Boris Akunin (Russian: Борис Акунин) is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili (Russian: Григорий Шалвович Чхартишвили; Georgian: გრიგოლ ჩხარტიშვილი) (born May 20, 1956), a Russian writer of Georgian origin. He is best known as writer of detective and historical fiction, but he's also an essayist and literary translator. Grigory Chkhartishvili has also written under pen names Anatoly Brusnikin, Anna Borisova and Akunin-Chkhartishvili.
Life and career
Chkhartishvili was born in Zestafoni to a Georgian father and since 1958 has lived in Moscow. Influenced by Japanese Kabuki theatre, he joined the historical-philological branch of the Institute of Asian and African Countries of Moscow State University as an expert on Japan. He worked as assistant to the editor-in-chief of the magazine Foreign Literature, but left in October 2000 to pursue a career as a fiction writer.
Under his given name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, he serves as editor-in-chief of the 20-volume Anthology of Japanese Literature, chairman of the board of a large "Pushkin Library " (Soros Fund), and is the author of the book The Writer and Suicide (Moscow, The New Literary Review, 1999). He has also contributed literary criticism and translations from Japanese, American and English literature under his own name. He is left handed, and has been known to smoke a pipe.
Under the pseudonym Boris Akunin, he has written many works of fiction, mainly novels and stories in the series The Adventures of Erast Fandorin, The Adventures of Sister Pelagia, The Adventures of the Master (following Nicholas Fandorin, Erast's grandson), all published in Russia by Zakharov Books, and the Roman-Kino ("Novel-Film") series set during World War I. Akunin's specialty is historical mysteries set in Imperial Russia. It was only after the first books of the Fandorin series were published to critical acclaim that the identity of B. Akunin (i.e., Chkhartishvili) was revealed.
Chkhartishvili "prefers to work with historical material" and has been called the "undisputed champion" of Russian crime fiction given that as Boris Akunin he "has written more than a dozen crime novels and has been widely appreciated by discerning readers . . . and has been translated into many languages."
Awards and honors
In the year of 2000, Akunin was nominated for the Smirnoff-Booker Prize. In September 2000, Akunin was named Russian Writer of the Year and won the "Antibooker" prize in 2000 for his Erast Fandorin novel Coronation, or the last of the Romanovs.
In 2003, the British Crime Writers' Association placed Akunin's novel The Winter Queen on the short list for the Dagger Award in Fiction. In 2004, he was a member of the jury at the 26th Moscow International Film Festival.
An English remake of The Winter Queen was in production. It was set to start filming in 2007, but the leading actress, Milla Jovovich, became pregnant, and the production process was delayed to unknown date.
Additionally, Pelagia and the White Bulldog was made into a TV mini-series in 2009, while The Spy Novel came out in a 2011 theatrical release as The Spy.
List of works
- Erast Fandorin series (publication dates in parentheses). Each historical mystery novel is assigned its own subgenre of detective fiction (conspiracy, political, etc.):
- The Winter Queen, original title Azazel / Азазель (1998). A conspiracy mystery. 1876. The 20-year-old Fandorin begins his career by accidentally stumbling over a plot for world domination.
- The Turkish Gambit / Турецкий гамбит (1998). A spy mystery. 1877. Fandorin takes part in the Russo-Turkish War and the Siege of Plevna as he is trying to uncover a Turkish spy.
- Murder on the Leviathan, original title Leviathan / Левиафан (1998). A closed set-up mystery. 1878. Fandorin investigates a murder while traveling on a steamship headed from England to India. This is the third novel in the series, but the second released in English.
- The Death of Achilles / Смерть Ахиллеса (1998). A hired assassin mystery. 1882. Upon returning from diplomatic service in Japan, Fandorin tackles the mysterious death of Mikhail Skobelev (called Sobolev in the novel) in a Moscow hotel.
- The Jack of Spades / Пиковый валет (1999). A novella about confidence men. 1886. Fandorin hunts down a clever gang of swindlers.
