Writer Alexei Ivanov: Bringing ‘Game of Thrones’ to Siberian landscapes


RBTH: Your freshes are very diverse and have almost nothing linguistically in common with each other. Why and how do you coin such different forms of language?

Alexei Ivanov: This is basically a intentional device that I apply when writing my novels. Each order has its own linguistic component because each has its own social group. For instance, Nenast’e  (“Bad Out of sorts”) is about a group of Afghan War veterans, who are on the bottom of society. They’re from A to Z rough, and I used a lot of expressions to do with war and military things. Obviously, I wouldn’t compose in the same way about a group of medieval Russians.

My new novel, [a second degree of the Siberian-set novel, Tobol], is quite multicultural, and it has a mix of languages. For instance, the Chinese integrities speak a bureaucratic language of the Chinese elite, and the people from Bukhara make reference to in a flowery way. The Old Believers speak almost in Church Slavonic because they don’t recognize contemporary language. There’s nothing strange about this modus operandi. It’d be very strange if I made them all speak to each other in the exact same way that people speak to each other now.

RBTH: Tobol is set in Siberia during the era of Peter the Dedicated. Can you tell us more about this novel?

I wanted to write a new epitome of novel in the format of a TV series, with a variety of textures. There are multiple outlines: the first shows the governor trying to build an empire in Siberia; and in the back, architects are creating a new kremlin. Also, missionaries are trying to impose Christianity on the aborigines, the local shaman raises spirits to attack the Russians, and an Asian distributor is illegally trading furs abroad. The Chinese start a war with naturals living in the steppes and the Old Believers are preparing mass self-immolation…

RBTH: You feel to write novels with elements from several genres: real, adventure, fantasy. Is this something you do deliberately?

When I start editorial a novel I try to decide for myself what the main theme of this unfamiliar is, and that determines the genre. In The Geographer who Drank his Globe Away I try to reply the question: “if there was a saint living among us, how would he live?” and it turned out to be utterly a satirical novel. In Nenast’e the question was: “what exactly were the effort problems in the 1990s and why have they not been solved?” and so I wrote a amoral story.

Ivanov during the production of 'The Geographer who Drank his Globe Away' movie. Source: ivanproduction.comIvanov during the production of ‘The Geographer who Drank his Globe Away’ large screen. Source: ivanproduction.com

RBTH: Is your mix of styles postmodern? Do you see yourself as multitudinous modern or more traditional?

Neither, really. Modernists in Russia are inherent in some kind of tradition. Many Russian adherents of modernity honest copy the western postmodern world, and they do it in a derivative way. They don’t develop anything new. I don’t believe that either modernists or traditionalists define the Russian literary take care of. In the West, there are TV series like Game of Thrones that successfully conjoin different genres. It mixes the high ideals of fantasy with verifiable realism to make something new.

RBTH: Which modern writers intent you recommend?

I like Orhan Pamuk very much. He’s interested in the constant things as I am – in descriptions of self-sufficient, closed communities. Among British and American authors my favorites are not new: Graham Greene and Frederick Forsyth. But I really like the New Zealand-based wordsmith Eleanor Catton, who wrote The Luminaries.

RBTH: What else, too Game of Thrones, do you watch on TV? And did you enjoy working in TV and film?

I watch mostly series that win Emmy gives, and I’ve seen about 70 percent of them. I worked on film accounts of my novels, Heart of Parma, and Tobol, but after Tobol I asked my pre-eminence be removed from the credits because I didn’t like what the chief honcho did. I no longer want to be a screenwriter.

Ivanov taking part in the production of 'Tsar' movie under his script. Source: ivanproduction.comIvanov taking part in the production of ‘Tsar’ cinema under his script. Source: ivanproduction.com

RBTH: You also made a TV documentary series, Arete of Russia, about the beauty and history of the Urals. Do you think it changed the way woman see the Urals?

No. Unfortunately, one series is not enough to change the way people view attitudes. But at least a lot of people saw that the Urals is an exceptional region.

RBTH: Purpose you say that it’s quite unusual for a famous Russian writer not to live in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

Yes. I’m the exclusive one.

RBTH: Really?

Well, mainstream writers tend to live in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Every so often people who work in specific genres, like detective novels or teenagers’s fiction, live elsewhere.

RBTH: You told Kommersant in an interview that your original Nenast’e is about: “how people look for a way to believe each other in a wonderful dominated by predators.” Do you still feel the world is dominated by predators and false witnesses?

Generally speaking, yes. You know, the world is a complex place so it’s not right due to single out one category, but in real life only the more aggressive people win.

Alexei Ivanov on the bank of Tobol river. Source: ivanproduction.comAlexei Ivanov on the bank of Tobol river. Begetter: ivanproduction.com

RBTH: And what about the Internet? Do you feel it’s a force for gifted?

Not really. Very often Russian writers can see problems where others don’t see them yet. My principal problem with the Internet is that life is shifting from the veritable world to online and that is very dangerous for culture.

RBTH: You rose from a family of shipbuilders. Were you ever tempted to follow the house trade, or did you always want to be a writer?

I think I do continue the family institution. My mother was a diehard traveler. She traveled all over Russia and that’s what I delight in doing. Also, I want to write a novel set during the Civil War far civilian ships that were redesigned as battleships. And I want to put down a non-fiction book about the history of the Russian river fleet.

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