Quick Study: Vladimir Sharov is known for writing fiction that blends history and biblical motifs in unusual ways.
The Sharov File: Vladimir Sharov, a medieval historian by education, debuted as a writer in the late 1970s, first publishing poetry, later fiction. Publication of Sharov’s Before and During in the literary journal Novy mir in 1993 caused a considerable scandal, which Anna Aslanyan summarized in a review for The Independent thus, “editors of the very magazine where it appeared criticised the author for taking too many liberties with facts, while a proportion of readers found its links between Orthodox Christianity and Bolshevism hard to digest.” Sharov continues to incorporate historical figures into his works: his Be Like Children, a finalist for the Russian Booker and Big Book awards, intertwines Biblical themes (which begin with the title) with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Sharov won the 2014 Booker Prize for his Return to Egypt, in which a character named Nikolai Gogol, who happens share a name with a certain nineteenth-century ancestor, decides to finish his great relative’s poem in prose, Dead Souls.
Psssst………: Sharov wrote his dissertation about Russia’s Time of Troubles… Sharov’s father, Alexander Sharov, was a science fiction and children’s writer…
Sharov’s Places: Born in Moscow, lives in Moscow.
The Word on Sharov: Anna Aslanyan, writing in The Independent, says this of Before and During, which she reviewed in Oliver Ready’s translation, “Some of the book’s elements – madness, fantasy, biblical references – are reminiscent of The Master and Margarita, but the analogy with Bulgakov does not run very deep. Sharov’s real precursor is Andrey Platonov, who was influenced by Fyodorov’s teachings and drew strong parallels between Soviet ideology and religion. If Russian history is indeed a commentary to the Bible, then Before and During is an audacious attempt to shine a mystical light on it, an unusual take on the 20th century’s apocalypse that leaves the reader to look for their own explications.”
On Writing: When Russia Beyond the Headlines asked Sharov whom he writes for, he answered, “I don’t write for any particular reader. For me, the process of writing a book is an attempt to understand the things that remain obscure to me. By the end it seems that I have started to at least partially understand some things, although that feeling does fade rather quickly. It’s that kind of tool for me: if I write for anyone, it is only for myself.”
Sharov Recommends: Andrei Platonov, about whom Sharov wrote an article for the Literary Matrix series.