Sunday, November 8, 2020

NOS(E) Award Shortlists – 2020-2021

As if last week’s U.S. elections weren’t enough, there’s literary excitement to report: shortlists for the 2020-2021 NOS(E) Award! The best benefit of my full NOS(E) longlist posts (this year’s is here) is that (even on a tired day) they’re ready to be repurposed into shortlist posts with just a bit of cut/paste. So here I go now. Right after noting that the winners will be announced in early 2021.

First, the jury’s shortlist, ten books:

  • Shamshad Abdullaev: Другой юг (The Other South). This is Abdullaev’s first book of prose – apparently all of it – and the publisher promises (among other things that I’ll summarize and paraphrase from the description) a hypnotic Central Asian landscape and nonlinear techniques reminiscent of Proust and Beckett. (Do click through on Abdullaev’s name for more on his life and poetry, some of which has been translated.)  
  • Polina Barskova: Седьмая щелочь: тексты и судьбы блокадных поэтов (The Seventh Alkali [which is a sort of cleansing wave/wash]: The Texts and Fates of Blockade Poets). This book covers work by Gennady Gor, Pavel Zaltsman, Natalya Krandievskaya, Tatyana Gnedich, Nikolai Tikhonov, Sergei Rudakov, and Zinaida Shishova. The mysterious title (explained here, in Igor Gulin’s review for Kommersant) comes from a poem by Krandievsksya.
  • Maria Buras: Истина существует. Жизнь Андрея Зализняка в рассказах ее участников (Truth Exists. Andrei Zaliznyaka’s Life As Told By Those Involved or somesuch). Zaliznyak, who died in 2017, was a linguist who studied very old literature and documents, including those written on birchbark (!!! This makes me want to learn more!). Buras was his student and friend.
  • Andrei Gogolev: Свидетельство (Evidence, perhaps?). Hm, this one is especially mysterious.
  • Alla Gorbunova: Конец света, моя любовь (It’s the End of the World, My Love). Short stories set in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Ragim Dzhafarov: Сато (Sato). Apparently the story of a child who thinks he’s being held hostage and is brought to a psychologist.
  • Aleksei Dyachkov: Хани, БАМ (Khani, BAM). Stories set during work on the Baikal-Amur Mainline
  • Evgenia Nekrasova: Сестромам (Sistermom, see the comments, below, for Languagehat’s note on the book’s subtitle) (title story). Short stories, of which I have read (and very much appreciated) several.
  • Vitaly Terletsky (with artist Katya): Собакистан (Dogistan, perhaps, though that’s awfully close to Dagestan…). Comics. Dystopia. Dogs. Colta has a big interview with Terletsky and Katya here, about two of their books.
  • Mikita Franko: Дни нашей жизни (Days of Our Life). A novel about a boy whose life seems typical. But has lots of secrets. The description and even the reader reviews/comments on seem very concerned about spoilage so I didn’t read much about it… though whilst googling around, I found that articles on Days of Our Life often mention LGBT families right up front, including in this interview with the author.

The critics’ panel, which chose eight books, saw things a little differently. That group chose the books by Abdullaev, Barskova, Gorbunova, and Nekrasova, plus four others:

  • Olga Allenova: Форпост. Беслан и его заложники (Outpost. Beslan and Its Hostages). The sad title here is self-explanatory. Allenova has been a special correspondent for Kommersant, a newspaper, since 2000.
  • Fyodor Derevyankin: Смерти нет. Краткая история неофициального военного поиска в России (There Is No Death. A Brief History of Unofficial Military Search[es?] in Russia. Based on what Gorky Media writes, this book contains stories of people who rebury soldiers who died during World War 2.
  • Tatyana Zamirovskaya: Земля случайных чисел (The Land of Random Numbers). A collection of (per BGS Literary Agency) metaphysical/fantasy/horror short stories, of which I have read several.
  • Nikolai Kononov: Гимны (Hymns) (excerpt). Apparently a book about memory. Proust strikes again, with a mention in this Kommersant review! (With memory books and Proust references abounding these days – including in This Tilting World, by Colette Fellous, which I read in Sophie Lewis’s translation – I started on Proust a couple months ago and am happily getting ready to finish volume two of In Search of Lost Time, thanks to a slow-reading group on Twitter.)

Up Next: Inga Kuznetsova’s Intervals. And some other good things.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual, due to dealings (in a good sense!) with some of the authors, publishers, and agents involved with some of these books; I received electronic copies of two or three.


  1. That Kononov novel sounds excellent -- I'm all about "большие модернистские романы"! And I'm glad you're reading Proust; I hope you'll post about it eventually.

  2. Oh, and for Сестромам you might want to add the subtitle О тех, кто будет маяться, which references the saying "Кто будет жить, тот будет маяться" (but does one translate маяться "toil" or "suffer"?).

  3. Thanks, Languagehat, for the comments. I'm enjoying Proust very much though doubt I'll ever post about it. (I won't finish for, hm, almost another year, though, offering plenty of time to change my mind!)

    As for )Сестромам, I do, indeed, often leave off/forget the subtitles! In this case, I think I'm so used to seeing the book referred to with just one word that I don't even notice the subtitle. (!) I'll add a note up top about your comment. From what I've read, I'd probably go for "suffering" but hard to say.