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Author Mikhail Shishkin pulls out of book fair citing ‘ethical considerations’

Author Mikhail Shishkin pulls out of book fair citing 'ethical considerations'
Mikhail Shishkin won the Big Book Prize in 2011, the second largest literary prize in the world after the Nobel prize for literature. Photograph: RIA Novosti

7 March 2013

Highly-acclaimed contemporary Russian author Mikhail Shishkin has bowed out of a state-backed international literary event because he does not want to be associated with a “corrupt, criminal regime”, The Guardian reported. Shishkin, the recipient of three of Russia’s top literary awards including the Russian booker, said he would not be representing Russia at this year’s Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade fair in the US, after initially accepting the invitation.

Shishkin, who lives in Switzerland, has previously been a part of government-sponsored literary delegations to international book fairs, including the 2012 Book Expo America and 2011 London Book Fair; Russia was guest of honour on both occasions.

In a letter to the Federal Agency of Press and Mass Communications, which sponsors the festival, he wrote that he would not be attending because of “ethical considerations”. He wrote: “Russia’s political development and the events of last year in particular, have created a situation in the country that is absolutely unacceptable and demeaning for its people and its great culture. What is happening in my country makes me, as a Russian and a citizen of Russia, ashamed.”

He later added that in “a country where power has been seized by a corrupt, criminal regime, where the state is a pyramid of thieves, where elections have become farce, where courts serve the authorities, not the law, where there are political prisoners, where state television has become a prostitute, where packs of impostors pass insane laws that are returning everyone to the Middle Ages — such a country cannot be my Russia.”