iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for The Hired Man, the Russian literary scene, and The Water-Babies

Listen now 28 mins

Listen in pop-out player

The Hired Man, the Russian literary scene, and The Water-Babies

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 24 March 2013

Literature and politics in modern Russia are continuing their long history of fractious relations if the recent comments of Russian Booker winning author Mikhail Shishkin are anything to go by. He recently created a storm in his native country by declining an offer to join a group of authors representing Russia at an American book fair saying that he didn't want to represent "a country where power has been seized by a corrupt criminal regime."Mikhail Shishkin, whose latest novel is The Light and the Dark and Natasha Perova , the publisher and editor in chief of Glas, a small publishing house that specialises in contemporary Russian writing in English translation discuss the state of the modern Russian literary scene.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Reverend Charles Kingsley's bizarre moral children's novel The Water-Babies, in which we follow the adventures of a young chimney sweep called Tom who, after jumping into a river, is transformed into a Water-baby. Robert Douglas- Fairhurst describes the eccentric life of its author and why he feels it still remains a fantastic story for children.

Aminatta Forna discusses her latest novel The Hired Man, the story of Duro Kolak, a builder, handyman and hunter in the small town of Gost in Croatia for whom the arrival of an English family is a catalyst in re-igniting bitter memories of the ethnic cleansing atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of independence of the 1990s. With her past two novels Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love set in the aftermath of the civil war in Sierra Leone, she also explains why she feels drawn to writing about post conflict countries.Producer: Andrea Kidd.

  • Read the Opening Chapter of The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna

  • Get ahead with Mariella’s next book The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness


    Modern Russian novels


    The Light and the Dark – Mikhail Shishkin

    Publisher: Quercus


    Natasha Perova’s recommendations


    Books by:


    Dmitry Bykov

    Alexander Terekhov

    Olga Slavnikova  

    Alexander Snegirev

    Arkady Babchenko

    Alisa Ganieva


    150th anniversary of the publication of The Water Babies 


    The Water Babies – Charles Kingsley (Author), Introduction by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Brian Alderson (Editor)

    Publisher: OUP Oxford


    Aminatta Forna


    The Hired Man – Aminatta Forna

    Publisher: Bloomsbury


More from Books at the BBC

Books at BBC logo

Author interviews, readings, documentaries and highlights from the BBC's books content

Sample our books and authors Clip Collection

Clips of Books Content

Interviews, previews and reviews


  1. Image for Books and Authors

    Books and Authors

    This podcast features Open Book and A Good Read. In Open Book, Mariella Frostrup talks to leading…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss