Thursday, October 2, 2008

Russian Booker Prize Short List for 2008

Just a couple days ago I was wondering when there’d be book award news… so today I’m feeling almost psychic because, well, the list of Russian Booker Prize finalists was announced. There aren’t any big household names here, though some are familiar:

-Il’ia Boiashov (Ilya Boyashov) Армада (The Armada), a satirical antiutopian novel in which continents disappear. Boiashov was nominated for the 2008 Big Book Prize for Танкист, или "Белый тигр" (The Tank Driver or “White Tiger”), a historical novel about tank drivers chasing German “White Tigers” during World War 2.

-Mikhail Elizarov Библиотекарь (The Librarian), a parodic thriller that involves murder and book gangs. (!) Here’s an English-language summary.

-Elena Nekrasova Щукинск и города (Shchukinsk and the Cities), in which a Russian-American farmer from Arkansas and an American mason-millionaire go to Ukraine in search of Masonic relics from the 19th century. Photos on Nekrasova’s Web site to go with Shchukinsk. Nekrasova’s English-language site.

-German Sadulaev Таблетка (The Tablet) I think this no-language booktrailer on YouTube sums things up, though it doesn’t capture that the main character, called “office plankton” in this review in “Kommersant,” sees himself in other terms (i.e. as a Khazar) when he dreams. My new word for the day: booktrailer.

-Vladimir Sharov Будьте как дети (Be Like Children), (the novel is online: начало, окончание), looks at 1917 Russia using a Biblical fable. This book was also nominated for the Big Book prize. (A Big Book site interview with Sharov.)

-Galina Shchekina Графоманка (The Graphomaniac) tells the story of a woman in a provincial city who writes and wants to find spiritual happiness instead of something more everyday.

So there you go. Whoever wins on December 3, 2008, will receive a $20,000 (U.S.) prize; all finalists receive $2,000.

Edit: Here’s a Russian-language article that contains two brief excerpts from each Booker finalist. The piece sees Boiashov and Sharov as prize season favorites because of their 2008 Booker and Big Book nominations. 


  1. Hi there,

    Stopping over from AW.
    Some of these books sound really interesting. I haven't read any contemporary Russian lit. It would be nice to try some. :)

  2. Thanks, gypsyscarlett!

    Some of my favorite contemporary writers who have been translated into English are Boris Akunin (detective), Vladimir Makanin (dystopia), and Liudmila Ulitskaia (hmm?). Let me know if you have specific interests... maybe I can recommend something!


  3. Hi Lisa,

    The name, "Boris Akunin" does sound familiar to me. I gather he writes a detective series?

    Have you read either, "The Librarian" or the novel by Elena Nekrasova? Those sound particularly interesting to me. Book gangs and Masonic relics. :)

  4. Yes, gypsyscarlett, Akunin writes detective series. There are two historical series with translations into English: their detectives are Erast Fandorin and Sister Pelagia. I read and enjoyed almost all the Fandorin books -- the basic series, before the prequels, was lots of fun. I found most everything in the subsequent books a bit dull, though; unfortunately, they feel more like Akunin was trying to milk a successful franchise. I'd recommend reading the Fandorin books in order, if possible, though I read them randomly, as I found them. I read one Sister Pelagia book ("Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk") and thought it was okay.

    What I like most about the Fandorin books is that they can be read on different levels: as suspense or as postmodern novels with references to classical literature and Russian history. I've been planning to start a new series of blog postings -- naming favorite writers to match each letter of the alphabet -- that will begin with Akunin (and Akhmatova). So I'll write more about him soon!

    I haven't read anything by any of this year's Booker nominees, though lots of them sound intriguing. In fact, I've read less contemporary fiction than usual this year... and have been missing it!


  5. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for giving me more info on the books. I'm going to add some to my holiday gift wish-list.

    I love looking over your blog, btw!

  6. You're welcome, gypsyscarlett!

    I think the first five or so Fandorin books have been translated, plus two or three Pelagia books.

    Thank you for your kind words about the blog... I've been enjoying reading yours, too! Your mix of information and personal experience is interesting, and it's well-written.