Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Big Book Award Finalists

The Big Book Award announced its list of nine finalists yesterday. Nine feels a little like a miscount, though: some of this year’s titles contain multiple volumes or are very, very long. Here they are:

  • Anna Matveeva: Девять девяностых (Nine from the Nineties). Short story collection. Some stories, including (apparently) this one, were written for Snob. I thought some of Matveeva’s stories in an earlier collection were very decent. Also on the 2015 NatsBest shortlist.
  • Aleksei Varlamov: Мысленный волк (The Imagined Wolf, perhaps?). A novel set in the 1910s that involves some real-life figures, including our old friend Grigory Rasputin.
  • Igor Virabov: Андрей Вознесенский (Andrei Voznesenskii). A biography of the poet.
  • Viktor Pelevin: Любовь к трем цукербринам (Love for Three Zuckerbrins). Novel.
  • Boris Ekimov: Осень в Задонье (Autumn in Zadon’e). Novel.
  • Dina Rubina: Русская канарейка ((The?) Russian Canary). Trilogy, a family saga set in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • Valerii Zalotukha: Свечка (The Candle). Novel. According to this piece from Novaya gazeta, in which Klarissa Pul’son makes predictions about (with pretty decent accuracy and some key details) the Big Book finalist list, this book covers just about everything, containing “полный русский набор (“the full Russian complement” has a nice ring to it), which probably explains why this two-volume set comes to 1696 pages. Gulp. I’m very much looking forward to this book, though: comparisons to War and Peace always catch me.
  • Guzel’ Iakhina: Зулейха открывает глаза (Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes). A historical novel that starts with a kulak woman being exiled: I’ve read the beginning of Zuleikha and look forward to reading more.
  • Roman Senchin: Зона затопления (Flood Zone). Novel with similarities to Valentin Rasputin’s Farewell to Matyora. (Big Book’s description calls it a “remake” but Klarissa says it’s not.)
All of which means I have a lot of reading to do before late November. Of course I’m excited to be a member of Big Book’s Literary Academy—the award’s large (around 100 members) jury—and can’t wait to get my books!

Disclaimers: The usual.

Up Next: Read Russia Award finalists, BookExpo America (and Read Russia Award) trip report, National Bestseller Award. And two books: Eugene Vodolazkin’s Solovyov and Larionov, which I’ll start translating this summer, and Sergei Nosov’s Член общества, или Голодное время (something like Member of the Society or A Time of Hunger), the sad-but-funny story of a man’s life after selling all his Dostoevsky.


  1. An enticing roundup, as always!

    Мысленный волк (The Imagined Wolf, perhaps?)

    From the sentence "Или же кто-то ее у меня украл, кто-то злобный и хищный, как мысленный волк," I'd guess it's rather "The Thinking Wolf."

  2. Thanks, Languagehat. This bunch is fairly merciful, in terms of titles, but I'm looking forward to unraveling the nature of Varlamov's wolf!

    There are a few titles that I wish had made it--e.g. the Nosov, Snegirev, and Ganieva books--but this list will certainly keep me busy for a long time.

  3. I've finally learned the source of Varlamov's title; it's from St. John Chrysostom’s prayer before Holy Communion “that I may not by much abstaining from Thy communion become the prey of the spiritual wolf” (see, e.g., here).

    1. Thank you for posting this, Languagehat: I should have added a note about that reference long ago! I was very sorry to lose interest in the book about 150 pages in, largely because the writing felt so dense that nothing ever quite came alive for me. That despite the Silver Age setting and lots of other otherwise auspicious indicators, like the idea of that wolf.