In Search of Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin is Britain’s best-selling crime author. His tersely written Inspector Rebus novels reverberate with dry wit. His gritty prose and sharp dialogue peel away varnish and tourist gloss to reveal the raw side of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, where Rebus stalks among Leith Walk prostitutes and drug dealers. For me, an Edinburgh-born Scot, reading Rankin is like taking a trip home. Since he has written 17 Inspector Rebus books, I am constantly on the lookout for the dozen I have yet to read.
Knizhni Klub, Olympic Stadium
Dom Knigi, Tverskaya 8
Anglia Bookshop, 6 Vorotnikovsky Pereulok
My quest has had mixed success, but it has allowed me to explore sources of English language books in Moscow which demand to be shared with Passport readers.
The American Bar and Grill at Mayakovsky is a surprising source of a variety of literature in its small eclectic library, situated to the left as you enter the restaurant from the bar. These books which range from classics to the latest thrillers, are meant for the pleasure of guests drinking or dining in the popular restaurant and bar. In practice, the staff turn a blind eye if you follow a ‘bring one, borrow one’ practice and take home a book. After all, who can reasonably be expected to finish a 400-page novel in one sitting! You earn the unvoiced thanks of other library users (but no free beer), if you replenish the library with a bundle of books from your own discarded pile at home. And yes, I have found a Rankin or two on their shelves occasionally.
By far my favorite source of English language books, at prices which won’t break the bank, is the book market, or Knizhni Klub, in The Olympic Stadium near Prospekt Mira metro station. From the broad sweep of stairs from Shepkina Street, turn left, buy an entrance ticket for 10 rubles from the little cash kiosk and enter from entrance number 2. Within the sprawling book market spread over several floors you will find, at wholesale prices, all the latest Russian books, as well as calendars, stationery, picture frames, jigsaws, board games and construction kits.
Head straight through the entrance hall ignoring the stalls to right and left, go up the short flight of stairs to the main hall and head over to the back left, and you will find stall number 226 where 1,500 + second hand English books are on display, including a large section of science fiction. While the market is open seven days a week, the English book stall does not operate on Mondays and Tuesdays. Most of its customers are Russians. The stall-holders, Volodi and Victor, have an encyclopedic knowledge of their stock. Ask for Richard North Patterson, Maeve Binchy, Tom Clancy, Terry Pratchett or John Grisham, and a selection of their books will appear like magic. A young lady asked for Agatha Christie and two piles of slim paperbacks totaling 40 or more titles were immediately unearthed from a box behind the counter.
“Do you have any Ian Rankin,” I asked.
“No,” replied Volodi, shaking his head.
“But he is..” I began.
“I know, I know,” replied Volodi. “I just don’t have any today.”
“Will you get some later?”
“Almost certainly. Give me your e-mail address and I’ll let you know when they are in.”
Depending on condition, and size, the books here sell for a reasonable 50 to 150 rubles. The market is open 9am-3pm. Mondays through Saturday and 10am-3pm on Sundays.
As English is increasingly taught in Schools and more and more Russians are using it in their office life, the demand for English language books is increasing in Moscow.
Old Soviet emporia, the ubiquitously named Dom Kniga’s, which are scattered across the city centre and suburbs, are not only renovating their interiors and making displays more inviting, but are also increasing their selection of foreign language titles. The Dom Kniga at Tverskaya 8, Now part of the Moskva retail chain, is a case in point. Some years ago its English selection occupied about half a shelf of a locked glass cabinet. Today it occupies a spacious corner with titles arranged alphabetically by author. Apart from an enticing range of modern novels, it has a good selection of recent non-fiction books about Russian history, current affairs and culture. It also has a more modest selection of French and German titles. On a recent visit, I even found Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus collection of short stories, ‘A Good Hanging’. At 366 rubles it roughly matched the UK retail price of 6.99 GBP and with a small discount from a Moskva customer card it was less than the British High Street price.
No review of where to buy English Language books would be complete without paying homage to Anglia Bookshop, which opened its doors in Moscow in 1997 and is now at a new location, 6 Vorotnikovsky Pereulok, on the corner with Staropimenovsky Pereulok, is a short walk from either Mayakovsky or Pushkinskaya metro stations. It is undoubtedly the doyen and largest source of books for Anglophiles in Moscow and also has branches in St Petersburg and Samara.
Reflecting its origins as the retail arms of a company specializing in supplying universities, schools and libraries with educational, including business education, books, the shop has one of the largest available stocks of English language educational, business, trade and commercial books in the city. But modern novels, current affairs, historical and architectural books on Russia are also extensively represented. Not only do they have a fine stock, but they can order any book in print that you want direct from the publishers.
Irena Khan, the general director, told Passport that they are particularly proud of their constantly updated selection of new titles.
Do they have any Ian Rankin books?
Yes. At least one title is always in stock,” says Irena.
There have been a spate of articles over the last week indicating that work permit requirements are about to be relaxed.
As far as we can establish, work permits may no longer be required for foreign employees of Representative offices of foreign companies that work on the territory of Russia. This provision, as Timur Beslangurov, managing partner of VISTA Foreign Business Support pointed out “will come into force. However it is not exactly clear when relevant amendments to the law will be approved”. Timur also pointed out, that possible new regulations do not concern all expats. “Foreign employees of Russian legal entities (OOO, ZAO, etc.) and Branches of foreign companies will still be obliged to obtain work permits”.