This year’s list of finalists for the Russian “National Bestseller” book awards is yet more proof that the contest’s name is something of a misnomer: Though some of the writers are familiar, don’t let the contest’s label let you think these writers sell truckloads of genre books like Ekaterina Vil'mont or Dar’ia Dontsova. The finalists:Zakhar Prilepin for Грех (Sin), a collection of linked short stories. Prilepin’s blog entry about the nominations mentions that he’s been a “Natsbest” shortlistee three times. He’s been nominated for numerous other prizes, too, and Sin led voting for the Natsbest short list.
Prilepin’s Natsbest favorite is Anna Kozlova’s novel Люди с чистой совестью (People with a Clean Conscience), which he says he is crazy about after a nocturnal reading session in a café.
Andrei Turgenev (a.k.a. critic Viacheslav Kuritsyn) was nominated for Спать и верить: блокадный роман (To Sleep and Believe: A Blockade Novel (or perhaps A Blockade Romance… the title is ambiguous)), about Leningrad during World War 2.
Critic Lev Danilkin’s biography of Aleksandr Prokhanov, Человек с яйцом (Man with an Egg… I suspect a pun on “egg” here, since яйцо has also meant “testicle” since at least Pushkin’s era.), was also nominated. Prokhanov is a nationalist and novelist whose Господин Гексоген (Mr. Hexogen) won the National Bestseller award in 2002, though not without controversy.
Iurii Brigadir’s Мезенцефалон (Mesencephalon) was first published in a journal together with work by Evgenii Grishkovets, Dmitrii Bykov, and others.
Aleksandr Sekatsii’s novel about Chinese Medieval culture, Два ларца: бирюзовый и нефритовый (Two Boxes: Turquoise and Jade), rounds out the list.
Thanks to an Olympic athlete, the jury that will help determine the winner of Natsbest’s $10,000 prize may be better known to the general public than most of the nominees. Jury members: Igor Boiashov (last year’s winner), Marat Gel’man (art and political expert), Galina Dursthoff (literary agent), Emiliia Spivak (actress), Boris Fedorov (financier), Aleksei Yagudin (figure skater), and Il’ia Shtemler (writer). Rank-and-file readers can also vote for their favorites by SMS beginning on May 5, 2008.