Happy new year! С Новым годом! I hope 2011 brings you lots of fun and intriguing Russian fiction, whether you read in English or Russian. Before the year ends, I thought I’d mention some 2010 favorites and a few reading intentions – not to be mistaken for goals or resolutions – for 2011:
Most enjoyably readable long novel: Based on reviews and awards nominations, I expected to like Mikhail Gigolashvili’s Чертово колесо (The Devil’s Wheel), but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the book or the skill with which Gigolashvili brings dozens of characters to life while describing withdrawal from drugs and the Soviet way of life. (previous post) Bonus: Ad Marginem, which published The Devil’s Wheel, sent a link to a story by Gigolashvili as a holiday gift. (No, I haven’t read it yet…)
Favorite first-person narrative: With Клоцвог (Klotsvog), Margarita Khemlin does a wonderful job putting the reader inside the head of a character with all sorts of unpleasant life experiences. Khemlin has a tremendous ability to use simple language to create complex situations and characters. I’ve translated one of her short stories and hope to find it a good home in 2011. (previous post)
Favorite чернуха (dark/naturalistic realism): Roman Senchin’s Елтышевы (The Yeltyshevs), a horribly sad and realistic depiction of a failed family, is so beautifully and simply told that I asked about translating it... I’m working on it… (previous post)
Best nonfiction: I’m still recovering from Drawings from the Gulag, written and drawn by Danzig Baldaev. With its graphic visual and written descriptions of Gulag abuses, the book is very difficult to read but I think Baldaev’s perspective is important. Yes, I admit I only read one book of nonfiction this year but this one carries so much emotion and information that I know it would have been notable even if I’d read dozens. (previous post)
Favorite translated book: I did something unusual this year: I read a book, Moscow Noir, in Russian-English translation because I couldn’t wait for the collection of originals to appear in Russian. The translations read well, and the book was dark, dark, dark, as promised. Okay, I confess this is another category with no real competition since Drawings from the Gulag is bilingual. But the book was good, and the editors, Natalia Smirnova and Julia Goumen, did a great job compiling it. (previous post)
What might be coming in 2011: Hmm, the Sh writers seem to lead: I’ve been delaying my Shklovsky mini-marathon for far too long, and I’ve been staring at several of Mikhail Shishkin’s books for months. I also have Viacheslav Shishkov’s Угрюм-река, which I’ll call Gloom River in English, if only because it sounds like “Moon River”… Finally, I’m particularly looking forward to reading Iurii Buida after finally being able to buy one of his books, after several years of on-and-off attempts.
A big thanks to everyone for all your visits, comments, and e-mail messages in 2010! It’s been a fun year of reading, blogging, and hearing from so many of you. I look forward to more reading and book talk in 2011 -- happy new year!
Disclosures: I received Drawings from the Gulag and Moscow Noir from their publishers, Fuel and Akashic, respectively.
New year stamp image from Mariluna, via Wikipedia.