- The Decorator / Декоратор (1999). A novella about a maniac. 1889. After ending his string of murders in England, Jack the Ripper surfaces in Moscow.
- The State Counsellor / Статский советник (1999). A political mystery. 1891. Revolutionary terrorism in late 19th-century Russia takes center stage, as Fandorin is pursuing a group of daring radicals.
- The Coronation / original title Coronation, or the Last of the Romanovs (Коронация, или Последний из Романов) (2000). A high society mystery. 1896. The plot surrounds the ascension of Tsar Nicholas II, whose family is being blackmailed by an international supervillain.
- She Lover of Death / Любовница смерти (2001). A decadent mystery. 1900. A decadent suicide society causes a stir in Moscow.
- He Lover of Death / Любовник Смерти (2001). A Dickensian mystery. Simultaneously with the decadent society investigation, Fandorin is looking into a series of murders in the slums of Khitrovka, Moscow.
- The Diamond Chariot / Алмазная колесница (2003). An ethnographic mystery. Events of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 set against a flashback to Fandorin's diplomatic service in Yokohama in 1878.
- The Jade Rosary / Нефритовые четки (2006). Seven short stories and three novellas set between 1881 and 1900. Some of the "holes" in the narrative are filled, including Fandorin's service in Japan, his investigations in the 1880s while a Deputy for Special Assignments in the Moscow city administration and his adventures in America.
- All the World's a Stage / Весь мир театр (2009). A theatrical mystery. 1911. The 55-year-old Fandorin has his life turned upside-down when investigating strange incidents in a fashionable Moscow theater.
- The Black City / Черный город (2012). 1914. While pursuing a daring Bolshevik terrorist, Fandorin goes to the Azerbaijani capital Baku, where his wife is shooting a motion picture.
Note: (The Jack of Spades and The Decorator were published together in a single volume, Special Assignments: The Further Adventures of Erast Fandorin / Особые поручения.)
- Pelagia and the White Bulldog / Пелагия и белый бульдог  (2000). A bishop of a large Volga province sends an astute nun Pelagia to look into mysterious deaths of his aunt's prize-winning dogs.
- Pelagia and the Black Monk / Пелагия и черный монах (2001). Mysterious events in a remote monastery force bishop Mitrofani to start an inquiry, which only leads to more tragedy.
- Pelagia and the Red Rooster / Пелагия и красный петух (2003). A stranger who has started a new sect in provincial Russia becomes the focus of sinister and deadly plots.
- Nicholas Fandorin series (about Erast Fandorin's grandson, a modern-day British historian):
- Altyn Tolobas / Алтын-толобас  (2000). Nicholas visits Russia in 1995 to investigate artifacts left by his ancestor, Cornelius von Dorn, a German soldier in the service of the Russian czar in the 17th century. Cornelius's story is told in alternating chapters.
- Extracurricular Reading/ Внеклассное чтение (2002). Nicholas' adventures in Moscow in 2001 are told together with a story of a 7-year-old prodigy entangled in a regicidal plot at the end of Catherine the Great's reign.
- F.M. (2006). Nicholas is looking for a lost Dostoevsky manuscript, a fictional original draft of Crime and Punishment written as a detective novel.
- The Falcon and the Swallow / Сокол и Ласточка (2009). Nicholas and his British aunt are looking for a treasure in the Caribbean. The origin of the treasure is told in a story about Laetitia von Dorn (Cornelius's niece) set in 1702.
- The Genres Project (novels written in different fiction genres, each book's title refers to the particular genre):
- Children's Book / Детская книга (2006). Erast Fandorin Jr. (Nicholas' ten-year-old son) goes on a time-travelling adventure.
- Spy Novel / Шпионский роман (2006). Set in 1941, just before Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. State security officers are on the trail of a deeply embedded German spy.
- Science Fiction / Фантастика (2006). Two young men cope with their mysteriously acquired superpowers in the Soviet Union's dying days.
