Every so often, I enjoy going through an entire book award long list, methodically looking for books I might enjoy reading. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to sift through the entire 2013 (Russian!) Booker Prize long list on a slightly cloudy but warm and very beach-worthy Saturday afternoon, but there you have it.
So here’s the long list, in Russian alphabetical order by author, with comments, some of which may be a bit odd and uneven since many of the books don’t seem to have gotten much attention… or at least not the kind of attention that I.I. Google recognizes and rewards. I starred the books I’m most interested in. The short list will be announced on October 3.
1. Aleksandr Arkhangel’skii: Музей революции (Museum of the Revolution). I always hate to start a list on a negative note but I tried reading this novel and just didn’t get very far, due to lack of interest; I didn’t even read far enough to get into the museum conflict…
2. * Nikolai Baitov: Любовь Муры (Mura’s Love). The publisher’s blurb says this epistolary novel is about two women’s forbidden love in the 1930s and 1940s, though two reviews I looked at dispute the “forbidden” part. There are, however, two women. And there is love.
3. * Nadezhda Belen’kaia. Рыбы молчат по-испански (Fish Keep Quiet in Spanish). A novel about international adoptions of Russian children.
4. Vladimir Vester: Отель разбитых сердец (Heartbreak Hotel). The book’s subtitle, Секс, кино, один ствол и вечно живой Элвис Пресли—Sex, the Movies, One Gun, and an/the Eternally Alive Elvis Presley—seems to say it all.
5. Evgenii (Eugene) Vodolazkin: Лавр (Laurus). One of my favorites (previous post). Already a finalist for this year’s NatsBest and Big Book.
6. Andrei Volos: Возвращение в Панджруд (excerpts) (Return to Panjrud). Volos, who is originally from Dushanbe, often writes about Central Asia. His agent’s site says this novel is about a poet in the Middle Ages. Finalist for this year’s Big Book.
7. * Valerii Votrin: Логопед (The Speech Therapist). The Speech Therapist’s publisher describes the book as depicting a “linguistic antiutopia.” There are two main characters: a speech therapist and a journalist. Watch your spelling and punctuation, people!
8. * Alisa Ganieva: Праздничная гора (excerpt) (Holiday Mountain). A novel about Dagestan… in which Dagestan becomes separate from Russia, resulting in problems and not-so-happy endings.
9. Vladimir Gubailovskii: Учитель цинизма (The Teacher of Cynicism or Cynicism’s Teacher?). A 2012 Big Book finalist. The main character is math student at Moscow State University in the late Soviet era.
10. Denis Gutsko: Бета-самец (Beta Male). This sounds like a novel about a middle-aged guy (not an alpha!) with good connections but not a lot of ambition who is presented with a situation that changes his life.
|Menshikov in Berezovo (1888)|
11. Andrei Demkin: Ненаписанный дневник (excerpt) (The Unwritten Diary). A historical novel about prince Aleksandr Menshikov and his exile, and the work of artist Vasilii Surikov, who really did paint Menshikov. Hmm.
12. Oleg Ermakov: С той стороны дерева (From the Other Side of the Tree). Apparently about a man who goes to Lake Baikal and finds everything he was looking for and more, including love and local myths.
13. Andrei Ivanov: Харбинские мотыльки (The Moths of Harbin). A novel about Russians in Estonia during 1920-1940. This sounds like a difficult but interesting novel.
14. Aleksandr (Alexander) Kabakov: Старик и ангел (The Old Man and the Angel). A professor in his seventies has regrets about his life, then a heart attack changes all. A review on Timeout.ru compares Kabakov’s writing to Aksyonov’s.
15. Anatolii Kurchatkin: Чудо хождения по водам (The Miracle of Walking on Water). According to the Tver’ libraries’ description: a man suddenly discovers he can walk on water, though only when other people are around.
16. Maya Kucherskaya: Тетя Мотя (Auntie Motya a.k.a. Auntie Mina). Another one I couldn’t quite get into: this book about a couple’s not-so-successful life together felt too contrived to me. As of this writing, it’s the top gatherer of Facebook “likes” among 2013 Big Book finalists, though.
17. * Vadim Levental’: Маша Регина (Masha Regina). Levental’s debut novel is about a woman from the provinces who becomes a world-famous film director. Another 2013 Big Book finalist.
18. Olesya Nikolaeva. Меценат. Жизнеописание Александра Берга. (The Patron/Sponsor/Philanthropist. The Life of Aleksandr Berg). A detective novel about the murder of a monastery official.
19. Aleksei Slapovskii. Вспять. Хроника перевернувшегося времени (Backward. A Chronicle of Time Upended (or something of the sort!)). Time goes backward in a provincial town, giving people another last Friday instead of a new Sunday. Sounds like déjà vu all over again.
20. Sergei Solov’ev: Адамов мост (Adam’s Bridge). This one seems to defy summarization India. Jungles. He and She.
21. Andrei Tavrov: Матрос на мачте (The Sailor on the Mast). In this novel, Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov meets a young woman who’s traveling around the Caucasus.
22. Margarita Khemlin: Дознаватель (The Investigator). Another one I read and enjoyed (previous post).
23. Vladimir Shapko: У подножия необъятного мира (At the Foot/Pedestal of an/the Immense World…). This work is called a poem but isn’t written as verse, though one observer who read the first installment in a journal says “poem” fits in the Greek sense because the book is an epic set in the Soviet era and looks at a huge number of characters who are regular people. Our observer sounded rather eager for a sense of what it might all mean…
24. *? Aleksandr Ebanoidze: Предчувствие октября (A Premonition of October). A novel about the Moscow intelligentsia during the transition years.
Disclosures: The usual, including my work translating various texts by Vodolazkin and Khemlin.
Up Next: Aleksandr Ilichevskii’s The Orphics, which still creeps me out; Iurii Buida’s Thief, Spy, and Murderer, which petered out; plus last month’s coven…
Image: Painting by Vasilii Surikov, via Wikipedia.