Shantaram, The Goldfinch and fables: What Muscovites read in July

Shantaram, The Goldfinch and fables: What Muscovites read in July
Moscow libraries have created rankings of the books which were most popular among adult and young readers last month.

Adults prefer foreign bestsellers, while children getting ready for the new academic year have opted for books from their school reading list.

Adult picks: Shantaram and The Goldfinch

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram, written in 2003, is the only novel by Australian author Gregory David Roberts. It was published in Russia in 2010 and instantly won the hearts of sensitive readers. It continues to pique the interest of the Russian audience: this July the novel made it into the top 10 most popular books among Moscow library-goers.

Shantaram (“peaceful man” in Sanskrit) is the nickname of the protagonist, a trickster who escaped from the prison where he had spent 12 years, found a fake New Zealand passport and fled to Bombay. What he finds in India is not peace but new adventures.

Smuggling, weapon trade and run-ins with the mafia were present in the author’s life, too, and it is more interesting than any book. Like Shantaram, Roberts had drug problems, went to prison for bank robbery, escaped and lived in India for about 10 years before he was extradited to Australia. Shantaram was written in the Australian prison where Roberts finally served his time. The writer has kept silent since 2014: he gives no interviews and does not meet with readers, but dedicates all his time to his family.

There have been talks about filming a screen adaptation since 2004. In that time, the possible film director and main cast have changed several times: for example, Johnny Depp was supposed to play Shantaram but will serve as only a producer now.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Another recent bestseller in the top 10 is the long (800 pages!) novel The Goldfinch, which won its author, Donna Tartt, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and made her internationally famous.

The protagonist is called Theo, who at the age of 13 learns the healing power of art. After a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York that kills his mother, Theo is left with no one and nothing but a picture of a goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. The boy is adopted by several different families, and travels around different cities and countries always thinking about the picture, which is both a gift and bad fortune.

Like for Shantaram, a screen adaptation is in the works. The film will be directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn) based on a screenplay by Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), with Ansel Elgort as the main star (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver).

The July ranking also includes Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes by Guzel Yakhina, Women’s Wind by Dina Rubina, The Aviator and Laurus by Yevgeny Vodolazkin, Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan, The Patriot by Andrei Rubanov and The Unknown by Alexei Slapovsky, which has already written about.

Children’s picks: A Sportsman's Sketches and Tale about the Lost Time

A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev

Most often young readers left libraries with A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev: they were likely getting ready for school. Turgenev began writing this series in 1847 while resting and hunting at his mother’s estate in Spasskoye-Lutovino.

The first story, Khor and Kalinych, was published in the January issue of Sovremennik, a popular magazine then. The series was completed in the Polish city of Salzbrunn. A Sportsman's Sketches was published in book form in 1852.

Fables by Ivan Krylov

Last month, visitors of children’s libraries also read Ivan Krylov: his delightful and educational fables also made the top 10.

Krylov borrowed some plots from his 17th century French colleague La Fontaine, who, in his turn, borrowed them from Aesop, a Greek fabulist. Krylov’s infatuation with fables began when he was working as a translator of La Fontaine’s fables into Russian. Later he started writing his own fables.

“Listeners succumb when flatterers seduce” and “The cart’s still there today” now live on as proverbs, and many people who have not even read Krylov (who knows!) recognise them.

Tale about the Lost Time by Yevgeny Shvarts

Tale about the Lost Time (1940) by Yevgeny Shvarts is written both for young and adult readers. Children enjoy the magic and the comic details in the adventures of four pupils who were turned into old people because they were always late, and adults value the implication: how valuable time is and how fast it flies by.

Shvarts wrote the play for the puppet theatre, but it went beyond the theatre stage. In 1964, film director Alexander Ptushko and screenwriter Vladimir Lifshits made the iconic screen adaption starring Oleg Anofriyev, Savely Kramarov, Rina Zelyonaya and Lyudmila Shagalova. In 1978, Kirill Malyantovich shot a puppet cartoon based on the screenplay by Yunna Morits.

In addition, in July children often asked for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Scarlet Sails by Alexander Grin, The Storage of the Sun by Mikhail Prishvin, The Wizard of the Emerald City by Alexander Volkov, Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors by Vitaly Gubarev, Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.