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Author of Everyday Saints Featured in the Financial Times

On “Putin and the Monk” by Charles Clover, published in the Financial Times, January 26, 2013

As uninspiring as it may be to anyone with more than superficial knowledge of the book Everyday Saints and Other Stories, Sretensky Monastery, Russian Orthodoxy, or Russia in general, the article published last Saturday, January 26 in the Financial Times on Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) does show us one thing: even this strictly-business media leviathan finds the whole phenomenon intriguing enough to dedicate a serious amount of space to it.

With the usual “giant filter” straining out any information that might put the developing harmony between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government in a good light, the creative product of a man reputedly close to President Putin is also necessarily treated with caution lest some good impressions be inadvertently conveyed. Nevertheless, even the erudite author of this piece had to admit that the book was “a rather well-written and compelling narrative”.

Although the article is built upon Father Tikhon’s rumored closeness to the president of the Russian Federation, Clover writes, “the word “Putin” is nowhere to be found in his autobiography Everyday Saints and Other Stories, which became a publishing sensation in Russia last year—the top-selling book of 2012, beating even the Russian translation of Fifty Shades of Grey.” Yes, Everyday Saints was even placed against that literary compass of the English-speaking world, and still came out ahead.

Clover rounds out his reportage on the book by speaking with Gleb Yakunin, a political activist and liberally-minded former priest who was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church: “On the subject of the uncanny success of Tikhon’s new book, Yakunin admits he and his wife both liked Everyday Saints.” He goes on to explain what he doesn’t like about it, which is only fitting and proper for a life-long dissident to do.

In the end, the article proves to be a mostly, but not always balanced blend of nuance and contrast. The uniting, underlying thread could be described like this: A clergyman shouldn’t be influential in his own country, but he is. The president of a superpower shouldn’t be religious, but, looks as though he is. Well, okay let’s say he’s religious but he shouldn’t take measures to protect the interests of the dominant religion, but again, he is. Finally, a book that is straightforwardly Christian and written by a clergyman, firmly set within the country’s long-established religious tradition shouldn’t be wildly popular all across the board, but it is. How all of these amazing things were allowed to happen—let the intelligent reader draw his or her own conclusions.

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