Tag Archives: Reading culture

Steppes in Sync 2016 Selection of Global Content Events

June and September are the busiest months (with 4 events), followed by November


NATPE (Miami)

January 19-21


European Film Market  (Berlin)

February 11-19



February 21-24


DISCOP Istanbul

March 1-3


(Austin, TX)

March 11-20



April 4-7


LA Screenings

May 16-27. Canadian Screenings: tba


DISCOP Africa Abidjan

May 31-June 2


World Content Market (Moscow)

May 30 – June 1


Sheffield DocFest

June 10-15



NATPE (Budapest)

June 27-30


DISCOPRO (Nairobi – Kalasha Festival)

August 24 – 26


Toronto Film Festival 

September 8-18


International Broadcasting Convention (Amsterdam)

September 8-13


Kiev Media Week

September 19-23


Smart City Africa Abidjan

September 27-29



October 17-20


Frankfurt Book Fair

October 19-23


DISCOP Africa (Johannesburg)

November 2-4


American Film Market (Santa Monica, CA)

November 2-9. 2017: November 1-8


German Screenings (Graz)

November 27-30


This is probably the first time you hear from Tendai Huchu in 2015 — and Scotland’s best Zimbabwean author vows to drop postmodern narrative artifices by 2034

As part of our African Literature as Creative Enterprise series, Steppes in Sync’s own Andy Kozlov / @KozlovAndy talks to Zimbabwe’s Scotland-based writer Tendai Huchu about the newly released novel The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician (Get Print Copy on Amazon).

African Literature as Creative Enterprise is an interview series by Steppes in Sync and amaBooks
African Literature as Creative Enterprise is an interview series by Steppes in Sync and amaBooks

The author of The Hairdresser of Harare explains why he went with a Bulawayo-based publishing boutique, amaBooks.

Together we uncover the quintessential quixotic character in African literature and Tendai tries to imagine how his Scotland-set novel would be different if it was set in Zimbabwe, and if he was to publish it at 52 and not 32.

Tendai Huchu's The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician
Tendai Huchu’s The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician
A Character Question
Your Maestro is a quixotic character. Can you think of a quintessential quixotic character in African literature before your novel graced the bookshelves around the world?
No one beats John Eppel’s ultra-ridiculous George J. George from Absent: The English Teacher. Few contemporary writers equal Eppel [who teaches English at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe] in terms of technical skill and comedic ear. In George J. George you have a character who mistakes his white Ford Escort for the moon (think Don Quixote and the windmill) and everything goes downhill from there.

A Setting Question
Many a culture buff considers Scotland’s capital Edinburgh one of the world’s capitals of culture. Epitomising this image: The Edinburgh Festival. By singling out a mathematician over a nurse or a physicist, do you maybe hope that the number of Zimbabwean mathematicians attending the Edinburgh Festival will surge, inspired by the adventures of their colleague in your novel?
You’re taking the piss, right?

An Alternative Setting Question
If the novel was set in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare — an urbs that you have ‘documented’ in your previous magnum opus — how would the maestro, magistrate and mathematician be different? Would they be émigré Scots, for starters?
Every novel is a complex algorithm with numerous variables. You change one factor and the whole thing becomes something else. Remember, this text doesn’t work in a vacuum – there have to be alterations to do with the social, political, environmental, legal, cultural, technological, economic… in fact every aspect of life you can think of has to change, which alters the language, character interactions, etcetera. This is almost an impossible question to answer; because of the scale of transformation the book would have to undergo we might as well be talking of two different novels.

Tendai Huchu's new book
A Medium Question
Zimbabwe like most nations on the African continent is seeing a tremendous rise in mobile internet consumption. Do you have something like an ebook or a novel-dedicated Android app in the pipeline?
There is an online platform called Mazwi which makes Zimbabwean literature available to mobile users. My first novel The Hairdresser of Harare is already available there. [At USD1.99], it is the cheapest novel they sell, because I waived my royalties in order to bring the costs down. Such is my desire for my fellow countrymen to be able to access my work.

A Publisher Question
I know the fabulous amaBooks duo personally — Brian Jones and Jane Morris, are the two directors of amaBooks. But still why did you go with this Bulawayo-based publisher?
I had a lot of starts, stops and false hopes with this novel. It’s an emphatic departure from my earlier work. However, working with my editor Jane Morris from amaBooks has got me turbo charged. She understood the scope of my ambition, and helped me fine tune and hone my craft. In the process, she has given me essential skills to improve my work.
I consider the year I spent editing it with her as the most important period in my writing life. In that same year I sold short fiction in my three favourite genres — literary fiction, crime and sci-fi — to leading journals around the world (The Manchester Review, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Interzone), which I believe was influenced to a great extent by that apprenticeship. I am extremely grateful for the partnership I’ve had with Jane Morris and Brian Jones at amaBooks.

