Sergei Soloukh


Program Bio
October, 2007: University of Iowa International Writers Program and New York City
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Sergei Soloukh is a prose writer, and is the author of numerous works including the Papa Zappa, published in 1997, and The Lonely Hearts Club of Hunter Prishibeyev (Klub odonokikh serdetz untera Prishibeeva). He was awarded the prestigious Kazakov Prize in 2003, 2004, and 2005. He writes:

I was born in a small mining town of Leninsk-Kuznetsky in Siberia in 1959. … When I was born, Leninsk was an interesting place in the center of Siblag [a network of labor camps in Siberia]. Many people living in the area were survivors of prisons and labor camps who, for various reasons, couldn’t return to their homes. My parents and I lived among them. Right after I turned three, my mother and father moved to a second interesting place: the large city of Kemerovo. The city had grown up around an old village after the Communist Party opened its regional committee headquarters there in 1943. … This is where I lived for most of my life. …

My parents hoped that I would become a scientist. They thought that nothing good would come of being a professional writer. And, in a way, they were right. For one thing, there simply is no such profession. And, for another, there isn’t that much good in our lives anyway. But for me, it all ended up falling into place. I became a mining engineer, and was able to apply as a graduate student to the Institute of Mining, in a suburb of Moscow. … For seven years, I put all my energy into becoming a writer, on the stipend of a young engineering grad student. To some degree, I succeeded. Soon enough, I started getting short stories published in weekly newspapers and magazines. …

Since I had a semblance of financially self-sufficiency (thanks to my engineering career), I went ahead and ignored the basic rules of how to become a popular and commercially successful writer in Russia. For example, I moved away from Moscow, where everyone is happy and simple. With this gaffe under my belt, I went for another: I wrote a novel that was twenty printed pages. Which no one wanted to publish, even though they wanted to nominate it for all kinds of prizes and competitions. Then I wrote a big collection of stories, which were compared to both The Dubliners, by James Joyce, and Dark Alleys, by Bunin. That alone is funny. But interesting. I wrote a little book on Frank Zappa and the Moscow Metro. Then two more novels. A new collection of stories. Then another after that, and all on my own dollar. Like the Siberian cities of my youth, this has been an unlikely pathway to success, but it has been interesting. And so, there is nothing I would like to change in my life. Including my wife with whom I have already shared twenty years. And the kids, the two of them.