Masha Gessen is a Jewish Russian American journalist, an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, and the author of several books – most notably, The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin.
Gessen lived in Russia until her mid-teens, and then moved to the US with her family in 1981. Ten years later, she returned to Moscow on assignment. Gessen currently lives in New York City. Her latest book is about the Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Here’s what she told BuzzFeed News.
1. Only one of her books, about a mathematician, has been translated into Russian.
While Gessen has written about a wide variety of topics, her two best known books are The Man Without A Face and Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. Neither has made it into Russian.
“This guy at a publishing house has just bought my backlist. He’s going to translate an old book about my grandmothers, and a book about medical genetics. Not Pussy Riot, and not Putin.”
The publisher told Gessen he wanted to start slow, publish the safer books first and see how they went.
“The risks are always vague, that’s the problem,” she says. “What would be the risks of publishing Putin? The risk might be that no bookstore would order the book, they won’t be able to sell it. That’s an economic risk. Or else they put out just the ebook and then they get charged with extremism. Or they don’t.”
“He thinks he’s making a smart calculation, he may well be. But in another sense, it’s self-censorship. No one is actually banning the Putin book. But everybody is too scared to publish it.”