Today we sent our first two books to the printer. They are Dmitry Bykov's Living Souls and Swift's Directions to Servants (my second edition of it, after the Hesperus one).
I remember signing off to the printers the hardback edition of Living Souls almost one year to the day, and funnily enough I blogged about it and another book by Swift (The Benefits of Farting Explained) back in February 2010.
So how have those two books fared over the past twelve months? Living Souls has fulfilled our expectations in hardback, and we hope it can now achieve its full potential with the mass-market edition. Elaine Feinstein, in The Times, called it "A Catch-22 for modern Russia" and described it as
"often funny, occasionally moving and possibly dangerous". The Independent said:
"Blending a novel of ideas with a fairy tale and satire with lyricism, Bykov in Living Souls gives a picture of Russia in the near future and – as so many others before him – tries to understand the eternal contradictions of his country", while according to the TLS it is
"A dreamscape, a panoramic survey of the obsessions and illusions that protect Russian society’s sleep".
The Benefit of Farting also gleaned – surprisingly, considering that it first appeared over 250 years ago – a few good reviews, including one in the TLS and one The Times. I am ashamed to admit that, perhaps because of its title, this little book has outsold Bykov's novel almost 2 to 1 – although it is possible that things are going to even up with the paperback of Living Souls.
If you haven't read either of these short works by Swift, I warmly recommend them to you. I think that Swift was possibly a better pamphlet writer than novelist, and his wit may come out more clearly in these unguarded, unpolished jeux d'esprit than in his major works.