- Quest / Квест (2008). In 1930, an Indiana Jones-like American scientist and two of his colleagues go to Moscow in an attempt to disrupt Soviet eugenics experiments. The novel imitates a computer game. The second part of the narrative, called Codes to the Novel is set in 1812, during Napoleon's invasion of Russia.
- Children's Book For Girls / Детская книга для девочек (2012). Co-authored with Gloria Mu. Angelina Fandorina (Erast Jr.'s twin sister) goes on a time-traveling, world-saving quest of her own.
- Brüderschaft with Death (A "cinematic novel", written as a collection of ten novellas ("films") about the rivalry between Russian and German intelligence during World War I. Each "film" is written in a different cinematic genre. There are two main characters in the series: Alexei Romanov and Sepp von Theofels). The following "films" have been released in Russian:
- The Infant and the Devil / Младенец и черт (2007). Comedy. July 1914. A German ace of espionage is trying to steal the plans of Russian military operations, as a young St. Petersburg student unexpectedly interferes.
- The Torment of a Broken Heart / Мука разбитого сердца (2007). Melodrama. November 1914. Junior sergeant Alexei Romanov, sent away from the front after being wounded, takes part in an operation in Switzerland, where Russian intelligence is attempting to neutralize a "dealer in secrets."
- The Flying Elephant / Летающий слон (2008). Aeronautic adventures. April 1915. Captain von Theofels infiltrates Russia's Special Aviation Corps in order to sabotage the development of the world's first heavy bomber, the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets.
- Children of the Moon / Дети Луны (2008). A decadent étude: August 1915. Ensign Romanov, fresh after completing the Russian General Staff's counter-intelligence course, goes undercover into a Petrograd society of young decadents. One of the members is about to transfer a copy of secret military documents to a German spy.
- The Wandering Man / Странный человек (2009). Mystical. December 1915. Major von Theofels is trying to discredit the head of Russian military intelligence. To achieve his goal he is trying to get close to a mysterious "Wanderer" who greatly resembles the historical Grigory Rasputin. The Russian title plays with the double meaning of the word "странный": wandering (archaic meaning) and strange, weird.
- Let the Thunder of Victory Rumble! / Гром победы, раздавайся! (2009). Front-line sketch. April 1916. Junior lieutenant Romanov's adventures at Russia's South-Western Front, as he is trying to ensure the secrecy of the plans for the impending Brusilov Offensive.
- Mariya, Maria... / "Мария", Мария... (2010). A true tale of the sea. October 1916. Major von Theofels has a new assignment, to sabotage the Russian battleship Imperatritsa Mariya.
- Nothing Sacred / Ничего святого (2010). A hellish scheme of the Germans. November 1916. Von Theofels and his nemesis Alexei Romanov are about to meet again as the German spy is preparing an assassination of Czar Nicholas II. This time, Romanov, now a lieutenant, is a much more worthy opponent.
- Operation Transit / Операция "Транзит" (2011). Preapocalyptic. April 1917. With Russia facing political turmoil after the February Revolution, the Germans hope to further the collapse by helping the Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin return to the country. Major von Theofels' new assignment is to ensure his safe passage.
- The Angels Battalion / Батальон ангелов (2011). Apocalyptic. Summer 1917. With Russia's ability to sustain the war at an end and the army demoralized, the Russian Provisional Government creates the Women's Battalion of Death in order to boost the soldiers' morale. Stabskapitän Alexei Romanov joins the strange outfit as an instructor.
- History of the Russian State. A series of non-fiction books documenting the history of Russia from the 9th century to 1917, complemented by a series of fictional works.
- A Part of Europe | Часть европы (2013). History of Russian statehood from the its beginnings (9th century) up to the Mongol Conquest (early 13th century).
- The Fiery Finger | Огненный перст (2013). Three historical novellas set between the 9th and 13th centuries: The Fiery Finger (the adventures of a Byzantine spy in the Slavic lands in 856 AD), The Devil's Spittle (political games at the court of Yaroslav the Wise in 1050) and Prince Cranberry (about a young ruler of a tiny duchy, located dangerously close to the Wild Steppe, in 1205).
