Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 2018 National Bestseller Award Nominees/Longlist

Well. This year’s National Bestseller Award certainly puts the “long” in “longlist.” Sixty-four books. Thank goodness we learned multiplication with arrays: the longlist page on the orderly new NatsBest site features a five-by-twelve array of book covers plus four strays. I think there are only sixty-three nominators, though, meaning one book was probably nominated twice.

Given the longness of the list, I think I’ll first mention some books of interest—some that I’ve read, others that I’ve only heard about—and then note a few, by authors previously unknown to me, that sound interesting. I could write a whole series of posts about other books I’ve heard good things about, books that interest me, and who nominated what, but instead I’ll just say that, even without researching all the titles, these nominees seem like a pretty decent crop of books for starting an award cycle. I’ll also add that it’s easy to follow their fates, thanks to the super-transparent NatsBest process. Jury members’ reviews are already being posted to the site.
  • Ksenia Buksha’s Рамка (The Detector), nominated by Sergei Nosov, wasn’t bad (previous post), though I did think there was a bit of a muddle in the middle. Paradoxically, this polyphonic novel presents a view of the near future that almost comes close to being peculiarly fascinating. (Most peculiarly: it’s grown on me since I read it and posted.) I especially liked the dog.
  • Yana Vagner’s Кто не спрятался (Accomplices), nominated by Anna Starobinets, is a hermetic murder mystery set in a European mountain house/hotel. The flashbacks did me in because they broke the novel’s tension, but I give Vagner credit for her cast of rather annoying film industry characters, their spouses, and their problems.
  • Oleg Zobern’s Автобиография Иисуса Христа (The Autobiography of Jesus Christ), nominated by Alexander Snegirev, sounds worth a try if only for the title and memories of the humor in a few Zobern stories I’ve read.
  • Sergei Kuznetsov’s Учитель Дымов (Teacher Dymov), nominated by Ilya Danishevsky, is a thoroughly enjoyable novel about three generations of a family. I was sorry to see it end. Teacher Dymov feels like an ensemble piece that complements Kuznetsov’s much longer and more complex Kaleidoscope (previous post).
  • Inga Kuznetsova’s Пэчворк: после прочтения сжечь (Patchwork: Burn After Reading), nominated by Igor Sakhnovsky, sounds mysterious and rough, in the emotional sense, thanks to mentions of violence, victims, and masochism. I’ve read some of Inga’s poetry so will seek this one out.
  • Aleksei Sal’nikov’s Петровы в гриппе и вокруг него (The Petrovs in Various States of the Flu is probably a bad title translation but…), nominated by Galina Yuzefovich, was a Big Book finalist that I didn’t/couldn’t finish in electronic form but very much want to try again now that there’s a print version available. It just feels like a book to enjoy on paper. I’ve read tons of praise for The Petrovs so am looking forward to trying again.
  • Olga Slavnikova’s Прыжок в длину (Long Jump), nominated by Sergei Shargunov, is about an athlete who loses his lower extremities in an accident. On the shelf.
  • Anna Starobinets’s autobiographical Посмотри на него (Look at Him, I think?), nominated by Natasha Banke, is on my shelf, too.
  • Sasha Shchipin’s Бог с нами (God With Us), nominated by Ksenia Rozhdestvenskaya, is a novel about residents of a small city preparing for the end of the world. Also on the shelf.
  • Yulia Yakovleva’s Вдруг охотник выбегает (Tinker, Tailor), nominated by Julia Goumen, is an atmospheric detective novel set in 1930s Leningrad (previous post).
Three completely unfamiliar books that sound interesting:
  • Daniel’ Orlov’s Чеснок (Garlic), nominated by Roman Senchin, is, according to Senchin, realistic, autobiographical, and poetic.
  • Natal’ia Kim’s Родина моя, Автозавод (Avtozavod, My Native Land), nominated by Maya Kucherskaya, is composed of brief stories (not my favorite genre) but the fact of Kim’s focus on the region near a big car factory during 1980-2000 beckons. Humor and detail have been promised.
  • Kristina Gepting’s Плюс жизнь (Plus Life), nominated by Konstantin Mil’chin, is about a young man whose mother passed HIV on to him. The book won a Litsei award last year and Mil’chin’s nomination refers to the book as simple but notes Gepting’s desire to tell real stories about real people and reality. I do love good, basic storytelling.
Disclaimers: The usual. Some of the books I’ve already read or have on the shelf were given to me by organizers of the Russian stand at the Frankfurt book fair, thank you! I also collaborate with certain of the authors and nominators mentioned in the post, as well as NatsBest secretary Vadim Levental, whose Masha Regina I translated.

Up Next: Sergei Kuznetsov’s Teacher Dymov, which I already mentioned enjoying very, very much. Some English-language titles. And the sequel to Yakovleva’s Tinker, Tailor


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