His entry begins:
October is a great month for reading for someone able to bend to the rhythm of the academic year. Student essays are being written but are not yet ripe for grading. Grant writing to meet end-of-September deadlines is done with. In my case a book manuscript, on European Islamophobia, is in the hands of reviewers and there is nothing to do but await the reports.Ray Taras is a Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute.
So I have indulged, indeed, satiated, myself with reading. As I teach courses on Russian politics and foreign policy, what better way to absorb the cultural pathways that give them shape than to read contemporary Russian fiction. Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker, Russian literature specialists on the faculty of universities in Montreal and Toronto, have compiled a collection of twenty-two short stories by young Russian authors and titled it Rasskazy (“short stories”). They identify the genre shared by these authors as New Russian Realism.
As with many comparative lit anthologies, the quality of the stories, and their rendering into English, are uneven. Clear standouts are narratives detailing the cruelties of war. One, by Arkady Babchenko, author of A Soldier’s War published last year in the U.S., details the hazing and persecution of young Russian conscripts stationed in the Caucasus. Another, by German Sadulaev, who is of Chechen background and the author of I am a Chechen! being published in English in the U.K., describes the indiscriminate killing of Chechens by the Russian military in the 1990s war. The two authors test the limits of literary censors while courageously...[read on]
Among the early praise for his Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia:
"For a student of literature it is eminently gratifying to see a prominent political scientist factor works of the literary imagination into his riveting account of contemporary Europe's intricate negotiation of its multi-layered, old/new identity. As it panoramically canvasses the sea changes overtaking the continent, this timely book bridges not only disparate scholarly fields and academic disciplines but also different research methodologies, evaluative criteria, conflicting narratives, and alternative strategies of identity formation."At the Campaign for the American Reader, Taras covers the Sundance Film Festival and regularly reviews world literature.
"Taras presents a wide-ranging and engaging analysis of the condition of contemporary Europe. Using a combination of historical, cultural, and political approaches, he deals with its institutions and policies, its hopes and uncertainties. He explores the differences between Atlanticist and post-Communist Europe and the role of the European Union in bridging them; the tensions between traditional and globalizing Europe; and the challenges of immigration, integration, and socioeconomic change to national identities."
He recently interviewed concert violinist and debut novelist Gerald Elias about Devil's Trill, Elias' award winning first book.
Also see: Coffee with a Canine: Ray Taras & Zin and Zephyr.
Writers Read: Ray Taras.