Happiness is Possible is Book 5 from independent publisher And Other Stories. Its author, Oleg Zaionchkovsky, was born in Samara on the banks of the Volga and until recently worked as a test engineer in the small Russian town of Khotkovo.
Modern-day Moscow is very much a character in the book and in the course of the story the narrator rediscovers his love for the city. Bromfield suggested that 'cheerful' was too positive a word for contemporary Moscow. Rather, he said, you have to attack each day to get anything done.
Conversation turned to the publisher And Other Stories. Set up by two translators to publish writers in translation, they are probably better known for the coup of Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home by Deborah Levy. Bethan Ellis from AOS described the difficulties of getting publishers to invest in translation. Funding is a big issue. And Other Stories is a not-for-profit organisation, finding financial support in grants and reader subscriptions. With the help of readers, academics, critics and publishers, they have a collaborative approach to discovering new literary fiction from around the world. Her enthusiasm for the 'hopeful enterprise' of writing and publishing was inspiring.
Happiness is Possible was shortlisted for both the Russian Booker Prize and the Russian Big Book Prize. If first impressions are anything to go by, it should be a very good read.
You can find out more about And Other Stories here.