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Boris Akunin and the rise of the Russian detective genre

by Olga Sobolev

There are very few people in Russia who have not read at least one of Boris Akunin’s nine Adventures of Erast Fandorin, do not have a couple of them lying on a coffee table or who are unable to discuss ‘Erast’ at social events. Akunin’s detective novels have thousands of admirers all over Russia, and recently Fandorin has reached an even wider audience, with ORT producing a television version of the first book in the series, Azazel′ (first published in 1988). Not surprisingly, then, critics refer to ‘Erastomania’. However, popularity and critical recognition are often mutually exclusive, and the opinion of Russian scholars is far from being unanimous. On the one hand, the virtues of Akunin’s work were acknowledged when his Coronation (published in 1999) won the 2000 Anti-Booker Prize; on the other, this award gave rise to numerous objections, which can be briefly summarized in the question: why should a literary prize be awarded to a bestseller?

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