Quick Study: German Sadulaev’s fiction combines settings and themes from corporate Russia and from Chechnya, where he was born.
The Sadulaev File: German Sadulaev left Chechnya in 1989, before the Chechen War, to study law in Leningrad. His I Am a Chechen! and The Raid on Shali reflect on life in Chechnya, and The Tablet features an “office plankton” character named Maximus who fancies himself a Khazar in his dreams. The Raid on Shali and The Tablet were both nominated for numerous awards: they were shortlisted for the Russian Booker in, respectively, 2010 and 2008. Sadulaev’s The Leap of the Wolf, published in 2012, is a collection of essays on the political history of Chechnya.
Psssst………: Sadulaev says he’s not a specialist on Chechnya, that he simply lived there for 16 years. He has also said that creative work results in confusion about which stories are real and from his own life, and which he invented for his fiction.
Sadulaev’s Places: Born in the village of Shali, in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic. Lives in St. Petersburg, where he went to law school. Sadulaev has referred to his time in Chechnya as exile, saying he lived in Petersburg while in utero and considers it his native city.
The Word on Sadulaev: Kapka Kassabova’s review of I Am a Chechen! for The Guardian concludes with, “In terms of narrative and style this ‘diary of a madman’ is a mess, but it’s a compelling mess. Sadulaev’s voice is a volatile blend of love and hate, shame and pride, self-loathing and megalomania, fatalism and rage, the aftermath of death and the premonition of death. It is a painful book to read and it was clearly a painful book to write, and therein lies its power.”
Sadulaev on Sadulaev: In 2011, when Sadulaev won an award from the journal Znamia, which first published his Raid on Shali, he said in his talk that he worked on the book for around three years, and that knowing the editors were waiting for the novel helped him finish. Sadulaev said he’s not truly a writer, not a bohemian person, not a creative type. “I worked for many years in offices and still do,” he said, “and I’m familiar with the concept of work-related discipline. If there’s a request and something has to be done, that means I’ll do it, even if I don’t want to.”
On Writing: In the same Znamia talk, Sadulaev said he has a “realistic opinion of my literary abilities. They’re moderate, as graciously defined by [critic] Viktor Toporov. Other critics lament, wondering why I wasn’t able to write something like War and Peace or Hadji Murat about such an important topic. And really, why not? The answer is simple: because I’m not Lev Tolstoy… I did what I could: a moderate talent begot a text of moderate artistic and historical significance.”
Sadulaev Recommends: When asked, during a 2010 interview with Russian Newspaper, about literature with themes related to Chechnya, Sadulaev expressed his deep respect for Vladimir Makanin’s Asan and mentioned reading Arkady Babchenko’s Alkhan-Yurt.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Fernandez, Creative Commons