva explains her choice by saying it’s indecorous for a woman to wander a city or write much about street life. Her second novel, Holiday Mountain, also about the Caucasus, was nominated for the National Bestseller Award in manuscript form in early 2012 and released as a book in fall 2012. Ganieva writes for Independent Newspaper’s literary supplement; she has also written essays about Dagestan.
Psssst………: Ganieva admitted in an interview that her husband told her drafts of her early writings about the Caucasus were “impossibly boring.” His critical comments inspired her to rewrite, resulting in Salam, Dalgat!, which won her the Debut Prize. Also: the “Gulla” in Ganieva’s pseudonym means “bullet” in Avar.
Ganieva’s Places: Raised in Dagestan. Lives in Moscow, where she attended the Literary Institute.
The Word on Ganieva: Writers Zakhar Prilepin and Alexander Ilichevsky were members of the 2009 Debut jury that selected Ganieva’s Salam, Dalgat! to win the prize. Prilepin said jury members didn’t know until the day before the prize was awarded that Gulla Khirachev was actually Alisa Ganieva, a well-known critic. “And we were, putting it mildly, shocked. Because what Ganieva wrote is very masculine prose.” Ilichevsky called Ganieva’s work “just brilliant.”
Ganieva on Ganieva: When asked in an interview if she considers herself Russian or Dagestani, Ganieva said she grew up on Russian literature and culture, and didn’t read many Avar books. Still, she said, “But I identify myself more as a Dagestanian Avar.”
On Writing: Ganieva has said that when she was writing Salam, Dalgat! she realized that she didn’t feel quite like herself: she felt more like a male of her age from Dagestan. She said the novella’s world is “absolutely male. This is territory that’s taboo in many ways for a woman. And then, by the way, Dagestani readers said it’s not proper for a woman from a good family to write about the streets. So the pseudonym gave me internal freedom. Only behind the mask of Khirachev did I dare write my own serious prose, about today’s Makhachkala, to boot.”
Ganieva Recommends: In interviews, Ganieva has mentioned, in various contexts, enjoying Isaac Babel’s Odessa stories, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, and domestic scenes from Lev Tolstoy’s War and Peace, as well as works by Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan. (She has also warned that her preferences change…)
Photo credit: Vladimir Nikitin, Kaleydoskop