Margaret Paxson's Solovyovo receives high praise, design award

Feb 26, 2007

Margaret Paxson, a senior associate at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, received high praise for her most recent book, Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village. The book, an anthropological study of the power of social memory among villagers in a remote Russian agricultural community, was included among Salon.com's best books of 2006, as well as receiving recognition for its design and a rave review in the Times Literary Supplement.

The TLS remarked that "[Paxson's] sensitive empathy with these bleak lives has helped her to write the best ethnographic study of Russian country people available today." The review also noted that "the book's interest for a general reader lies in the careful way [Paxson] uncovers the moral values that underlie the idea of the ‘radiant past' and make it relevant for today."

Washington Book Publishers awarded Solovyovo first place in the category of typographic text, small nonprofit publishers, for its interior design. The judges praised designer Kelly Doe for the way in which the modest hierarchy of headings, the simplicity of the two typefaces used throughout, and a lean, open grid, worked together to create interest and legibility in the text. They also described the photography (by two-time Pulitzer-winning photographer Lucian Perkins) incorporated into the text grid at each chapter opening as "a layer of poetry laid on top." Solovyovo was the only winner in the competition characterized as "scholarly."

Based on her extensive anthropological fieldwork in a village in the Russian North—a village that experienced the full brutality of the Soviet century—Paxson brings to life in Solovyovo the everyday social and agricultural routines of the villagers as well as holiday observances, religious practices, and cosmology in describing how the villager's memory of a "radiant past" reflects their hope for a "radiant future." Solovyovo is co-published by the Woodrow Wilson Center Press and the Indiana University Press.

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