The Russian Booker Prize announced its 2016 longlist last Wednesday: the list contains 24 books chosen from 71 eligible nominations. Finalists will be announced on October 5 and winners—one laureate plus one English-language publication grant—will be announced on December 1.
Here are a few of the books on the list. Six titles are familiar from the Big Book shortlist and I’ve read books by other writers on the list, but I’m also very happy to see quite a few author names I’d never heard before.
First off, the books that are already on the Big Book shortlist (because it’s just so easy to cut and paste on a hot, stuffy summer night):
- Pyotr Aleshkovsky’s Крепость (The Citadel), which I bought after reading the beginning of the PDF that Aleshkovsky’s literary agency sent me: archaeology and medieval constructions caught me.
- Evgeny (Eugene) Vodolazkin’s Авиатор (The Aviator), which I read earlier this year and loved for its blend of genres, epochs, and themes, some familiar from Laurus and Solovyov and Larionov. I’m translating this book and enjoying it all over again as I see, up-close, how the book works.
- Sergei Soloukh’s Рассказы о животных (Stories About Animals) is, contrary to the title, a novel about human beings, concerning a former academic who’s now working in a business. (brief interview + excerpt)
- Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Лестница Якова (Jacob’s Ladder) is a family saga set during 1911-2011. I’m in the middle of Jacob’s Ladder and finding it pleasant reading, particularly the story thread that begins in the more distant past.
- Sasha Filipenko’s Травля (Persecution, perhaps?) sounds fairly indescribable: I find mentions of youth, irony, cynicism, and this time we live in.
- Leonid Yuzefovich’s Зимняя дорога, (The Winter Road) is described as a “documentary novel”: the cover sums up the details with “General A.N. Pepeliaev and anarchist I.Ia. Strod in Yakutia. 1922-1923.” I’ve been reading small chunks of The Winter Road each night and thoroughly enjoying Yuzefovich’s absorbing, masterful characterizations of people and a time. He works wonders with archival material.
A few others, some by authors I’m not at all familiar with, so was curious about:
- Anatolii Korolev’s Дом близнецов (The House of Twins would be the literal version, hmm) sounds like it’s an intellectual thriller/detective novel about positivism (as a Gemini, I’d been hoping for zodiac madness, but alas!); Korolev has referred to it as a treatise (тракат).
- Anna Berdichevskaya’s Крук (Kruk, which looks to be a shortened version of Круглосуточный клуб, or round-the-clock club; the title also sounds like the word круг, which means circle, among other things, and is part of the “round-the-clock” word) is described as a historical novel about a very recent time; six people (five young, one elderly) meet.
- Oleg Nesterov’s Небесный Стокгольм (excerpt) (excerpt) (Heavenly Stockholm, perhaps) is set in the early 1960s and, how ‘bout that, written by the leader of Megapolis, a fairly well-known (rock) band. (The Megapolis YouTube channel… “Эхо” sure hit my mood on a summer night… maybe for the Hawaii sound with the piano and water…)
- Sergei Kuznetsov’s Калейдоскоп (excerpt) (Kaleidoscope) involves dozens of characters and their stories, set in the twentieth century; one of my Goodreads friends noted sex and vampires. This one still sounds interesting.
- Sukhbat Aflatuni’s Поклонение волхвов (Adoration of the Magi) sounds like it captures a lot, from the familiar biblical story in the title to a family story that begins in the middle of the nineteenth century and concludes in the present, with plot lines that involve a secret society, exile, and a romance with the tsar. Aflatuni’s name keeps popping up on award lists.
Disclaimers. The usual.
Up next. Eugene Vodolazkin’s The Aviator, which, yes, I’m still mulling over, trying to figure out how to write about the book without giving away the whole story; Alexander Snegirev’s Vera, which I am now officially calling Faith; Maria Galina’s ever-mysterious Autochthons; and Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Jacob’s Ladder, a family saga that reads along easily. The Vodolazkin, Galina, and Ulitskaya books are Big Book finalists.