Quick Study: Vladimir Makanin is a modern classic whose diverse literature draws on fantasy and existential themes as well as the Russian canon.
The Makanin File: Vladimir Makanin, a former math teacher with a love of chess, published his first novel, Straight Line, in 1965, and has published collections and novels regularly ever since. Makanin’s stories and novels often incorporate futuristic and mystical elements, and some of his more recent books, such as Asan, which won the 2008 Big Book Award, and Underground, a 1999 Russian Booker finalist, overtly draw on Russian classics as they examine, respectively, the Chechen War era and individuals left out of society during Russia’s social changes. Makanin won the 1993 Russian Booker for Baize-Covered Table with Decanter.
Psssst………: If you want to challenge Makanin to a chess match, please know that he sees play with the white figures as “light and graceful, not always deep. But the black figures are the complete opposite: one can’t think about victory here. You have to become one with your position and force your opponent to lose.” In another interview, Makanin used chess pieces as a metaphor for writing, saying that white is for topics he knows fairly well and black is for little-known topics that he likens to a “dark forest” that requires him to “slowly get in touch with the topic” and avoid quick decisions.
Makanin’s Places: Born in Orsk. Studied math at Moscow State University and filmmaking at a Moscow film school; he lives in Moscow.
The Word on Makanin: Lev Danilkin’s review of Asan included these lines, “But the most important thing in the book isn’t the topic, the scenes, the double break with genre, or the irony of the story but the character, the central figure. Makanin hit the mark, he DISCOVERED: he discovered a character whose biography and way of life could be the key to understanding an era, a metaphor for contemporary life.”
Makanin on Makanin: When asked in March 2012 if he had tried writing poetry, Makanin said he didn’t begin as a writer by composing poetry, “I’ll repeat: I began with chess. But that’s also a peculiar type of poetry.” He added that he sometimes listens to poetry through various prisms, mentioning a short period when he enjoyed pop music, saying he began to like the songs, “I began finding something in them. I even began differentiating the groups.”
On Writing: Makanin says his characters aren’t autobiographical and that they don’t have definite real-life prototypes, though he takes bits from his own life and from his neighbors.
Makanin Recommends: Alexander Pushkin: Makanin says he truly is “our everything.”