Last week was so packed with work that I came close to
missing the National Bestseller Award (NatsBest)
shortlist: thank goodness for some somnambulant scrolling on Facebook! To
make this a double-your-pleasure week, the Big Book Award’s long list
was released, too. Here are highlights:
- Sergei Nosov’s Фигурные скобки (Curly Brackets) (19 points): Described by fellow finalist Anna Matveeva as magical realism about a mathematician who goes from Moscow to Saint Petersburg for a conference of микромаг-s. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that Matveeva Googled “congress of micromagicians”—that’s what the word looks like, though for some reason I like the sound of “microwizard” better—and found several thousand links to appearances by various sorts of magicians. Some English-language Googling brought up the term “micromagic,” a word I’d never heard, though of course I know very little about magic in general. Point of interest: according to Wikipedia, “micromentalism is mentalism performed in an intimate session.” I enjoyed one of Nosov’s books but abandoned another, and this one sounds just crazy enough that it might work. Apparently the 19 points Nosov’s book earned is a NatsBest record.
- Oleg Kashin’s Горби-дрим (Gorby-Dream) (6 points): Yes, a book about Gorbachev by a journalist.
- Anna Matveeva’s Девять девяностых (Nine from the Nineties) (6 points): Short stories. Some, including (apparently) this one, were written for Snob. I thought some of Matveeva’s stories in an earlier collection were very decent.
- Alexander Snegirev’s Вера (Vera, a name and noun that translates as Faith) (6 points): A short novel about a forty-year-old woman who is unmarried. Snegirev’s Facebook description, posted at the time of the NatsBest long list, includes words like dramatic, comic, erotic (a bit), and political (a little). I’m looking forward to reading it. Starting tonight.
- Vasilii Avchenko’s Кристалл в прозрачной оправе (Crystal in a Transparent Frame) (5 points): This book’s subtitle is “lyrical lectures about water and stones,” and Avchenko apparently covers many aspects of life in Vladivostok, including fish(ing), as in this excerpt.
- Tatyana Moskvina’s Жизнь советской девушки (Life of a Soviet Girl) (5 points): Apparently a memoir about life in Leningrad during the 1960s through 1980s, with lots of detail.
As for the Big Book’s long list, well, it is long, weighing in at 30 books, so I’ll just pick out a few points, though they’re probably the dullest points since they leave out the writers who are new to me: I’ve only read about half the writers on the list.
- Four authors are on the afore-mentioned NatBest shortlist, for the same books: Sergei Nosov, Anna Matveeva, Alexander Snegirev, and Tatyana Moskvina.
- There are several authors I’ve read in the past, beyond Nosov, Matveeva, and Snegirev: Elena Bochorishvili (Только ждать и смотреть/Just Wait and Watch), Alisa Ganieva (Жених и невеста/Bride and Groom), Andrei Gelasimov (Холод/Cold), Eduard Limonov (Дед. Роман нашего времени/Grandfather. A Novel of Our Time), Viktor Pelevin (Любовь к трем цукербринам/Love for Three Zuckerbrins), Dina Rubina (Русская канарейка/Russian Canary), Sergei Samsonov (Железная кость/Iron Bone), Roman Senchin (Зона затопления/Flood Zone), and Aleksei Slapovskii (Хроника № 13/Chronicle No. 13).
- There’s also one book I’m reading, albeit very slowly, in spurts: Guzel Yakhina’s debut book, Зулейха открывает глаза (Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes), a historical novel about a kulak woman who, in my reading, currently appears to be on her way to exile.