Brian Jones and Jane Morris, the two directors of amaBooks, a Bulawayo-based Zimbabwean publishing boutique
Brian Jones and Jane Morris, the two directors of amaBooks, a Bulawayo-based Zimbabwean publishing boutique
A Sponsor Question
The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust sponsored the publication. So really, what does a Zimbabwean writer need to have achieved to end up being chased by high-profile sponsors like the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe?
I wasn’t chased. My publishers put in an application for funding, and, fortunately, the CFoZ deigned to cover part of the printing costs. I think this is more reflective of the fact that sales of fiction in Zimbabwe are so poor publishers need a subsidy to make the production viable. The nature of my work naturally disqualifies me from the school textbook market, meaning it’s highly unlikely my publisher will recoup their investment from the domestic market. That’s the f*cking reality.

A Research Question
How much time did it take you to research for the novel? What were the major unknowns for you as you embarked on the research?
This was a three-year project. Research was ongoing; right up until the editor was like “enough”.

A Lost-in-Translation Question
Judging from previous experience, do you expect any localized creative spins that publishers in Germany will have to come up with to translate The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician to the German-speaking reader and to promote the novel in German content-consuming markets?
The question for the German publisher is: How do I sell this book by a relatively unknown author from Africa, who has won no awards and has no marketable hook/gimmick? Yahweh only knows what the answer to that might be.

Such-a-Random Question
Try to imagine: how would your novel be different if you were to publish it at 52 and not 32?
I would hope 52 year old me is more skilled and has less need for tricks and postmodern narrative artifices to mask his deficiencies. He/She (if I have a sex change) would perhaps be better at sentence construction, suspense, scene setting, characterisation, plotting… what I am trying to say is — Insha’Allah — he would be a superior craftsman. Early Huchu vs late Huchu – how pompous does that sound?!

This Russian-English app by Igor Kalinin will uncover a seasoned, as well as inspiring, international traveller in You

To download this free Android app you are invited to пожалуйста click here.

Download our essential Words Do Wonders app
WordsDoWonders – Android App by Igor Kalinin in partnership with Steppes in Sync

The Words Do Wonders app created by Ukraine’s India-based IT master Igor Kalinin in partnership with Steppes in Sync targets a seasoned, as well as inspiring, international traveller.

We have scoured the papers and flipped international news channels for you. We bet you know lots of words in our collection. The philological pearls that we worked hard to put at your fingertips 365 days a year are those inspired, consumed and deployed daily by the readers and writers, movers and shakers of this world. We are talking Bloomberg TV, FT and Monocle. We are talking WORDS THAT DO WONDERS TODAY!

The value the Words Do Wonders app brings to you is building on the thesaurus that your brain has collected over the years. We enrich it, streamline it for that cocktail chat on the roof of a posh NYC hotel to generate new opportunities; for that negotiation in a breezy Dubai bar to result in the deal you just wanted.

You can pick your words from three levels:

Words Do Wonders Basic – words that you know but we will help you go deeper and wider. You’ll be equipped to frequently impress your interlocutor

Words Do Wonders Intermediate – words that you think you know but we challenge that certainty of yours, one word at a time

Words Do Wonders Advanced – words that you need to know to become a successful and inspiring jet-setter

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5 Global Russians, their media investments, Moscow’s own highest shelter in Europe

Previously we talked about the short-sighted attitudes by both sides of the Foreign Media in Russia show.

Now let’s turn around and scrutinize the foreign media assets of Mother Russia’s not-so-poor: some of them promoters of the Global Russian concept, some — literary-minded Russians around the corner from our London-based readers.

And again the lines of loyalty, the stresses are quite blurred, as far as media agendas of Russia-backed enterprises in the EU and US are concerned.

Are the Western-operating companies we will now talk about pro-Kremlin or pro-poor?

The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones' Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians' MONOCLE
The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones’ Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians’ MONOCLE

11,510 ultra high net wealth individuals — those with net assets of US$30 million and above — called the UK home in 2014. These are worth US$1.45 trillion in total

Self-confessed avid reader of high-quality literature in Russian and English, Russian billionaire Alexander Leonidovich Mamut shelled out £53 million to acquire London-headquartered book retailer Waterstones in May 2011.

London counted 100,000-strong Russian-speaking community in early 2012

Alexander Leonidovich, an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, appointed James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books, as managing director of the company that serves UK, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands.

