I’d like to thank the 2011 Big Book jury for making it easy for me to write this post. This year’s Big Book readers and jury chose the same book—Mikhail Shishkin’s Письмовник (Letter-Book) (previous post)—as their big winner. The jury gave second prize to Vladimir Sorokin’s Метель (The Blizzard) (previous post), and Dmitrii Bykov’s Остромов, или Ученик чародея (Ostromov, or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice) took third.
After enjoying Fazil Iskander’s stories about a boy called Chik (previous post), I was happy to see that Iskander won this year’s special award “за честь и достоинство” (“for honor and merit/virtue”). A big, thick collection of Iskander’s stories about Sandro of Chegem is on my shelf—not far from Bykov’s big, thick novel about Ostromov—waiting for that winter moment when I desperately need a long book. (I’m glad to have options: I’ve recently been resisting a fifth reading of War and Peace…)
Big Book also recognized Peter Mayer, of Overlook Press and Duckworth, for his contributions to literature. Overlook’s list of fiction translated from Russian over the last several years includes Liudmila Ulitskaya’s Daniel Stein, Interpreter (tr. Arch Tait), Olga Slavnikova’s 2017 (tr. Marian Schwartz), Today I Wrote Nothing, a collection by Daniil Kharms (tr. Matvei Yankelevich), and several novels by Max Frei (tr. Polly Gannon, Ast A. Moore). Nonfiction titles include Frank Westerman’s Engineers of the Soul: The Grandiose Propaganda of Stalin’s Russia (tr. Sam Garrett), which I enjoyed very much (previous post). Overlook has owned the Ardis list since 2002.
Up Next: Booker of the Decade, trip notes from the recent American Literary Translators Association conference, and maybe something about Aleksei Varlamov’s Купол (The Cupola or The Dome), though I’m finding the book rather inert, largely because of the dearth of dialogue.
Disclaimers: The usual. I should note that I always enjoy speaking with Peter Mayer and his Overlook colleagues at events during and around book fairs.