Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red Star and Bunin Prize Finalists

Some unconnected bits of news:

1. Sunday’s New York Times Book Review ran a short piece describing David King’s 350-page Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union From the Revolution to the Death of Stalin. (Link here) The online version of the review, which also covers other books, includes a slide show with a photo of Stalin, lying in state, amid flowers and fronds. Writes reviewer Steven Heller, “What a relief it must have been for so many to see him in such a tableau.”

2. The Bunin Prize people named a short [?] list of 15 finalists. This year the award covers books of commentary. (full list in Russian) The nominees include two writers also known for their fiction: Zakhar Prilepin and Aleksandr Prokhanov. Both have won the National Bestseller award. Prokhanov’s winning book, Господин Гексоген (Mister Hexogen) is on my to-read shelf.

The Bunin nominee that interests me most is literary critic Lev Danilkin’s Нумерация с хвоста. Путеводитель по русской литературе (Numbering from the Tail. A Guidebook to Russian Literature. The title refers to the conventions of numbering cars on passenger trains.). A brief excerpt is available on ozon.ru, here. I’ve enjoyed Danilkin’s writings on contemporary fiction ever since I read his analysis of Boris Akunin’s Fandorin novels, using the short novel Декоратор (The Decorator) as a defining moment. (in Russian here)

3. Also, before I forget, The Complete Review posted a very favorable review (here) of Il’f and Petrov’s Золотой телёнок (The Golden Calf), which is due out soon in a new translation. (previous post) I’m enjoying my Il’f&Petrov-fest: somewhere I noticed a reader’s comment that The Twelve Chairs acts like an anti-depressant, so it makes a sunny change of pace after Makanin’s Underground!

Photo from Jazza, via stock.xchng


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