The Japan Times has a nice piece by Roger Pulvers on the great early Soviet writer Boris Pilnyak (I wrote about him here, and I see I promised to write about his masterpiece, The Naked Year, which I still haven’t done). The Pulvers piece focuses on his visit to Japan and the book he wrote about it, Корни японского солнца (Roots of the Japanese sun), which I’ve been wanting to read ever since Sashura told me his Japanese professor had recommended it. I hadn’t realized he made such a splash in Japan:

The impact of Russian literature on Japan in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) had been immense and was still being felt at the time of Pilnyak’s visit. The Japan-Russian Art Society stated in March 1925: “Cultural intimacy between our two peoples, we are profoundly convinced, will bring enormous good not only to both our countries but also to the whole world.” The society dedicated an entire issue of its journal to Pilnyak’s visit.

Anyway, it’s a nice rundown on Pilnyak’s life and career for those who are unfamiliar with him. Thanks, Bathrobe!


  1. are his books in circulation in English? I don’t see much on Amazon, it’s mostly in French.
    A word on his style: it’s darkish, haunting, reminiscent of Knut Hamsun.
    I don’t remember if I’d mentioned a comment on him by my Russian professor Galina Belaya. In her view, his works offer one of the best explanations of why old revolutionaries never really offered resistance to Stalin’s domination and let themselves get slaughtered – out of loyalty to ‘the Cause’.

  2. A fair amount has been translated; Tales of the Wilderness is online here, and The Naked Year, The Volga Falls to the Caspian Sea, Chinese Story and Other Tales, The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon, and Other Stories, Mother Earth and Other Stories, and Mahogany and Other Stories are all listed as available at Amazon. That said, I think it’s safe to say he’s almost completely unknown outside of specialist circles, probably the least-known of the great early Soviet writers.

  3. Pity, I think, at least the Moon should be in every anthology. And, for Americans, O’Key, the American Novel, is worth including in good books about the US on a par with Ilf&Petrov.

  4. I need to put Pilnyak on my list. Anyone know any good Russian language bookstores in Vienna (or Warsaw)? I was spoiled living in Boston – funnily enough it seems to be much easier to find Russian language books in the Boston area than it is in most of Central Europe.

  5. Yeah, well, with the Cold War over, there is no reason left for Bostonians to hate and fear Russians.

  6. The Cold War has nothing to do with it. The Boston area has a number of good Russian bookstores because there is a very large Russian speaking community in Boston. But there is also a fairly large Russian speaking community in Vienna. Moreover, Russia and Russian culture is, supposedly, fairly well liked in “Red” Vienna. One of the few places in Europe that would be true. Apparently the local Russians are just less literate than the Boston immigrants and mostly just read “Argumenty i Fakty” and celebrity magazines. If the local stores are any guide, that is.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    Plus, the Cold War was when Russian was, comparatively speaking, in vogue as a foreign language for US high school and college students. As the Red Menace receded, so did Russian-language study (who wants to learn it just to read Chekhov in the original, after all) and Japanese/Mandarin/Arabic cycled into vogue, depending on which foreign power there was national anxiety about at the time.

Speak Your Mind