Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 2011 National Bestseller Looooong List

I’ve grown to enjoy literary award long lists: I guess I like the fact that long lists are so long, meaning they serve up dozens of reading ideas. I’ve also found that many of my favorite books make it to multiple long and short lists but don’t win big prizes. Today there’s an additional long list benefit: posting about this year’s NatsBest gives me a nice reprieve from finishing my piece about Olga Slavnikova’s Лёгкая голова (Lightheaded). I’ve been struggling with it for days...

So! The NatsBest long list contains around 60 nominations; manuscripts and books, in journal or book form, are eligible. A few to mention:

The most popular book, with three nominations, is Andrei Astvatsaturov’s Скунскамера. The title, Skun(k)skamera, is a play on “Kunstkamera.” Astvatsaturov’s Люди в голом (People in the Nude) was a finalist for last year’s NatsBest. For his part, Astvatsaturov nominated Mikhail Elizarov’s Мультики (‘Toons); it’s the only book on the list that I’ve read so far (previous post).

The most-nominated author, by titles, is Andrei Rubanov, who has three books on the list: Тоже родина (Also a Homeland or Another Homeland), Йод (Iodine), and Психодел (I’ll call it Psychodeal: the book blurb says the title is a combination of two Russian words: psychosis and the verb делать, to do…). Homeland is a collection of stories; the other two books are novels. Roman Senchin nominated Iodine, which is apparently somewhat autobiographical; Senchin’s Изобилие (Abundance), a book of stories, made the list, too.

The NatsBest is intended to make a book into a bestseller – its slogan is “Проснуться знаменитым,” “Wake up famous” – but Pavel Krusanov nominated Viktor Pelevin’s Ананасная вода для прекрасной дамы (Pineapple Water for the Beautiful Lady), a book that’s already been at the top of bestseller lists; as of today, it’s at number 6. Oh well. Meanwhile, German Sadulaev’s Шалинский рейд (The Raid on Shali) was nominated twice but withdrawn for not fitting the competition’s rules because it was a 2010 Booker finalist. Elena Koliadina, who won the 2010 Booker, is on the big jury for the NatsBest.

Two more: Marina Palei’s Дань саламандре (Tribute [the old-fashioned kind] for the Salamander) (beginning) (end) is allegedly a Petersburg novel… I enjoyed Il’ia Boiashov’s The Tank Driver or “White Tiger” (previous post) so may give his Каменная баба (The Stone Woman) a try, particularly since the Russian phrase for “stone woman” refers to ancient statues and the book’s action, at first glance, anyway, looks thoroughly contemporary…

I’ll finish by saying that Viktor Toporov mentions in his commentary about the list that Boiashov is one of four nominees who’s already won the NatsBest. The other three are Dmitrii Bykov, Pelevin, and Aleksandr Prokhanov.

Up next: The afore-mentioned post about Slavnikova’s Lightheaded, which I enjoyed. Then Mikhail Shishkin’s Письмовник (Letter-Book), which I’m not so thrilled about.


  1. interesting list. Are the books nominated by authors? Wonder how the judges would read all these 60+ books. thanks for this list might come in handy when I prepare my east European book list.

  2. Nana, yes, many/most of the books are nominated by writers and critics... two authors even nominated their own books. I haven't studied the nominator list or rules but should add that LiveJournal readers made 10 nominations through online voting.

    It's difficult to say how many of these books might ever be translated into English.

  3. Oh, you're giving me lots to add to my list!

    I do like the slogan, "Wake up famous!"

  4. Notice, also, Vladimir Kozlov's "Домой" made the list! I've skimmed but not read it, it's Trainspotting-ish. If I keep translating his work it's next on my list, though it's a potential translation nightmare...

  5. @Gina: Yes, I like that slogan, too, even though I'm not sure how "famous" the NatsBest really makes the winners! But the principle of gaining recognition for writers is certainly a good one.

    @Andrea: Thank you for mentioning Kozlov's nomination... it was one of the LiveJournal 10. Hmm, "Trainspotting-ish" is an interesting way to describe a book!

    I'm looking forward to looking up more of these books and writers. I've already bookmarked the Palei and Boiashov books...

  6. Hi Lisa! I have a lazy question: I've been asked at short notice (too short notice to actually read the book) to be a discussant on a panel that includes a paper on Sergei Zhadan's Voroshilovgrad. I am looking at online reviews, and I wondered whether you'd read it - and if so, what you thought about it?

  7. Hello, Russian Dinosaur!

    No, I haven't read the book. Nor, I admit, had I even heard of it. Or Zhadan. I hope the panel discussion goes well!

    In case anyone is curious: Zhadan is a Ukrainian writer, and the book has been translated into Russian.

    There's information here.

  8. Thank you very much, Lisa. I still haven't read Voroshilovgrad, but thanks to the panellist's very interesting paper, I now want to very much! Apparently the book will be translated into English soon. The panellist, who is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, blogs entertainingly about her intellectual and personal encounters in the course of her research. Here is a link to her blog post on Zhadan:

  9. Thank you for the update, Russian Dinosaur -- it's nice to hear the book sounds enticing and will be translated into English. Hmm, that poses the question: to read in Russian translation or English translation?