Quick Study: Eugene Vodolazkin’s novels examine the nature of time and history, drawing on Vodolazkin’s medieval scholarship.
The Vodolazkin File: Eugene Vodolazkin’s debut novel, Solovyov and Larionov—which seamlessly blends the stories of a present-day historian and a Civil War general—brought the author immediate notice, landing on both the Andrei Bely Prize (2009) and Big Book Award (2010) finalist lists. His second novel, Laurus, won him broader recognition. Laurus, which chronicles the life of a man who is a medieval healer, holy fool, pilgrim, and monk, is written in a unique blend of archaic and modern-day slang and won him both the Big Book and the Yasnaya Polyana awards in 2013. Foreign rights for Laurus have been sold for more than fifteen languages.
Psssst………: Vodolazkin studied and worked with renowned academician Dmitry Likhachev… Vodolazkin’s short works, which appear in collections, include Close Friends, a novella set largely in the World War 2 era, and essays, many of which address academic life… Vodolazkin wrote the 2015 text for “Total Dictation,” a worldwide literacy exercise…
Vodolazkin’s Places: Born in Kiev, lives in St. Petersburg, where he has worked in the department of Old Russian Literature at Pushkin House.
The Word on Vodolazkin: Writing for Asymptote, Beau Lowenstern says of Laurus, “Vodolazkin’s skill with language leaves a resonating after-effect. Good writers are able to peer through the lens of a particular time and space and stare into the infinite; Vodolazkin simultaneously embraces and rejects this image, often toying with the reader’s sense of spacial and temporal awareness. An expert in medieval history and folklore, he beautifully constructs scenes of fifteenth-century Russia and Europe, placing the reader in a timeless trance, before jerking the rug out from under your feet with such a reference as to a monastery located on the future Komsomol Square of Pskov.”
On Writing: In an interview with Rod Dreher, Vodolazkin said this when asked about the success of Laurus, “As I finished writing Laurus , I told my wife I worked three years on this novel, and now you will read it, and so will my colleagues — but nobody else. It was so far from the mainstream. But it became so popular in Russia, and it received a big literary prize, one that was given previously only to mainstream books. This mistake was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It taught me that despite all the garbage I see in our bookstores or on TV, despite all of this, people need other things to live by. It is an illusion that they need this shit! If somebody has enough courage to speak with another voice, people will read it. The shock was that I asked myself the question: Is Laurus now mainstream?”
Translating Vodolazkin: Translator Lisa Hayden wrote for Lithub about her work on Laurus, noting Vodolazkin’s blend of contemporary slang and archaic terms and saying, “I relied heavily on intuition at all stages of my work on Laurus. I read drafts out loud to myself and, occasionally, to the public at library events. I also relied heavily on the spirit of Eugene’s text, something I soaked up and felt very deeply.”