I have loved Russia and its literature ever since my mum gave me a copy of Anna Karenina - I was 12! Samovars, gilded churches, adorable old women, that fabulous Cyrillic alphabet, peasant blouses - everything seems enchanting and enchanted. Years later, my mum also introduced me to Mikhail Bulgakov, the extraordinary heir of Gogol, with his hapless characters, cruel humor and absurdity-packed Soviet universe, underpinned by poignancy. Now I just bought Bulgakov's Black Snow and am eager to read it.
Where to start if you haven't read any Bulgakov: his masterpiece is The Master And Margarita, but you may want to try to novella Heart of a Dog first to discover his uniquely zany universe.
During a trip to Moscow a few years ago, I went to visit Bulgakov's apartment in the city. The experience was straight out of a novel by Bulgakov, with closed doors, stairs leading nowhere and building residents so elusive and puzzled by my search that I began to doubt the great writer had ever existed at all...
Russia remains my dream destination. I long to discover St-Petersburg and to see again the birches and the Baikhal Lake I sped past on the Transsiberian, on my way from Beijing to Paris via Moscow by rail, when I was a child.