Sunday, March 21, 2010

Russian Publisher Ad Marginem

I intended to make this post last Tuesday (!) but got pretty distracted by client rush jobs, a painfully beautiful early stretch of spring weather, and making plans to go to Russian Literature Week at the London Book Fair next month. I’ll write more soon about Russian Literature Week as well as a slew of books I’ve finished: Bykov’s ZhD/Living Souls, Chizhova’s A Time for Women, Senchin’s Yeltyshevy, Snegirev’s Petroleum Venus, and maybe Gogol’s Dead Souls.

And so. On Tuesday, Publishing Perspectives posted “Notes from the Underground: Indie Publishing in Putin’s Russia,” an article by Daniel Kalder about Russian publisher Ad Marginem Press. I’d forgotten Ad Marginem’s early history – Sado-masochism and all! – so enjoyed reading it.

Kalder mentions several of Ad Marginem’s writers and books, including Vladimir Sorokin’s Голубое сало (Blue Lard) and Zakhar Prilepin’s Патология (Pathology) and Санькя (San'kia). I was pleased to see that Aleksandr Ivanov, head of Ad Marginem, thinks Prilepin should be better known in the West. I hope stories in the recent Rasskazy and Life Stories collections help Prilepin find an audience here.

I see irony – a strange and sad irony – in Ad Marginem finding itself, well, at the margins in terms of distribution and sales, despite so many of its books hitting prize shortlists. Kalder notes that some Ad Marginem books do sell fairly well. He doesn’t mention Mikhail Elizarov’s Библиотекарь (The Librarian), which won the 2008 Booker Prize, but my book is from the fourth edition, which had a print run of 10,000 copies. It’s also reassuring to know that sales of foreign rights, particularly to Germany, have been good for Ad Marginem.

I’m happy to read that Ivanov won’t quit: Ad Marginem’s list always includes something unexpected -- Vasilii Avchenko’s Правый руль (Wheel on the Right), a “documentary novel” about imported cars in the Russian Far East comes to mind. A big plus for people like me is that Ad Marginem’s Web site includes newsy information about books and authors, with lots of links to interviews and reviews, both positive and negative.

I’d love to hear recommendations of favorite Ad Marginem books. Unless I’m forgetting something, mine would have to be The Librarian (previous post), though I’m going to start Prilepin’s San'kia tonight…


  1. Ad Marginem tends to publish the kind of books I'm most likely to despise.
    But this series is rather amusing:

    Half-forgotten pulp fiction of the Soviet era: spy novels, bottom-tier science fiction & other obscurities galore.

  2. Alex, yes, I remember your dislike of The Librarian and I saw that you didn't like San'kia, either. I've read a couple chapters of San'kia and can't say I'm thrilled about it... we'll see if it improves.

    I forgot Ad Marginem published the Atlantida books! I read a few of Ovalov's (minorly?) legendary Major Pronin books when I was starting to read in Russian again five or so years ago. (Note to non-native readers of Russian: these books read very easily and one has even been translated into English.) I should look up some of the other books in the series.

    Beyond those and The Librarian, I haven't had great luck with Ad Marginem books: I didn't much like Sorokin's Первый субботник and I have mixed feelings about his Ice, plus I didn't enjoy Sadulaev's A.D. Still, that's not a horrible percentage -- I find plenty of books I don't like from other publishers, too! -- and I'm glad Ad Marginem exists as it does.