A review by Maria Wiltshire
«Осеннее солнце» Эдуард Веркин
Target age range: young adult
Winner of the Kniguru All-Russia Best Literary Work for Children and Youth Competition. Autumn Sun («Осеннее солнце») is available to read online in full at Kniguru. Coming soon in Russian, it will be presented by Banke, Goumen and Smirnova literary agency at Frankfurt Book Fair 2020.
This book is about growing up, about loneliness, dreams and finding one’s place in the world.
Ivan, Natasha and Sasha are teenagers. They live with their mothers and are the last residents of what is left of Tumanny Log, a village in the West of Russia. Once a large community, it became deserted as people moved away to larger towns, abandoning their houses, vegetable patches and wooden saunas. The mothers work hard to make their ends meet: they perpetually sew underwear and bedding and sell it to the shops in the nearby town while the fathers are working away in the North of Russia at higher paid jobs.
The girls, Natasha and Sasha, are two opposites. Natasha does well at school, she is girly and wears pink; Sasha is a tomboy and hates studying. They don’t get on, and neither do their parents. This family feud goes centuries back, to the times of the serfdom law. In order for the girls not to fight all the time, Ivan, who they are both friends with, sees them in turns – he alternates his weekdays between ‘Natasha’s day’ and ‘Sasha’s day’. Verkin tells the story from Ivan’s perspective – the book is full of humour, and is written as a diary.
It spans one summer, the length of Russian school summer holidays. Ivan’s relationship with each of the girls lifts the veil on the teenagers’ lives in rural Russia. Ivan loves his homeland. He knows every blade of grass, every single tree around him. He spends most of his time in the local woods. It is his ‘enchanted wood’, full of surprises and secrets, his Garden of Eden. To find out what is going on in the ‘outside world’, Ivan has to climb the tallest tree as this is the only place where he can catch a signal on his phone. Ivan dreams of turning his homeland into a spot of ecotourism, he has a lot of ideas and has even invented a few myths to romanticise the area and make it seem even more intriguing. Pure, unspoilt nature, clean air… with a bit of effort, this can be one of the most visited places in Russia! But little does Ivan know that his plans are not to be realised and he will leave the Garden of Eden much sooner than he thinks…
Eduard Verkin (Эдуард Веркин) also writes under the name Maks Ostrogin (Макс Острогин). He was born in 1975 in a coal-mining town of Vorkuta (Northern Russia) into the family of a miner and a pharmacist. A Russian writer of both adult and young adult fiction, Eduard is a winner of several literary awards.
Maria (Kozlovskaya) Wiltshire was born in Moscow. She graduated from Moscow State University, English department, with an MA in linguistics and has been translating from and into English since.