Thursday, December 13, 2007

Masha Gessen on Shkola Zlosloviya with Tatyana Tolstaya and Dunya Smirnova - five clips at YouTube, in Russian:

Part 1 (9:49 min)
Part 2 (9:09 min)
Part 3 (9:49 min)
Part 4 (9:09 min)
Part 5 (4:23 min)

Three writers I admire, they spend the whole show discussing two subjects: adoptions and glossy magazines in Russia.

Interesting, informative, cozy.

Amazing how they manage to stay so focused: there's a whole mountain of subjects that they don't touch upon, stuff that they could have turned into a dozen more extremely interesting shows.

Funny, though, that they do talk about the possibility of Masha getting fired from the glossy she was editing at the time of the interview, recorded in mid-April. I think the magazine's September issue was already done without her. Or the one after that.


Masha's next book is due out in April 2008; here's a note from her publisher:

Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene

In 2004 genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery initiated Gessen into a club of sorts: the small (but exponentially expanding) group of people in possession of a new and different way of knowing themselves through what is inscribed in the strands of their DNA. As she wrestled with a wrenching personal decision—what to do with such knowledge—Gessen explored the landscape of this brave new world, speaking with others like her and with experts including medical researchers, historians, and religious thinkers.

Blood Matters is a much-needed field guide to this unfamiliar and unsettling territory. It explores the way genetic information is shaping the decisions we make, not only about our physical and emotional health but about whom we marry, the children we bear, even the personality traits we long to have. And it helps us come to terms with the radical transformation that genetic information is engineering in our most basic sense of who we are and what we might become.

Bolshoi Gorod, of which Masha had been deputy editor, published an excerpt from the book, translated into Russian by Pyotr Favorov, along with an intro note by Masha.

The excerpt is about Masha's mastectomy - very painful reading.

Masha's other work, in English and in Russian, is stored at; I also love reading her Russian-language blog about her kids -

Masha is currently at work on a book about Grigory Perelman - here's a 2006 item from Publishers Weekly:

Agent Elyse Cheney just sold North American rights to a new book by Ester and Ruzya author Masha Gessen to Harcourt’s Rebecca Saletan in a significant six-figure deal. Not yet titled, the book’s subject is Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who recently solved the Poincare Conjecture, one of the seven great mathematical mysteries of the century. He was subsequently awarded the Fields Medal for this achievement, but turned it down. Through Perelman’s mysterious life, Gessen, also Russian, will aim to tell a larger story of mathematics, genius, global politics and obsession. Saletan is also publishing Gessen’s Blood Matters, on genetics and intelligence, due out next year.


A lovely collection of Dunya Smirnova's writing, in Russian, can be acquired at - here. Much of the stuff in it is wicked funny and wonderfully written.

When I first discovered Masha Gessen's pieces, she reminded me of Dunya, whom I had discovered a few years earlier, when she was still writing for the Moscow News (among other publications).


Tatyana Tolstaya is all over the place, and I'm too tired to look for links to her work. I love her stories - and it's so heartbreaking that she hasn't been publishing any new ones in a very long time.

P.S. I've just noticed that a collection of Tolstaya's short stories has been published in English this year.

I love the cover image - so dreadfully Soviet:


  1. Thanks for this; I love Masha Gessen's work too. Kostia gave me her book "Two Babushkas" for my birthday two years ago and it's one of the rare books I can read over and over again. Now I have Amazon send copies of it to other people for their birthdays.

  2. Thanks! I really like Masha Gessen too and was very sorry when she quit her MT and BG columns to devote time to Gala (probably among many other things). I didn't know of those two livejournal sites and ended up spending a great deal of time reading them yesterday!