Inspektor Mors and Mis Marpl : the May 2020 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Having initially wanted our lockdown-era posts to focus on e-available material only, I am now going one step yet further away myself by writing about books held by the UL neither electronically nor physically…  This post instead looks at Slavonic translations of British detective fiction I have picked up for myself over the years.  Getting used to reading in another language can take time, and I for one found that worrying about the plot as well as the words really held me up.  What I came to discover was that reading a familiar detective novel translated into the language took the pressure off, and it’s a trick I have stuck to ever since. Continue reading

Princess of Asturias award: Fred Vargas


By Marcello Casal via Wikimedia Commons

Fred Vargas (pseudonym of Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) has recently been awarded the Princess of Asturias award in its literary category. Cambridge Professor of  Classics, Mary Beard, received the corresponding award for Social sciences in 2016.

Although Fred Vargas is a historian and archaeologist, she is also known for being a successful crime novel writer. In fact, she started writing thrillers for fun, as an escape from her academic occupation. Her novelist career began with the publication of Les jeux de l’amour et de la mort (C205.d.7969) which won the Festival de Cognac novel prize. Continue reading

The construction of authority in early Russian crime fiction

In the fourth and final CamCREES seminar of the Michaelmas term, Professor Claire Whitehead of St Andrews University discussed Russian crime fiction from the 19th and early 20th century.  These bibliographical notes for the talk go on to look at holdings of Russian crime fiction, both early and modern, in the University Library.


Front cover of Zapiski sledovatelia by N.P. Timofeev (S236.c.87.1)

Professor Whitehead gave a fascinating talk on the work she is doing for her current project on the poetics of early Russian crime fiction.  She explored several particularly notable features in the Russian genre.  The mystery, for example, is not necessarily in the identification of the criminal (the standard whodunit) – more often than not, the chase is to establish the reason for the crime.  Similarly, early Russian crime writers showed a preference for writing the narrative from the point of view of the investigator: a device often shunned by writers elsewhere because it can make the maintenance of suspense challenging.  In discussing the issue of authority, Professor Whitehead looked at the narrator-investigators in terms of the authority given to them through their identity in society as representatives of the law and the authority they build through their trustworthiness and effectiveness as narrators. Continue reading