Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018 NOS(E) Award Winners: 2 Sorokin, 1 Sal’nikov

Vladimir Sorokin was the big winner at this year’s NOS(E)Award ceremony last week, receiving both the main jury prize and the reader’s choice prize for his Manaraga (previous post). Aleksei Sal’nikov won the literary critic panel’s prize for his Петровы в гриппе и вокруг него (which I think I’ll just call The Petrovs in Various States of the Flu yet again). The literary critic panel award is new this year and, given critical reactions to The Petrovs, I wasn’t at all surprised to see Sal’nikov win. Though I haven’t finished The Petrovs, I noted in last week’s post that I’m looking forward to reading the book in a print edition; somehow it just didn’t feel right to read in electronic form.


Although I was pleased to see Manaraga win the reader’s choice prize and thought the book was a lot of fun, I was surprised to see the main jury choose it. For one thing, Sorokin won a NOSE Award in 2011 for his Метель (The Blizzard) and a repeater win is hardly an example of “новая словесность”—new literature/letters, which is what NOSE was established to recognize—in action. Manaraga may not feel as derived from other Sorokin books as, say, The Sugar Kremlin feels linked to Sorokin’s Oprichnik, but it would be impossible to think anyone but Sorokin wrote Manaraga. I liked Manaraga well enough to put it on my 2017 year-end post as a favorite: the whole “book‘n’grill” idea is ridiculously entertaining and the creepy ending is just right even if Manaraga might feel a tiny bit light. Though not quite lite.

I haven’t read much from the NOSE shortlist (previous post) but I still think Vladimir Medvedev’s Zahhak (previous post) would have been a very worthy winner of any of this season’s major awards: beyond being truly polyphonic, the novel is suspenseful, meaningful, literary, and very readable. The setting in Tajikistan during the early 1990s also gives it plenty of social and historical relevance. I don’t understand juries’ apparent dislike—or maybe just ambivalence?—toward the book, particularly given the many positive comments I’ve heard from other readers. I realize I’m biased about Zahhak after translating excerpts from the book that only reinforced how different Medvedev’s voices are. I suppose this is yet another mystery from the world of contemporary Russian literature.

Up Next: Sergei Kuznetsov’s Teacher Dymov, which I’ve already mentioned enjoying tremendously. And the horsey sequel to Yulia Yakovleva’s Tinker, Tailor, which has been just the sort of slow-action detective novel I needed for a busy time. And some English-language titles.

Disclaimers: The usual plus the excerpts from Zahhak and the fact that the Prokhorov Fund, which runs the NOSE Award, supports many of my translations.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Translation Award News: AATSEEL & Read Russia/Anglophone

The American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages announced the winner of AATSEEL’s annual translation award this weekend. The winner is Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad, edited by Polina Barskova and including works by Gennady Gor, Dmitry Maksimov, Sergey Rudakov, Vladimir Sterligov, and Pavel Zaltsman. The translators are Anand Dibble, Ben Felker-Quinn, Ainsley Morse, Eugene Ostashevsky, Rebekah Smith, Charles Swank, Jason Wagner, and Matvei Yankelevich. The book was published by Ugly Duckling Presse and includes an introduction by Barskova and an afterword by Ilya Kukulin. Written in the Dark is a bilingual edition with endnotes. I have the book and have read quite a few of the poems. Yes, I recommend it, though I’m pretty inept at writing about poetry, so will leave details to Piotr Florczyk’s review for Los Angeles Review of Books, which includes this line about Gor’s poems, “For the most part untitled, and rhyming in the original Russian but less frequently in translation, these poems are surreal indeed, and even macabre.”

In other translation award news, Written in the Dark also made the shortlist for this year’s English-only Read Russia Prize for translation. The finalists are, in the order listed on the Read Russia site:

  • Written in the Dark (please see extensive details above!)
  • Rapture, by Iliazd (Ilya Zdanevich), translated by Thomas J. Kitson; Columbia University Press.
  • The Gray House (Дом, в котором), by Mariam Petrosyan, translated by Yuri Machkasov; AmazonCrossing.
  • Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, by Teffi (Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya), translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson, and Irina Steinberg; New York Review Books/Pushkin Press.
  • Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky, translated by Bryan Karetnyk, Anastasia Tolstoy, Robert Chandler, Maria Bloshteyn, Ivan Juritz, Donald Rayfield, Boris Dralyuk, Justin Doherty, Dmitri Nabokov, Irina Steinberg, and Rose France; Penguin Classics.

Congratulations to everybody involved with all these books!

Up Next: The NOSE Award winner tomorrow. I was glad to see that Sorokin’s Manaraga, which I enjoyed, already won the reader’s choice award. Also: 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, which has been just the sort of slow-action detective novel I needed for a busy time.

Disclaimers: The usual, in full force since I’ve collaborated with many of the translators and publishers on this list, not to mention Read Russia!