UK publishing industry generated £4bn in 2011

Number two in our list of global Russians with a penchant for media investments abroad is Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, former KGB staff and currently publisher of four UK newspapers, including the one that has called his book chain-owning namesake “an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin.” Alexander Yevgenievich reportedly stated that during his time as a spy in London, he used the Evening Standard to find information.

Lebedev used to own the Moskovski Korrespondent, but closed it down “for political reasons after it published a spurious article about Vladimir Putin having an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age”

On 25 March 2010, Alexander Lebedev bought the loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday for £1.

Accompanying two Sashas on the Olympus of Russians with preference for foreign media assets is Sergei Polonsky @Spolonium, himself an Olympus-builder.

The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)
The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)

Alexander Yevgenievich knocked Russia’s real estate developer Sergei Yurievitch Polonsky from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the Gazprom-owned NTV channel in September 2011.

A blow that did not connect cleanly was prompted by a dispute over Sergei Yurievitch’s project named Башня Федерация.

Expected to be completed in 2015, the Federation Tower is said to be able to withstand a direct hit of an aircraft [as you guessed what they meant here]. The building is a hit with extreme sports people, as well as film and TV people.

Awarded a Prix d’Excellence in the Office Property category by FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation, the Federation Complex is to become the tallest building in Europe. China State Construction Engineering Corporation was the first in Russia to pour self-compacting B90 concrete into the complex steel concrete and high density reinforcement structures of the Federation Tower’s outrigger and technical levels.

Notorious for his stance and public pronouncements, Sergei Polonsky has often introduced creativity-laden ideas into Russia’s otherwise parvenu post-Soviet elites.

In November 2011 his international investment and development company Potok∞ launched a reality project named Большой дом. Using Youtube, Twitter and Alexander  Mamut-owned blogging service Livejournal, Polonsky’s team boosted business by revealing to the rest of us the behind-the-scenes of the Federation Tower construction process, including brain storming sessions, corporate parties, desicions on hiring and firing.

Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015
Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015

Exiled on his own collection of eight islands in Cambodia — where he recently launched Polonium, a business training program — Mr Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015.

Polonsky has set a goal of earning not less than USD1bn through his jungle-based business education venture.

From New York magazine:

Another set of projects invariably bears the hallmark of his older sister, Irina, a patron of arts and literature. In private life, Mikhail and Irina form an unusual, closed-off unit. Until recently, they lived together in a relatively small Moscow apartment, well after Mikhail had become a billionaire. Most likely at Irina’s urging, Mikhail has endowed a lavish literary award, a publishing house, an arts festival, and, finally, Snob [a magazine for the “Global Russian”].

The Mikhail in question is Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, politician, and owner of the ONEXIM Group and the US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.

A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two's cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)
A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two’s cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)

With an initial distribution of 20,000 in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and some 700,000 Russian speakers living in the United States (as of 2010), Snob originally launched in Russia in 2008 with a USD150 million investment from Mikhail Dmitrievitch. In London, “the magazine bought up billboards in the Underground and elsewhere and slapped Russian-language ads on them, perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians.” For New York, they imagined “something that speaks to Snob’s globalist brand, and something that shows that the Russians actually understand contemporary New York.”

Yuri Milner has described his time at the World Bank as his “lost years”, due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner wraps up our overview of Global Russians on a shopping spree for media assets, with his investments in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Groupon, Alibaba, and Planet Labs via the Mail.ru Group and Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global).

At one point in the 1990s, Yuri Borisovich worked for Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now an émigré. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest person, becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008. In January 2007, 30% of shares of Mail.ru were bought by Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Naspers, an e-commerce and pay TV company, with assets like MultiChoice, DStv, MWEB and M-net.

Milner envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems will increase our collective intelligence

An acronym of sostoyavshiisya, nezavisimyi, obrazovannyi, blagopoluchnyi (accomplished, independent, educated, thriving), Snob magazine under deputy editor Maria Alexandrovna Gessen   some years back “made a turn toward social activism, battling, for instance, the Putin administration’s revisionist sugarcoating of Joseph Stalin.”

She was dismissed from her position as the chief editor of Russia’s oldest magazine, Vokrug sveta, a popular-science journal, in 2012 after she refused to send a reporter to cover a Russian Geographical Society event about nature conservation featuring President Putin, because she considered it political exploitation of environmental concerns

So if the Global Russian “aggressively adopts traits of other cultures without betraying his own” — he ‘cooks like a Frenchman, entertains like an American, and forms friendships like a Russian’ in American nonfiction author Masha Gessen’s words — and if he/she is not 100% pro-Kremlin how many percentage points is he/she pro-poor? What do you think?

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