The ghosts of Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky will consort with modern day Russian writers for the next nine days at the 18th World Book Fair in New Delhi, rekindling the literary romance between India and Russia.
Over 200 top Russian publishers, authors and literary personalities are flying to New Delhi for the book fair starting Saturday (February 2, 2008). Russia presides over the show as guest of honour, marking the beginning of the yearlong celebration of Russian culture in India. <b1>
Sitting in the Petrovich Club, a stylish restaurant symbolising post-Soviet retro chic, Eduard Uspensky, a celebrity Russian writer and bestselling author of children's books, can barely conceal his excitement.
"I am really looking forward to going to India. Indians and Russians need to know their writers better," said the 70-year-old creator of memorable characters like Uncle Fedya and Crocodile Gena.
"It's a great idea to have Russia as a guest of honour at the book fair. Russian writers are popular in India, but they need to be discovered afresh," added Eugenia Vanina, head of Indian Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies.
Vanina, a passionate admirer of Indian literature, especially Indian classics, recited a couplet from the Bhagvad Gita in chaste Sanskrit and then translated it into lilting Russian.
"But it should not end there," Vanina told a visiting IANS correspondent.
Yaroslav Kostyuk is also set to dazzle Indian bibliophiles with his miniature books measuring one centimetre to a few inches. "There is a certain artistry to putting together these microbooks. I will be talking about it in New Delhi," he said.
"We plan to take a large collection of Russian books, including reasonably priced translations of classics, to the Delhi book fair," said a manager at Biblio-Globus, the largest bookstore chain in Russia.
The publishing industry in Russia is booming with total revenues estimated to be anything between $4-8 billion.
Anatoly Lukyanenko, the creator of fantasy blockbuster Night Watch series of thrillers that revolutionised post-Soviet cinema, and Mikhail Veller, the bestselling author of page-turners like "The Legends of Nevsky Prospect" and "Everything about Life", will be some of the star attractions at the fair.
Playwright and novelist Yury Polyakov, a hot favourite with Russian television channels, is another contemporary Russian icon who is expected to grace the book fair.
Seminars, readings, quizzes, concerts of Russian folk instruments ensemble, Russian craftsmen, national costumes and painting competitions have been woven into a composite show that is set to rekindle interest in Russian art and literature in India.
Designed as part of the Year of Russia in India, which has a white stork against the background of the flags of the two countries as its logo, the Russia Hall will be a virtual window to Russian culture in all its myriad hues.
Besides books, there will be various sideshows with Russian cosmonauts expected to enthral Indians with their tales of space conquests. Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian cosmonaut to make space travel, will also be present at the fair.
It will be more than just spectacle. There will be a serious dialogue of ideas between Russian writers and contemporary Indian writers like U.R. Ananathamurthy, Githa Hariharan, Urvashi Butalia, Krishna Sobti and Vikram Chandra.
Children, many of whom have read delightful tales of Baba Yaga, the wicked witch, and the Firebird, have a treat in store for them. They can take part in Russian New Year's Tree Party with Father Frost and the Snow Maiden.
Around 1,300 publishers from 23 countries will be taking part in the mega book fair in New Delhi, which attracts millions of book lovers.
The Russian presence at the book fair will be reminiscent of the Soviet era when thousands of Russian books in cheap English and Hindi translations were freely available in India. The idea is to bridge the gap as the two countries are rediscovering each other anew, said Tatiana Shaumian of the School of Oriental Studies.