Vesna (Bjelogrlić) Goldsworthy was born in Belgrade in 1961. She graduated in Yugoslav and General Literature in her home city. Her first verses and scientific papers were published in Serbian. She has been living in London since she was twenty-four. She earned her Master and PhD degrees at the University of London on the scholarship from the British Academy. She has worked at several British universities as a full professor of English Literature and Creative Writing.
In addition to numerous scientific studies, she has written four books that have been translated and awarded, originally published in English. Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (1998) is in the obligatory reading of universities around the world as one of the most important analysis of ideas about the Balkans in Anglophone culture. The book of memoir prose Chernobyl Strawberries (2005) was made into series for the London Times and BBC, and it was on best sellers’ lists across Europe, published in fourteen editions in German only. Both of these books were published in Serbian by ‘Geopoetika’, and they have recently been republished in special, illustrated and extended editions in English: Ruritania for its 15th birthday in 2013, and Strawberries for its 10th birthday in 2015.
Her first collection of poetry The Angel of Salonika (2011) was written simultaneously in Serbian and English. Serbian version was published by ‘Arhipelag’. English version won the international Robert Crashaw Prize and it was in Times’ selection of best poetry books for 2011. The Nobel Prize winner, John Coetzee greeted her as a ‘welcomed new voice in English poetry’.
Gorsky is her first novel. It has originally been published in English in April 2015, with editions in Bulgarian, Dutch, Italian, Catalan, German, Serbian and Swedish, and it was also made in two-week series for the BBC.
About the book Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (literary study): Yale University Press (1998); extended edition Hurst (2013); translated into Bulgarian, Greek, Serbian and Romanian. Over 300 reviews in the press, including all leading daily newspapers in English.
Goldsworthy has researched more material than a university department… Inventing Ruritania is a clearheaded, deeply thoughtful and perceptive analysis of the entertainment industry.
(The Washington Post)
Goldsworthy backs up her arguments fully and with a lot of energy, with details that are meticulous and incredibly interesting.
(The Times Literary Supplement)
The scope of her research is colossal; this is incredibly informative book. For cultural Europhiles this will certainly be one of the best editions of 1998.
About the book Chernobyl Strawberries: Memories: originally published by Atlantic (2005), expanded and illustrated edition Wilmington Square Books (2015); translated into German, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Serbian. Around 250 reviews in the global press; six weeks on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung bestseller’s list.
Exceptional memoir… if anyone has written one that is more honest, calm and touching in the last couple of years, I’ve missed it.
(The Times Literary Supplement)
Three qualities single out the book of memories by Vesna Goldsworthy… her openness, her creative skill and the fascinating details of her life.
Funny, painful and brilliant… fantastically well written book.
An enchanting book… reflection of extremely honest and cultivated intelligence.
(The Sunday Times)
About the book The Angel of Salonika (poetry): English version published by Salt (2011); Serbian version by Arhipelag (2011).
The Angel of Salonika moves along shady borders where the wounds of separation turn into scars of loss. European by their sensibility, elegiac by their tone, these verses introduce a new welcomed voice into English poetry.
(John Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature)
Vesna Goldsworthy enters the world of poetry as a completely formed poet. Her verses are enchanting meditation, written skilfully and confidently. This is the poetry cultivated in the best sense of the word, rooted deep in history, poetry that reflects balance between love and loss.
(Gwyneth Lewis, National Poet of Wales)
These poems are beautiful. They carry the weight of history and personal experience, but at the same time flow with great clarity and control. They are exceptionally precise. They remind of Cavafy.
(George Szirtes, winner of T. S. Eliot Prize for Literature)
The similarly mesmerising is The Angel of Salonika for which Vesna Goldsworthy got Robert Crashaw Prize. Her exceptional first collection explores journeys of geographic, spiritual and linguistic exile on which she travels, with an intensive precision, from the Balkans into the “Heart of England, wherever it is”.
(The Times, The best books of poetry in 2011)
About the novel Gorsky: 9 April 2015 Random House/Chatto & Windus (UK); Obsidian (Bulgraria); Deuticke/Zsolnay Verlag (Germany); Meridiaan (the Netherlands); Mondadori (Italy); Geopoetika (Serbia); Angle
(Spain/Catalonia); Massolit (Sweden).
