Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Big Book Award to Basinskii

Pavel Basinskii won the 2010 Big Book award for Лев Толстой: Бегство из рая (Lev Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise/Heaven). The publisher’s blurb on ozon.ru describes the book as a reconstruction of what happened between the time Tolstoy left home and his death not long after; the book evidently also describes Tolstoy’s "family drama." The award feels unusually timely because Tolstoy died almost exactly 100 years ago, on November 20, 1910. The book has been quite popular: comments on ozon are very positive, and Escape was no. 6 on today’s pro-books.ru bestseller list. An excerpt is available on Прочтение.

Second prize went to Aleksandr Ilichevskii’s Перс (The Persian), a rather thick novel about a Russian émigré who returns to the Former Soviet Union after a difficult divorce. I tried starting The Persian a month or so ago but couldn’t get into it; I’ll have to give it another go soon, particularly because I’m interested in the Caspian location. An excerpt is available on Прочтение.

Finally, Viktor Pelevin took third prize – after winning the readers’ choice award yesterday, too – for t. Pelevin’s books are always difficult to describe, so I’ll leave plot summary to this article. I’ve never been a big Pelevin fan but t sounds more interesting to me than most of his previous books, in part because he sets part of t in the early 20th century. Ozon has the first pages online.

I haven’t been tracking Big Book opinion enough to have a good feel for favorites, but I will say that, statistically speaking, I was a real failure this year: I read five of the 14 finalists and none of them won any prizes! At least I tried The Persian and (twice!) almost bought t.

Edit: Photos of the ceremony are online here.

Edit: Thank you to The Literary Saloon for mentioning that a (fairly brief) excerpt of the book is available online here, thanks to Rossiyskaya gazeta and The Telegraph. The piece mentions that the book is being translated into English.

Tolstoy death mask image from author Daniel Hass and user Unklscrufy, via Wikipedia.


  1. Thanks. I am the fan who has read the book. lol. Through Boston Bibliophile who started blogging about Russian Literature, my interest has spiked and I am only waiting for such a time when I would begin buying them. thanks for these award-winning ones too.

  2. "T" is not the best Pelevin's novel. Not at all.

  3. Thanks for checking in, kolokolcev! Do you have a favorite Pelevin book? I've already read Generation П and most of Числа plus other pieces of ДПП... and always seem to like the beginning but not the end. Several people have suggested Омон Ра and/or Чапаев и пустота -- do you recommend either of those?

  4. I did not like Pelevin's t... I had to force myself to finish it...

  5. Thanks for the comment about t, Lik. Are you usually a Pelevin fan? If so, do you have a favorite Pelevin book?

  6. I'd like to recomend: Чапаев и пустота, Затворник и Шестипалый, Желтая Стрела, Омон Ра, Принц Госплана, Жизнь Насеомых, Шлем ужаса (оne of the best novel, but not for all).

    And, there are a lot of the wonderfull short novels: Синий фанарь, Хрустальный Мир, Жизнь и приключения сарая номер XII, Нижняя Тундра, СССР Тайшоу Чжуань, ГКЧП как Тетраграмотон, Тайм-аут, или вечерняя Москва.



  7. Part of the short novel "Синий Фонарь"

    – Был один пионерлагерь. И там на главном корпусе на стене были нарисованы всякие звери, и один из них был черный заяц с барабаном. У него в лапы почему-то были вбиты два гвоздя. И вот однажды шла мимо одна девочка – с обеда на тихий час. И ей стало этого зайца жалко. Она подошла и вынула гвозди. И ей вдруг показалось, что черный заяц на нее смотрит, словно он живой. Но она решила, что это ей показалось, и пошла в палату. Начался тихий час. И тогда черный заяц вдруг начал бить в свой барабан. И сразу же все, кто был в этом лагере, заснули. И им стало сниться, что тихий час кончился, что они проснулись и пошли на полдник. Потом они вроде бы стали делать все как обычно – играть в пинг-понг, читать и так далее. А это им все снилось. Потом кончилась смена, и они поехали по домам. Потом они все выросли, кончили школу, женились и стали работать и воспитывать детей. А на самом деле они просто спали. И черный заяц все время бил в свой барабан.

  8. Thanks very much, kolokolcev, I think I'll try Омон Ра...