Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Fairy Tale That Gripped Russia


Discovered this article--The fairy tale that gripped Russia by Susan Roberts--and almost didn't click on it since it was on The Financial Times website. How pertinent could that be, I thought?

More than I first imagined. The article discusses a somewhat new trend in Russia--the creation of eco-settlements and living 'green' in general--partly fueled by new books written like traditional fairy tales. Richards does a wonderful job of describing the books and the trend and even includes a short excerpt of one of the books.

I had just flown into Moscow from London. Over supper my friend Sasha told me about an “eco-settlement” near his dacha. “There are about 200 of them – all inspired by this sort of modern fairy tale,” he said, handing me a book. On the cover a voluptuous blonde was rearing her head against a wild sky. The books had become something of a sensation, Sasha said. They’d sold 11 million copies and been translated into 20 languages. Outside the open window of the tall block the swifts were screeching softly as they dived through the evening air. Back in London I’d have laughed and told Sasha to pull the other one – but this was Russia and you can never be quite sure about these things.

Sasha said he had a friend who would show me an eco-settlement. So, to find out more, I took the book to bed. Crudely written, in a Mills-&-Boon-meets-Carlos-Castaneda way, it was a fable about a man who, while trading along the rivers of northern Siberia, encounters Anastasia, a young beauty living in the forest. The survivor of an ancient culture, Anastasia is endowed with extraordinary powers, ranging from bionic vision to teleportation. She bears his child. (As an ex-film producer, I was highly amused as this modest romance lurched into blockbuster-movie mode.) For, of course, it turns out that Anastasia is engaged in an epic battle to rescue mankind from the domination of “the priests” who have been working covertly for centuries to sever the link between man and the divine intelligence governing the universe ... Well, to cut a long fairy tale short, the man becomes Anastasia’s knight, and carries her message out to the world: the key to liberation lies through each person, each family, rebuilding their lost connection to the natural world.

So be it the retooling of old folklore or the creation of something new to inspire current generations, this sensation is fascinating on many levels. Even the illustration is reminiscent of Ivan Biliban's work, in a way tying the glorious elements of Russian's past with the present. Very clever marketing if nothing else.

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