Irina Bogatyryova about her novel "Sogra", published in the "New World" magazine

You can read the author's new novel in the April and May issues of the Russian literary magazine "New World".


The novel appeared thanks to the folklore expeditions with the Folkloristics Laboratory of the Russian State University for the Humanities, with which the author worked for three seasons in the Arkhangelsk region, said Irina Bogatyryova to the "Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature" website.

- For me, it was an extremely valuable life experience. Not only did I understand for myself what Russian folklore really is today, how tradition is preserved, changed and lived, what folk beliefs are and how characters like the Domovoy and Leshiy feel in modern realities, but I also got acquainted with colorful people, about whom I could only read before from Shergin, - said Irina Bogatyryova. - The Russian North is a special region, with its own dialect and folklore, and I wanted to convey everything together in the text - and the types that I encountered during the expeditions, and the dialect, and even my surprise from all this - the surprise of a modern urban woman.

Every folklorist has his own golden informant - the person with whom the best interviews were recorded, had a soulful contact.  For me, this is the woman with whom I recorded the interview on the first day of my first expedition. She turned out to be a really valuable storyteller, which I couldn't judge by my inexperience, so I went to her twice more with more experienced colleagues - and she told and told me. And from time to time, one way or another, she repeated the same story: about her relative who, dying, was eager to see her. But Aunt Marusya didn't go to visit her. And only for the third time, returning, as tied to the same story, she told it to the end - and it became clear that her refusal to visit the dying was revenge. But to understand all the circumstances of this is possible only by understanding the local tradition - from the outside, it seems to be just a conflict between two sisters-in-law. 

Thus, the plot arose on its own, and the plot turned out to be the most natural: a teenage girl from the city, who has no family ties with the North, finds herself in a deaf Arkhangelsk village. Not quite, though, deaf: there is a big stone church, which is unusual for those places. It used to be a large village with a fair, but everything is deep in the past. Now there are a handful of old ladies living here, no public transport, and all they have is their past, which they are ready to talk about for hours. In their stories, they organically intertwine village gossip and annoyance at the neighbors, stories about the Leshiy and spoilage of cattle, how to avoid meeting with a Bannik and, most importantly, about a wonderful Travina (the grass), helping to find lost things and people. Really, not all people, but only those who want to be found.

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However, the main task of the author in the new novel was to work with language.

- The material practically did not require processing - these are real interviews with real people. But I understood that all essence is lost if to deprive them of the main thing - that language on which they have been told, a dialect and special sound of spontaneous live speech, - Irina said. - Without it, everything turned into exhausted folk omens and beliefs - all the things that make me personally sick. No, I wanted to convey the music of the speech that amazed me. And then I really had to make an effort, because the sounding speech on paper becomes clumsy and ridiculous, it is not perceived, it loses not only its charm but also its meaning. I had to develop a whole system of how to turn an interview into a linguistic portrait of a character so that it would not be tiresome for a modern reader who is not interested in either dialectics or folklore. It's up to him to decide how far I've managed to do it.

You can buy an electronic version of the April issue of "New World" on the magazine's website.

Also recently "New world" magazine published Irina Bogatyryova's review of the book "Dangerous Soviet Things. City Legends and Fears in the USSR" (A. Arkhipova, A. Kirzyuk, "New Literary Review", 2020).

Writer Irina Bogatyreva was born in Kazan, grew up in Ulyanovsk and now lives in Moscow. She graduated from the Literary Institute named after Gorky and completed her master's degree at the Centre for Typology and Semiotics of Folklore at the Russian State University for the Humanities. She is the author of 7 books of prose, winner of the "Ilya-Premium", the "October" magazine prize, the "Belkin" prize, the Goncharov Prize, the Krapivin Prize, the Mikhalkov Prize, the Student Booker Prize and the "Booker" competition. In winter Irina became a guest of the literary co-working in Ulyanovsk.