- Non-series books:
- The Seagull / Чайка, Комедия в двух действиях (2000). A reworking of Anton Chekhov's Seagull as a mystery
- Comedy/Tragedy / Комедия/Трагедия (2000). Two plays, Hamlet, a Version and "Mirror of Saint Germain
- Fairy Tales for Idiots / Сказки для Идиотов (2000). A collection of short stories, not related to any of the series.
- Yin and Yang /Инь и Ян (2006). A play about Erast Fandorin, set in 1882.
- Screenplays / Сценарии (2006). Original screenplays written by Akunin for three of his novels.
- The Most Frightening Villain and other stories / Самый страшный злодей и другие сюжеты (2011). A collection of blog posts from 2010 to 2011.
- A Real Princess and other stories / Настоящая принцесса и другие сюжеты (2013). A collection of blog posts from 2011 to 2012.
- Photos as Haiku / Фото как хокку (2011). A collection of biographical stories sent in by the readers of Akunin's blog.
- As Grigory Chkhartishvili:
- The Writer and Suicide / Писатель и самоубийство (1999). A non-fiction study of suicide in literary circles throughout history.
- Cemetery Tales / Кладбищенские истории (2004). Written as both Boris Akunin and Grigory Chkhartishvili, the book consists of literary essays about cemeteries in different parts of the world, each accompanied by a macabre short story.
- As Akunin-Chkhartishvili:
- Aristonomy / Аристономия (2012). Akunin's first attempt to write "serious literature", as opposed to genre fiction. The novel is set during the turmoil of the February and October Revolutions and the Russian Civil War, with philosophical ruminations on the nature and development of human dignity woven into the plot.
As Akunin has indicated in interviews, the Sister Pelagia series is finished (only three books were ever planned) and so, in all likelihood, is the Nicholas Fandorin series. The Alexei Romanov/Sepp von Theofels series, planned for 10 novellas, was completed in 2011. The other two projects will continue. In particular, Akunin plans to write two more Erast Fandorin books, both collections of short stories and novellas, similar in structure to The Jade Rosary and taking place entirely during the 20th century.
The Genres project may continue as well, with Akunin possibly exploring new genres. He has also stated he may write more Akunin-Chkhartishvili novels to continue the story and to further develop the ideas from Aristonomy.
In March 2013, Akunin announced in his blog that he is winding down his career in detective fiction (though he still plans to finish the Erast Fandorin series as promised) and will begin concentrating his energy on a new big project, History of the Russian State. He plans to write eight volumes of history, from the Middle Ages to the Russian Revolution, aiming to make it completely "non-ideological" yet interesting to read. Accompanying each volume of history, there will be a book of fiction taking place in the same time period. All the fiction pieces will be parts of one, long family saga. The first part of the project is scheduled to be released in December, 2013. It will include two volumes, A Part of Europe (a volume of history, covering the period between the formation of the Kievan Rus in the 9th century and the beginning of the Mongol conquest of Russia in the 13th century) and The Fiery Finger (a collection of three novellas, set in the same time period).
In November 2007, AST, one of the publishing houses with which Akunin is affiliated, came out with a historical mystery novel by a new author, Anatoly Brusnikin, called Девятный спас (Devyatny Spas, The Ninth Savior). Despite the fact that Brusnikin was a complete unknown, AST spent lavishly on an advertising campaign for the book, which almost immediately resulted in rumors that Brusnikin might actually be Akunin in a new disguise.
The rumors about the authorship of Devyatny Spas were also fueled by the total secrecy surrounding the person of the author and the fact that his name, A. O. Brusnikin, is an exact anagram of Boris Akunin. AST has also released a photograph of Brusnikin, which greatly resembled Chkhartishvili's face.
