Monday, June 2, 2008

Pasternak & Big Book’s Longish Short List

Last week was so oddly hectic that I never quite got to these two items:

1. May 30 marked 48 years since the death of Boris Pasternak. It may feel morbid to count the years since a famous person died, but the date is inked into my memory because I was born on May 30 not many years after Pasternak died. When I lived in Moscow, I went to memorial concerts at the Pasternak dacha in Peredelkino each May 30.

Pasternak’s grave is in the woods not far from the dacha, and I loved to hear Evgenii Pasternak recite his father’s poetry in the cemetery. I don’t know who the pianists were who played at the dacha, but I recognized two of the regular poets: Andrei Voznesenskii and Evgenii Evtushenko.

The Pasternak dacha museum was one of my favorite spots in Russia, and I always especially enjoyed looking at the bookcase in Pasternak’s office.

2. The Большая книга (Big Book) literary prize named its “short” list of nominees for 2008 on May 28. I guess 10 is a short list if it’s culled from hundreds of entries, plus it’s a reduction from last year’s 12 and the previous year’s 14.

-Pavel Basinskii Русский роман, или Жизнь и приключения Джона Половинкина (A Russian Novel or The Life and Adventures of John Half), a debut novel of many genres, written by a critic

-Il’ia Boiashov (Ilya Boyashov) Танкист, или "Белый тигр" (The Tank Driver or “White Tiger”), a historical novel about tank drivers chasing German “White Tigers” during World War 2.

-Aleksandr Ilichevskii Пение известняка (Singing of Limestone), short stories (links to some stories are here)

-Ruslan Kireev Пятьдесят лет в раю (Fifty Years in Heaven), memoir about the literary process in the USSR and Russia (links to further installments are here)

-Vladimir Kostin Годовые кольца (Growth Rings), short stories with Siberian themes

-Vladimir Makanin Асан (Asan), novel manuscript about Chechnia

-Rustam Rakhmatullin Две Москвы, или Метафизика столицы (Two Moscows or the Metaphysics of the Capital), manuscript to be published. (selected stories here)

-Liudmila Saraskina Александр Солженицын (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

-Margarita Khemlin Живая очередь (The Live Line [lining up in order of appearance and staying in line]), stories with Jewish themes (selected work here)

-Vladimir Sharov Будьте как дети (Be Like Children), (the novel is online: начало, окончание).

I took the sketchy descriptions from this article and this article and this article. The world – or at least I, you, and a bunch of other readers interested in contemporary Russian books – will now wait until October to learn which writer wins the three million ruble first prize.

Update on July 14, 2008: The texts of most Big Book finalists have been posted on the Big Book site.


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