By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Kopetsky: ‘He Will Not Stop Speaking Out’Fortunately, the author and journalist Dmitry Glukhovsky was not in Russia on Monday (August 7) when a Moscow court found him guilty on a charge of spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces. He has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Today (August 9), in response to our inquiry, Glukhovsky’s German public relations agent, Dorle Kopetzky at the Weissundblau agency, says that the writer left Moscow shortly before Vladimir Putin began his assault on Ukraine in February 2022, “and did not return after he called the war what it is.”
Glukhovsky, who joined us onstage at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22) in 2018 for a Publishing Perspectives Talk interview, has rarely been complimentary to the Putin administration, and many of his works were openly defiant.
“He has been critical towards the regime all these years now,” Kopetzky says, “and has fortified his efforts in exile.”
The Associated Press account of Glukhovsky’s sentencing points out that he is “the latest artist to be handed a prison term in a relentless crackdown on dissent in Russia,” referencing the May 5 pre-trial detention for theater director Zhenya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk.
Most prominently, of course, on Friday (August 4), the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, already imprisoned, was convicted on charges of extremism and sentenced to 19 years in prison. That event prompted the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal to write, “The world hardly needs another reminder of the true nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian state.”
A Reuters write-up in February spoke to Glukhovsky from an undisclosed location, and confirmed that prosecutors in Russian were “proceeding with a case against exiled science fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, accused of publishing ‘false information’ about Russian atrocities in the Ukraine war.” As early as June of 2022, Reuters had reported that Glukhovsky was on a Russian interior ministry wanted list, the author on encrypted communication services having called out the Kremlin’s “special military operation” as a euphemism for Putin’s land-grab.
Glukhovsky, in a 2018 pre-Frankfurt interview with Publishing Perspectives, he described the “wonderful times” of the current post-Soviet era for writers willing to see “an epoch of not only post-truth but also post-ethic.”
“These are really the times,” he said, “when all a writer needs to do is sit down and focus carefully on the dubious reality unfolding around him. What’s the point of writing a dystopian fiction nowadays,” he asks, “when the reality is exceeding your wildest fantasies?”
Roth: ‘A Policy That Only Knows Violence’
Having worked in film, video-game, and television development Glukhovsky has particularly broad potency as a storyteller and since the release of his debut trilogy Metro 2033, he has cultivated a loyal international following, propelling his writings into broad international translation and publishing deals.
Kopetsky describes his latest two-volume “Outpost” series as being set “in a Russia isolated from the West and ruled by a new czar from Moscow.” In the books, “a disease in Russia turns people into man-eating zombies after they hear a special combination of words, a ‘somewhat pandemic neurolingual infection.'”
The “Outpost” books were written prior to the COVID-19 outbreaks and Putin’s most recent Ukrainian savagery. His 2021 Geschicten aus der Heimat (Tales from the Motherland, October 2022), Kopetzky says, has been particularly well received in Germany (again from PRH Verlagsgruppe / Heyne), leading to a series of influential television appearances on Markus Lanz, Tagesthemen, ZDF Heute Journal, arte, ZDF aspekte, ORF, and more.
The two “Outpost” books and Tales From the Motherland, she says, have turned out to helping readers outside Russia understand the mafia-like framework of Putin’s government today.
Kopetsky, who speaks to us from her offices in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, says, “The prison sentence did not come as a surprise to him. He expected it from this regime. He will not stop speaking out and publishing op-eds, and his dystopian novels have predicted this situation uncannily.”
And Claudia Roth, Berlin’s culture minister, on Tuesday (August 8) tweeted from the ministry about the news of Glukhovsky’s verdict-in-absentia, writing “The verdict against Glukhovsky is an expression of a policy that only knows violence.
“Judgments like these are a capitulation to freedom of speech.
“I’m glad he’s safe from Russian arbitrary justice.”
Our coverage of the Russian war’s impact on Ukraine’s publishing industry is here, along with international reactions. More from Publishing Perspectives on the work of Dmitry Glukhovsky is here, and more on international publication and translation rights is here.