Swamplands

Irina Bogatyreva
288 pages;
2020;

The new novel comes from the author of the Altai Mountains saga, «Kadyn» (The Kniguru Literary Award third prize 2019). It’s the story of Zhu, a young girl who lost her mom and found herself in a God-forsaken place somewhere in the North where she finally understands her fate.

This is a very ordinary beginning for a fairy tale: Zhu’s mother dies, her father gets married again, and her new stepmother takes a dislike to her and sends her off to live with her witch-like auntie.

Zhu, however, is not at all sure that she is in a fairy tale. The village where she finds herself is a god-forsaken place somewhere in the North where the sun never sets in summer, surrounded by forests and swamps and without any phone connection to the world. There is absolutely nothing to do here, and the local old women talk in an incomprehensible dialect about the sole topic of damnation and the dead who come back to life, house spirits and some obscure grass that can be used to help find lost people. This grass is difficult to reach: it only grows in a far-away swamp and the area is guarded by evil spirits.

In any case, Zhu is not interested in any of that. Since her mother died, she finds it difficult to talk to people. Her internal twin brother does it for her, and Zhu starts thinking that he is her. Being a boy or a girl, living in town or in a village, doing something or not doing anything — Zhu does not seem to care about any of this anymore. Yet, on the day that a local witch curses her by saying «let the forest spirits take you,» Zhu’s life changes. She goes into the swampy forests with her twin brother inside and comes out alone. From that day on, she has to learn to live anew, listen to the old women and try to understand the stories they tell about the forces that live in surrounding swamps and how to deal with them. Only this way can she understand something about herself, too.

Irina Bogatyreva has won many literary awards for her books for children and young adults. She is a finalist for the Debut Literary Award — the major book prize for your authors. She is also the laureate of the Sergey Mikhalkov prize 2012 for novels for children and teenagers. Her novel «Kadyn» about the Altay received the Students Booker prize 2016. She took the third prize in the Kniguru Award for children’s literature in 2019 With her novel «I, Tororo’s Sister». Irina Bogatyreva is a member of the Moscow Writers’ Union. She is also a member of PEN Moscow Writers’ Organization. Irina plays the mouth harp in the Olkhonskie Vorota duo.

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