Last week was so oddly hectic that I never quite got to these two items:
1. May 30 marked 48 years since the death of Boris Pasternak. It may feel morbid to count the years since a famous person died, but the date is inked into my memory because I was born on May 30 not many years after Pasternak died. When I lived in Moscow, I went to memorial concerts at the Pasternak dacha in Peredelkino each May 30.
Pasternak’s grave is in the woods not far from the dacha, and I loved to hear Evgenii Pasternak recite his father’s poetry in the cemetery. I don’t know who the pianists were who played at the dacha, but I recognized two of the regular poets: Andrei Voznesenskii and Evgenii Evtushenko.
The Pasternak dacha museum was one of my favorite spots in Russia, and I always especially enjoyed looking at the bookcase in Pasternak’s office.2. The Большая книга (Big Book) literary prize named its “short” list of nominees for 2008 on May 28. I guess 10 is a short list if it’s culled from hundreds of entries, plus it’s a reduction from last year’s 12 and the previous year’s 14.
-Pavel Basinskii Русский роман, или Жизнь и приключения Джона Половинкина (A Russian Novel or The Life and Adventures of John Half), a debut novel of many genres, written by a critic
-Il’ia Boiashov (Ilya Boyashov) Танкист, или "Белый тигр" (The Tank Driver or “White Tiger”), a historical novel about tank drivers chasing German “White Tigers” during World War 2.
-Aleksandr Ilichevskii Пение известняка (Singing of Limestone), short stories (links to some stories are here)
-Vladimir Kostin Годовые кольца (Growth Rings), short stories with Siberian themes
-Vladimir Makanin Асан (Asan), novel manuscript about Chechnia
-Rustam Rakhmatullin Две Москвы, или Метафизика столицы (Two Moscows or the Metaphysics of the Capital), manuscript to be published. (selected stories here)
-Liudmila Saraskina Александр Солженицын (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
-Margarita Khemlin Живая очередь (The Live Line [lining up in order of appearance and staying in line]), stories with Jewish themes (selected work here)
I took the sketchy descriptions from this article and this article and this article. The world – or at least I, you, and a bunch of other readers interested in contemporary Russian books – will now wait until October to learn which writer wins the three million ruble first prize.
Update on July 14, 2008: The texts of most Big Book finalists have been posted on the Big Book site.