For many centuries Russia has been famous for its distinguished poets, essayists and novelists, thanks to whom Russian literature became an integral part of the history of the world’s creative works.
Professor of the Department of Russian Language and Literature of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Natalya Zykhovskaya tells us who a writer is, and what qualities must she have.
– A writer – is it a profession, or just creativity?
− Opinions vary about this issue. Of course, there exist educational institutions where people can be trained as writers. But will those be “real” writers? Before, for instance, there were unions of writers which entitled their members with a right to call themselves writers; but already Mikhail Bulgakov in his The Master and Margarita criticized such unions. I believe that a talented person can be taught any profession. There are many interesting writers, but a real writer (a genius) is a timeless writer. That means that writing is still the highest form of creativity, as writer, like God, creates his own world from nothing and makes us live under the impression of plunging into those worlds for years or even for the rest of our lives.
– What qualities or skills are required to write a book?
− Besides being a master of language, one must know, as romanticists once put it, how to infect (like with a flue) the reader’s imagination. And also, how to keep up this internal reader’s fever.
– What is your attitude to this new trend of writing books by everyone: many show-business celebrities and politicians have already written more than one book each. Can modern authors be considered real writers?
− An author may be considered a “real” writer only after his/her book or books stand the test of time (and that is 50 years since, at the very least). Only after that amount of time we will understand whether s/he is a “real” one or not. There is no other way of judging the level of the author’s genius.
– Are there such concepts as a “professional” and “amateur” in writing?
− I think these concepts have nothing to do with writing. Nowadays many people feel the urge to write, and I believe that to be good – it’s better they write, than fight. If you like to write, you’re an amateur, but if you can’t live without writing, that means somewhat higher aspirations. And if we’re serious, the degree of “realness” of a writer is not quite something that could be measured, since it comprises uniqueness, originality, and that contribution into the global literary process which will only be appreciated by the descendants.
– What are your TOP 5 favourite books?
− War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Ulysses by James Joyce, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Nineteen Eighty-Four by Orwell, and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.