Thursday, March 13, 2008

News Notes: "Zeek" and the Russian Jewish Diaspora, the Abzats Antiawards

A couple of literary news notes for today. Serious first:

1. Languor Management reports:

Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture has devoted a special print issue to the Russian Jewish Diaspora. The Spring '08 issue presents work engaged with identity, history, language and culture, and features contributors from around the world.

Zeek’s site includes information about Russian-related events in Boston and New York.

2. I know you’ve all been waiting for results of today’s Абзац” (“Absats”) literary antiaward ceremony, so without further delay, here is a list of the antiwinners, as reported on

-Lena Lenina took the grand prize, the “Polnyi abzats” (more on what that means in a minute…) with Sexual, или Как соблазнить любого мужчину (Sexual or How to Seduce Any Man). According to the article, Lenina’s book contains “borrowings” from the Russian translation of Leil Lowndes’s How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You.

-Worst editing job went to publisher AST for subpar work on Oksana Robski’s Casual 2. Anyone who read my earlier comments on the first Casual can probably guess that I never touched the sequel.

-Worst translation went to Iuliia Moiseenko for her poor efforts on William Gibson’s Spook Country.

Now, about the name of the antiawards, “Абзац.” In standard Russian, the word relates to writing: “indentation” or “paragraph.” But as slang, абзац – pronounced as ahbZAHTS – is often used in reaction to big problems. I worked with a guy who described hopeless or very messy situations as “полный абзац” (complete abzats). These are the very same words used to describe this contest’s biggest antihonor, and they sure sound like a euphemism.

When I looked for good ways to translate абзац for you, I found some typical slang definitions that fit nicely with what I heard so often, basically “the end of something,” something peculiar, or a sort of intensifier that expresses emotion. This pretty much sums up my coworker’s uses of the word. Russian Internet searches turned up other alleged slang uses of абзац: to denote three puffs/tokes or some sort of 220 millimeter missile.

The Russian literary journal Книжное обозрение awards the Абзац prizes, which do not appear to carry any cash award. Last year’s “Complete Abzats” antiwinner was none other than Sergei Minaev, for Духless (Soulless) and Media Sapiens. No other books were nominated, and the journal cited Minaev’s combination of pathos and low writing quality. End of posting. End of абзац.


  1. Very interesting post. Thank you for your help!

  2. You're welcome, deisoca! I'm glad it's helpful.

  3. Of course another facet of meaning of "полный абзац" is that it is а euphemism for "полный п...ец".

  4. Steven, yes, that's exactly what I was referring to when I said полный абзац sounds like a euphemism! I'm just surprised it took so long for someone to write it in the comments. It's funny: one of my other co-workers liked to use the real phrase, often to very good effect, so I have very "specific" memories of it!

  5. Gosh darn it! Блин! Ёкарный бабай! I couldn't believe it either. I thought everybody knew it and just politely refused to mention it :)

  6. Thank you for a good laugh, Steven! Sometimes it really surprises me what people do and don't comment about -- I really thought someone would either mention or ask about the euphemism way back when I first wrote this post. But ёлки палки, nobody did until now!