By Roger Tagholm
LONDON: So, Waterstones is to launch a Russian bookshop in London. Imagining the possibilities one begins to dream up magnificent mock-ups of the store in one’s head. It might be installed in a mock-up of Stamford Bridge, home to Chelsea Football Club whose owner, Roman Abramovich, is a friend of Waterstone’s Russian owner, Alexander Mamut. Or perhaps a glittering disco nightclub staffed by statuesque models, and where authors are fetted at receptions with caviar, champagne and vodka. Ah, yes, there’s nothing like cultural stereotypes…
You may be disappointed to learn that instead of being, say, moored in an oligarch-friendly yacht, Slova, as the department will be called — it’s the Russian for “words” — will be situated on the mezzanine level at the rear of the ground-floor of Waterstones flagship store in London’s Piccadilly. And the truth is that in all likelihood it will be a tasteful addition to the existing store. After all, the Russians have a strong bookselling tradition, and if bookstore traffic in Moscow offers any precedent, it will be a busy place.
Slova will stock nearly 5,000 Russian language titles as well as Russian books in translation, covering areas such as History, Art, Poetry, Fiction, Biography and Children’s, and the company is currently looking for Russian-speaking booksellers to work in the department. MD James Daaunt said: “For Russophiles, and the large, vibrant Russian community in London, we aim to make Slova an irresistible literary and cultural destination. One won’t be surprised at the source of the idea, given Waterstones’ ownership, but it is a good one and perfect for this magnificent shop.”
The Russian language titles stocked by Slova have been sourced direct from Russia with the assistance of Boris Kupriyanov, owner of Moscow’s Falanster and Tciolkovskiy bookshops. Slova will also be working closely with Academia Rossica, the Russian Culture and Arts Foundation based in London, in planning author events, book launches and other activity throughout the year.
When Putin visits Prime Minister David Cameron, surely a visit to this Russian cultural outpost will be a must.