Vesna Goldsworthy explicitly takes the Great Gatsby for a model, and her novel will, as an original work, will surely define a society in certain historical moment: London today, while the live meat of the city turns into the nonliving gold with horrific Midas touch of uncontrolled international wealth. Out of this cruel world, like Fitzgerald, she creates a story about piquant corruption of innocence, and she does it with so much spontaneous style and narrative elegance that it takes you forward unstoppably, like it is the most delicious meal, from one perfect bite that melts in your mouth to the other.
(Michael Frayn, author and playwright)
Fun and touching, ironic and serious, Gorsky is simultaneously a literary homage and a work of highly original imagination. Goldsworthy writes brilliantly about money, clothes, romantic love and decadent sex – as well as about various models of emigration. Jeu d’esprit with equal amount of heart and mind.
(Eva Hoffmann, author)
Enchanting book… With plenty of spirit and poetic force, Vesna Goldsworthy writes about our obsession with money, glamour, fun and sex, but at the end offers unforgettable love elegy.
(Sofka Zinovieff, author)
Finally here comes Gatsby for the present day London – holy city of Russian oligarchs. In this beautifully written and wickedly imaginative novel, which is alternately unforgettably sad and very, very humorous, Vesna Goldsworthy evokes loneliness that goes along with sudden and large wealth, when it ends up in hands of men and women who do not come from circles accustomed to privileges. Gorsky simultaneously offers both rich satire directed towards parasites that follow billionaires and lucid panorama of Kensington and Chelsey in the moment when new money overflows the old dignity.
(Neal Ascherson, historian)
Notes on the novel
No reader could arrive to this place in the book without realising how much I owe to Francis Scott Fitzgerald and his Great Gatsby, but I still want to express gratitude. Readers knowledgeable about the Russian literature will notice presence of Russian authors and poets; the list is too long to put it here. Their works have been my second home since I can remember. Natalya Summerscale lifts the stub of a pencil in an empty room at the end of Gorsky, because that room is filled by the top by spirit of Anton Chekhov: I completely sympathise with her.
Although Gorsky is a Russian name with variations in many Slavic languages, the inspiration was my mother tongue. Very early on, while I was looking for a name in which Gatsby will be reflected, I thought of The Mountain Wreath (Gorski Vijenac), the great 19th century epic poem by Montenegrin Prince-Bishop Petar Petrović Njegoš. The association made me happy. Njegoš was consecrated in St. Petersburg in 1833. In 1837 he served a moleben for Pushkin’s soul in the monastery in Pskov, where the tomb of this Russian poet is located. He dedicated a collection of poems to him. The true depth of Montenegrin and Serbian affinity towards Russian culture is hard to describe.
As someone who considered herself a Serbian medievalist, I was somewhat inspired by, for my purposes, very nifty name of a great byzantologist George Ostrogorsky, who lived and worked in Belgrade, and was from St. Petersburg himself.
There is one more Gorsky that is being made this very moment. My PhD student, Nebojša Radić, currently writes a novel which differs from this one greatly. However, his main character is called Alex Gorsky. We discussed the coincidence when he sent me the first chapters of his book. I didn’t want for Alex to change his name. It is, perhaps, the proof of our common Serbian roots and interest in Russia, connected with some Jungian coincidence in the way we think.
It could be said that my main character is not Roman Gorsky, but London. It is the city in which I live and which I have loved for almost thirty years. The London of Gorsky, however, is a place whose details are made up. Laurels and Barracks do not exist, nor does the Finch’s library (although I wish it did exist). Many other places and all main characters are also imagined: this is, after all, a novel.
I have the luck to count Russians and expert for Russia among my friends, but I did not consult them, therefore they are not to be blamed for anything that is incorrect in this book about Russia and Russians, nor are my London friends to blame for my version of our city. For everything good in the book I have to thank my editor Clara Farmer, my agent Faith Evans and my first reader, as always, Simon Goldsworthy.
In London, 2014.