In January 2012, two years after the second Brusnikin novel was published and just prior to the release of the third one, Chkhartishvili admitted in his blog that it was indeed him hiding under a new nom-de-plume. The reason for creating another alter ego was Akunin's desire to write historical novels without a mystery component and to attempt a "Slavophile" look at Russian history in lieu of his usual "Westerner" outlook. The Brusnikin "photograph" was revealed to be a combination of Chkhartishvili's face with the face of a studio designer who made the picture.
To date, three Brusnikin novels have been written.
- The Ninth Savior / Девятный Спас (2007). Set in the beginning of Peter the Great's reign, it follows the lives of three friends (clearly modeled after the Three Bogatyrs of the Russian folk tales) and a scion of the Romanovs named Vasilisa (modeled after Vasilisa the Wise) and their involvement in a series of sinister plots.
- A Hero of A Different Time / Герой иного времени (2010). An homage to Lermontov's A Hero of Our Times, it is set during the Caucasus War in the early 1840s.
- Bellona / Беллона (2012). The Crimean War is the main subject.
Akunin has said he has no definite plans to write more Brusnikin novels, though he remains open to the possibility.
At about the same time as Brusnikin had made his appearance, Chkhartishvili's other disguise, Anna Borisova, hit the bookstores relatively undetected. In this literary experiment Chkhartishvili wanted to attempt to write as a woman and to get away from detective and adventure fiction. Similar to the Brusnikin ruse, the "photograph" of Borisova released by the publisher was actually a combination of Chkhartishvili's face with that of his wife. Borisova's work, though not overly complicated, is more literary and philosophical in nature. There were three Borisova novels written.
- There... / Там... (2007). Victims of a terrorist attack in Moscow experience afterlife, each in accordance with their very different beliefs.
- The Idea-Man / Креативщик (2009). A mysterious stranger walks the streets of Saint Petersburg, telling people strange and fascinating stories.
- Vremena goda (2011). Set in a French retirement home for Russian-speaking clientele. The main characters are a young Muscovite doctor suffering from a potentially fatal brain aneurism and a supercentenarian owner of the home incapacitated by the Locked-in syndrome.
Akunin has said that he will not write any more Borisova novels "unless I get a sex-change (surgery)."
- "Чхартишвили, Григорий". Collection of materials by Lenta.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 26 November 2009.
- The Case Of The Missing Russian Crime Novel. Igor Pomerantsev. Radio Free Europe. NEWS STORIES AND DOCUMENTS. July 31, 2009.
- "26th Moscow International Film Festival (2004)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- "Б. Акунин. "Азазель"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. "Турецкий гамбит"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. "Левиафан"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. "Смерть Ахиллеса"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. "Пиковый валет"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. "Декоратор"". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. Чайка". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Б. Акунин. Сказки для Идиотов". Akunin.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Борис Акунин готовится представить читателям новую книгу!". Shoppingonline.ru. 2010-05-26. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- "Акунин с Брусникиным - на одно лицо! //". Kp.ru. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- borisakunin 16 января, 13:45 (2012-01-16). "Любовь к истории - Ответы на вопросы и Обращение за помощью". Borisakunin.livejournal.com. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
- borisakunin 11 января, 13:13 (2012-01-11). "Любовь к истории - Проект "Авторы": Анна Борисова". Borisakunin.livejournal.com. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boris Akunin.|
- (Russian) Akunin's site (contains the full text of ten novels)
- (Russian) Akunin's personal blog
- (Russian) Fandorin.ru Official Site of Erast Fandorin and other Akunin characters
- (Russian) The Erast P. Fandorin Virtual Museum
- Akunin.net Akunin's published books in Russian, English, German and French, last updated in 2005
- Times online interview with Boris Akunin
- Boris Akunin: the Evil Spirit or Good Luck of Modern Russian Fiction?
- 2002 AEI paper analyzing Akunin's works
- Russian library site containing the full texts of most of Akunin's novels, including all three Pelagia novels, two Nicholas Fandorin novels, and all Erast Fandorin books except The Jade Rosary and All the World's a Stage
- Boris Akunin at RT Russiapedia