Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 NatsBest Short List

The 2011 National Bestseller shortlist is in. Here are the finalists, in Russian alphabetical order, with the number of points they accumulated during their journey from long to short list:

  • Dmitrii Bykov: Остромов, или Ученик чародея (Ostromov, or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice) (11 points)
  • Mikhail Elizarov: Мультики (‘Toons) (6 points)
  • Pavel Peppershtein: Пражская ночь (Prague Night) (6 points) (excerpt)
  • Andrei Rubanov: Психодел (Psychodeal) (6 points)
  • Figl’-Migl’: Ты так любишь эти фильмы (You Love Those Films So Much) (6 points)
  • Sergei Shargunov: Книга без фотографий (A Book Without Photographs) (5 points)

A few notes:

  • Elizarov’s book, ‘Toons, is the only one I’ve read (previous post) thus far.
  • The writer known as Figl’-Migl’ is new to me: this pseudonym means “trick” (though the Russian term is plural) so I guess I’ll think of this writer as The Trickster.
  • Bykov has already won the NatsBest award once.
  • The winner will be announced on June 5. The jury for the next level is chaired by Kseniia Sobchak….
  • Comments about any books you’ve read, want to read, or have no intention of reading would be most welcome!

There’s a bit more here on OpenSpace.ru.


  1. My readings are skewed towards African Literature. However, lately I have branched into other works and would be looking for some Russian books soon.

  2. Love the blog, should do more reviews and updates. Since you liked Dovlatov, I would recommend Anatoly Gladilin, another great humorist abroad.

  3. Ho ho ... Kseniia Sobchak seems like an unlikely chair for the jury!

    (Anne Marie)

  4. Thanks to all of you for your comments!

    @Nana: If you're looking for recommendations, I usually suggest starting with posts in the sidebar, particularly those labeled "greatest hits" and "notable new translations." Good luck!

    @Grizz: Thank you for your kind words and for mentioning Gladilin. I thought I had one of his books on the shelf but alas, I do not. Even the titles of his books look good, so I'll have to check into him; let me know if you have any suggestions on where to start. And I should post more! My schedule seems to be normalizing a bit after a crazy couple of months so I'm hoping to get back to my usual reading and writing volume.

    @Anonymous Anne Marie: Yes, I know! I guess titles like Стильные штучки Ксении Собчак and Энциклопедия лоха qualify one to do a lot, though!

  5. P.S. to Anne Marie: I got curious and looked into this a bit more... The NatsBest page officially lists Ксюша Собчак as "почетный председатель" but she's the only председатель the jury has, and that's what they've been calling the chairs for the last several years...

    For the sake of history, last year's почетный председатель was Константин Тублин, who is, ahem, основатель премии. And the previous year's chair was Андрей Галиев, general director of «Коммерсантъ Холдинг».

    That's probably more than anybody ever wanted to know about the chairs of the NatsBest small juries!

  6. Check out "Zhuliki, Dobra Pozhalovat v Parizh!" for Gladilin.

  7. Have you considered "Flim-Flam" for "Фигль-Мигль"? It has the added benefit of sounding somewhat similar.

  8. Thanks, Alex! I hadn't really thought much about the name after making that post... but Flim-Flam does have a nice ring to it.

  9. Is there anybody here that can recommend a literary or almost literary book that is cheerful with a theme like successful love, happiness, fulfilled ambition, realized dreams? I can only think of Ayn Rand and Paul-Loup Sulitzer books, and they are not very literary (but not fluff either).
    Why all serious books have to be about hurt and pain etc. I find it extraordinary and somehow scary, and telling about our mindset that there isn't any happy literary novel I can think of.


  10. You ask a good question, Veronique. I'm going to focus on contemporary Russian fiction since that's what I seem to read the most... I read and enjoy a lot of books that aren't very cheery (including чернуха) because I like thinking about the human questions (e.g. that pain you mention) they raise but I, too, often want something more, I don't know, upbeat, a book that's thoughtful and meaningful but not mindless. I think they're hard to find in English, too, but maybe I don't look in the right places... or maybe I'm just drawn to heavy books. Many of the books I read contain humor, often dark, or the combination of life's extreme highs and lows, but it sounds like you're looking for something different.

    I suppose the overall dearth of "happier" literary fiction that we've noticed is the reason that Kliuev's Андерманир штук and Zaionchkovskii's Счастье возможно have been relatively popular. I think Ulitskaya's Daniel Stein is also quite positive, in its own way. Of course these books also contain varying degrees of darkness. If I think of anything else (or get an idea from a reader friend I'm meeting with today), I'll come back and add it. Good luck!

  11. Thanks, Lisa!