Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! & 2013 Highlights

Happy new year! С Новым годом! I wish everyone a very happy, healthy 2014 with lots of fun reading, Russian and otherwise, no matter what your reading language(s). Here are a few of my reading highlights from 2013, a year where overall reading quality was definitely greater than reading quantity.

Favorite book by an author I’d already read. Oleg Zaionchkovskii’s Petrovich (previous post) chronicles the young life of a boy known as Petrovich who comes of age as the Soviet Union is breaking up. Riding around in a dump truck has never sounded like so much fun.

Favorite book by an author I’d never read. Evgenii Vodolazkin’s Laurus (previous post) isn’t just a favorite for 2013, it’s an all-time favorite about a man in the Middle Ages. Vodolazkin’s use of contemporary and archaic language fits beautifully with his messages about the eternal. Translating excerpts of the book only made me appreciate the book’s beauty more. It deserves all the praise and awards it’s won.

Favorite book nobody else seemed to care about. Hmm, last year I chose a book by Aleksandr Ilichevsky for this category, too! This year it’s The Orphics (previous post), a suspenseful, wild novel with mystical and melodramatic streaks. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Favorite debut novels. Elena Sherga’s The Underground Ship (previous post) makes optimal use of peculiar living spaces, creating a beautiful combination of abstraction, realism, and creepiness. I also loved Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina, which I promise to write about soon: it’s a wonderful character sketch of a novel about a film director who leaves home for Leningrad at a young age…

Favorite travel. I enjoyed all my travel this year but the Translators’ Coven at St. Antony’s College in Oxford, England, (previous post) was hard to beat: two days about Russian translation is pretty much my idea of nirvana. Thank you to Oliver Ready and Robert Chandler for organizing the coven.

What’s coming in 2014? Getting caught up on my reading is a big priority, as is finishing some translations; more on those later. In terms of travel, I’m looking forward to the 2014 ALTA conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin… I’m starting to think I’ve always secretly wanted to go to Milwaukee, a place I probably first learned about as a kid, from Laverne & Shirley.

Thank you! I send everyone my very best wishes for 2014 and thank all of you for your visits, comments, and notes. I enjoy hearing from you and was glad to see so many of you during the past year. I hope to see and meet more of you—whether virtually or in person—in 2014. For now, happy new year!

Disclosures. The usual. Previous posts that I referenced in this post contain further disclosure information about individual books and relationships.

Up Next. Masha Regina. I swear! Then Yana Vagner’s Vongozero.

Image credit: Fireworks in Bratislava, New Year 2005, from Ondrejk, via Wikipedia.


  1. Milwaukee! I've got the same secret Laverne & Shirley wanderlust! I think I could handle Milwaukee -- I'm going to look into it... thanks for the heads up.

  2. Andrea G., I hope you can come -- it would be great to finally meet you in real life! С Новым годом! (And I know I still owe you a real note...)

  3. Another reader, Dolgormaa, (a wonderful friend who lives near me and reads a ton), left a comment (below) but The System ate it. As always, Dolgormaa summarizes nicely, getting at the paradox of Muravyova: relatively easy reading with smooth plots but a certain complexity. (She also knows all about cats, for which I thank her!)

    Sorry about your cat, Lisa. I have an old cat, so I understand how difficult it must have been for you to let her go.

    I liked Отражение Беатриче. I don't think Muravyova is a complex, interesting writer but her books are very easy to read (and forget), the plot moves mostly smoothly, and the stories are interesting. Doesn't she live in Massachusetts? I'd love to hear her talk - let me know if you hear of any events.