How the founders of Notre Locus bookstore are helping to “rebuild” a home library in London

19.10.2023Daria Kizenkova

A little over half a year ago, the online bookstore Notre Locus was launched in London, where you can easily find books in Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian and other languages. "Winter" talked to the project's founders Vladislava Rau and Karina Mukhametkulova about how they managed to create "the feeling of a home away from home" and why they happily traded a stable "just business" for a book startup.

Notre Locus was originally conceived as a book and creative space for expats from different countries. “It is often literature and art that allows those who have left to not lose touch with home and keep the warmest home memories,” explain project founders Vladislava and Karina.

Notre Locus is the girls’ first project together and at the same time their first experience in the book business. Vlada moved to London 5 years ago and has been working in consulting, Karina has been successfully running several business startups in Istanbul. “At some point I decided to leave the corporate world and try to start something of my own that would inspire me to do new things,” Vlada continues. In turn, Karina also wanted to create a project that would not just be profitable, but would really make you feel a little closer to home anywhere in the world.

As Karina admits, they met Vlada by chance: “through mutual acquaintances, as it often happens”. As a result, almost immediately the girls began to realize the idea and in February this year launched Notre Locus. Initially the business was to operate more of an online format, but over time there was a need for an offline space where books and artwork could be presented live.

“Today Notre Locus is both a bookstore and an art venue. But if it is convenient to sell books online – even though we still want to open a physical store – then art should be shown live, of course,” the girls continue. Therefore, in the near future the project will open in London as a space where you can buy literature and at the same time look at the works of contemporary artists from Russia and CIS countries.

For now, the online store offers a wide selection of different authors and genres in Russian, English and other languages. On the bookshelves you can find Russian and foreign classics, iconic works of Soviet writers – largely emigrant literature – along with modern bestsellers by Russian authors. In addition to fiction, Notre Locus also offers books on economics, philosophy, religion, history, art, psychology, law, and other more narrowly focused areas. Thus, the selection already includes books by Ekaterina Shulman, Zhanna Nemtsova and Tamara Eidelman, and a new book by Sergei Guriev will be published in translation very soon. “Of the most recent, if we’re talking non-fiction, I read John Higgs’s Weirder and Weirder, which explores the shaping of the 20th century through iconic phenomena ranging from the theory of relativity to rock and roll to science fiction,” says Karina.

According to Vlada and Karina, Notre Locus focuses primarily on independent publications in Russia and beyond. “In fact, we study the book market ourselves together with our readers, so we are open to different authors and genres. At the same time, the most diverse literature in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian and other languages allows us to reassemble our home library, so that we don’t have to carry it with us in a suitcase when we move,” continue the founders of the project.

Among the bestsellers on the shelves of Notre Locus are Glukhovsky’s novels, the book “My Favorite Country” by former Novaya Gazeta special correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko, and Russian classics available for pre-order. All works can be ordered online at the official website.

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