Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gelasimov Takes NatsBest reports that Andrei Gelasimov’s novel Степные боги (Steppe Gods) won the 2009 National Bestseller literary award. I’m a little surprised it won: beyond the fact that I found Steppe Gods disappointing, German Sadulaev’s Таблетка (The Tablet) won the most votes in the previous round of voting. (Previous posts: Steppe Gods and NatsBest short list)

In other NatsBest news, bloggers on Живой Журнал (Live Journal) gave their best book vote to Sergei Nosov’s Тайная жизнь Петербургских памятников (The Secret Life of Petersburg Monuments). They also awarded the new NatsWorst prize to Vladimir Makanin’s Асан (Asan). (Previous post on Asan)

I’m about to start Il’ia Boiashov’s Танкист, или «Белый тигр» (The Tank Driver or “White Tiger”), which was shortlisted for NatsBest, Booker, and Big Book… but didn’t win any of them. The Tank Driver is a thin volume that looks particularly inviting thanks to remedial material: a diagram of a T-34-85 tank on the endpapers and background on World War 2 in readable commentaries by Boiashov.

Edit: Here's a commentary from about Gelasimov's win: "Победа 'приятного писателя'"


  1. Thanks for the news, Lisa!
    Gelasimov's victory seems logical to me: the book feels carefully crafted to have "bestseller appeal", perhaps even at the expense of literary merit. Lev Danilkin called Gelasimov а "calculating man" ("расчетливый человек") back in 2004. The calculations do pay off, they pay off in prizes. :)

  2. Thank you, as always, for your comment, Alex. I agree with what you say about the logic of the award going to Gelasimov's book. (I only claimed to be "a little surprised"!)

    I found it a bit humorous that the article about the award mentioned that one judge who voted for Steppe Gods had trouble getting through it but was touched by the war theme. I thought a lot in the book was touching, too, but somehow it never quite fulfilled its promise for me, either for bestseller appeal or as a more literary novel. I certainly can enjoy both and I don't think the two categories are necessarily mutually exclusive.

    I think you've read at least three of the finalists, so I'm curious... which one do you think is most deserving of a prize, either for best sellers or literary merit?


  3. Well, I thought Boiashov's book to be the best one out of the three nominees that I've read so far.

    Readers of war prose usually expect it to be true to life. "Танкист" is more of a parable, so it leaves some people disgruntled. Not me, though. As much as I usually dislike parables, that's a good one.