Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day Weekend News Potpourri

I’ve been hoarding Russian literary news for today, knowing I’d be in the middle of Mikhail Gigolashvili’s 800-page Чертово колесо (The Devil’s Wheel). I admit: despite positive reviews and liking the first chapters I’d read (in PDF) on the Ad Marginem site, I’d had doubts about spending so many pages and days reading about drug addicts in Tbilisi. But The Devil’s Wheel is a great antidote to Kliuev’s Something Else for You (previous post) and Pavlov’s Asystole (previous post). Gigolashvili can tell a story, and he’s unsparing in his depiction of the perestroika era. The Devil’s Wheel is graphic, brutal, sensitive, funny, and impossible to put down. And now the news…

Award news:

Liudmila Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, in the collection category. (news item) (hurray, it’s back!) reported that Vladimir Sorokin won the Gorky Prize for Лёд (Ice). The other nominees for the writer award were Boris Akunin for Декоратор (The Decorator) and Mikhail Shishkin for Венерин волос (Maidenhair). About the nominees: I didn’t much like Ice, which has been translated by Jamey Gambrell, but I can’t forget it; I’m planning to read the next book in the trilogy (Путь бро, known in English as Bro) soon. The Decorator is one of my favorite of Akunin’s Fandorin novel(la)s; it’s one of the pieces in the book known in English as Special Assignments, translated by Andrew Bromfield. As for Shishkin, I have a couple of his books on the shelf…

Translation news:

Speaking of Shishkin’s Maidenhair: Open Letter’s fall catalogue lists it as “forthcoming.”

Russian Life Books released Nina Murray’s translation of Petr Aleshkovskii’s Рыба. История одной миграции (Fish: A History of One Migration) a few days ago. Fish wasn’t a favorite when I read it last year – I didn’t think it lived up to its tremendous potential (previous post) – but it does have some good material, particularly in depicting personal and social trauma.

Miscellaneous news:

A Sergei Dovlatov museum is scheduled to open on September 3, 2011, Dovlatov’s birthday, in Berezino, a village in the Pskov oblast’ where Dovlatov lived in 1977. The announcement came on August 24, 2010, the twentieth anniversary of Dovlatov’s death. (Russian news item) Dovlatov wrote about the house in Заповедник (The Reserve). I read The Reserve and thought it was uneven, though many of the passages about working at the nearby Pushkin museum are hilarious. My favorite Dovlatov, so far, is Компромисс (The Compromise) (previous post), available in Anne Frydman’s translation.

Today’s post on my Other Bookshelf blog is about Daphne Kalotay’s Russian Winter, a novel about ballet, jewelry, poets, and Stalin-era wariness that moves between Soviet Moscow and contemporary Boston. Publisher Harper Collins calls it a “page-turner.” I don’t have especially strong positive or negative feelings about Russian Winter, but I do think its combination of heavy and light make it a good book for introducing readers to Russian themes. Most recommended to people interested in ballet and antique jewelry auctions. (Harper Collins sent a review copy of Russian Winter at my request.)

Up next: The afore-mentioned Devil’s Wheel.

Photo credit: Drabkin, via Wikipedia. (Sergei Dovlatov's grave at Mount Hebron Cemetery, Queens, New York.)


  1. I find it strange that the books submitted for Gorky prizes by Sorokin and Akunin seem to be several years old.

  2. I do, too! The Shishkin book is also several years old.

    The books may be old because the Gorky Award seems to be set up to alternate: last year the writer award went to an Italian writer.

  3. You might be interested to know that NYRB classics are publishing the entire Ice trilogy in English next year.

    Enjoy the site. Keep up the good work.

  4. Thank you, Vern, for your comment and the reminder on the upcoming NYRB Ice trilogy translation.

    FYI to all: It looks like the book should be available in early February 2011.

  5. What is your favorite Sorokin's book?
    I'd like to read the best one.

    And i'd like to present you this link:

  6. kolokolcev, I may be a bad person to ask about favorite Sorokin books because I haven't read too many and have only really liked one so far: День опричника. I think you enjoyed that one, too. Even though I didn't like it a lot, I have to admit that Лёд was memorable and interesting... only time will tell what I think of the next book. I've read some of the stories in Первый субботник and had mixed reactions. I thought Сахарный кремль and Метель were disappointing, but I think you already knew that!

    Several other readers have recommended Очередь, which sounds interesting.

    Thank you for the Latynina link: she sure has a variety of information on her blog!

  7. I appreciate your comments about RUSSIAN WINTER. I have a galley as well and have beend debating picking it up. I probably will at some point but your thoughts on it echo my worries!:-)

  8. Thanks for checking in about Russian Winter, Marie! It's been fun to read other reviews, particularly because I've seen so many, including The Washington Post's, that are more enthusiastic than mine. I'll be interested to read what you think of it!