Boris Akunin was born Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili on May 20, 1956, in Tbilisi, in the Soviet republic of Georgia. His father served in an all-Georgian army artillery unit; his mother taught Russian literature and language. Around Akunin’s second birthday, his family moved to Moscow, where he has continued to make his home. Growing up, he immersed himself in the literary works that were to influence him most as an adult. These included the works of Russians Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevski, and Anton Chekhov as well as those of Alexandre Dumas, père, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mark Twain. He was also captivated by Kabuki theater and became interested in all aspects of Japanese culture.
In the 1970’s, after high school, Akunin enrolled in Moscow State University, majoring in Asian and African studies; he also studied for a time in Germany and Japan. After earning a degree, he worked for several Moscow publishing houses, where he translated scientific literature and later Japanese-and English-language fiction. He realized that emulating the styles of works he translated—including those of Yukio Mishima, Malcolm Bradbury, Kobo Abe, and Peter Ustinov—was excellent preparation for his own writing. Until 2000, he also worked as deputy editor-in-chief of Inostrannaia literatura, a foreign literature journal.
In the late 1990’s, Akunin felt challenged to write “literary” thrillers when his wife, Erika—a closet...
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