I’ve only read half this year’s finalists—Slavnikova’s book, Stepnova’s book, and Dmitriev’s winner—but have to say this choice surprised and disappointed me, and not just because Dmitriev already won a Yasnaya Polyana award in October. The Peasant and the Teenager is a decent enough novel about city and rural life, and I can understand enjoying it. Still, as I wrote in my previous post, I think the book lacks something. That something is, at least for me, intangible and difficult to describe: the book doesn’t manage to give me much new, either thematically or aesthetically, leaving me moderately satisfied but shruggingly indifferent. Despite the cow, my favorite character.
I’ll leave the commentary at that for now and add notes later if I find any interesting reactions. Two days later, these three articles seem to sum up what I've read:
Addition 1: An article from RIANovosti with comments about the award. (NB: They got Stepnova's first name wrong at the top: she's Marina!) I'm posting this because I agree with writer and critic Alisa Ganieva's comment that Dmitriev's book was a safe choice; Ganieva said she would have chosen a winner from the Stepnova, Slavnikova, or Terekhov books. This article also includes a comment from Booker committee chair Igor Shaitanov expressing his pleasure with the choice because the Booker's goal is to try to make serious Russian literature competitive; another article, on Gazeta.ru, has Shaitanov hinting that Dmitriev's book was noted by the prize's English partners and may be translated into English.
Addition 2: A thorough piece from Izvestia by critic Liza Novikova, who (as always!) fits a lot into a brief article. Among other things, Liza calls Dmitriev's novel a continuation of the Soviet-era "village prose" tradition, noting that Dmitriev manages to create a positive character in Paniukov, a rarity in contemporary literature. I agree and think it's one of the book's best aspects. Liza also includes some interesting quotes from finalists Slavnikova and Terekhov, with Slavnikova discussing how her book might have been different if written now and Terekhov saying that if readers see his Germans as social satire, then it must be social satire.
Addition 3: Anna Narinskaia's piece for Kommersant. Among other things, Narinskaia mentions the Booker's apparent trend of moderation (after those scandalous (!) Elizarov and Koliadina wins...), 2012 jury chair Samuil Lur'e's comment that Russian literature died back around, uhm, 1949 sending readers to foreign detective novels, and (writer and jury member) Roman Senchin's response that, essentially, all is not lost. Phew.
Up Next: Moscow trip report with more about the Big Book award, then Serhij Zhadan’s Voroshilovgrad, and Margarita Khemlin’s Investigator. Then who knows… the bookshelf is wonderfully, ridiculously full after this fall’s Moscow trips!