Thursday, November 5, 2009

Всякая всячина -- Odds and Ends

A few links and bits of news:

1. The Новая словесность (НОС) award -- New Literature but NOSE in the short version – released its short list yesterday:

Andrei Astvatsaturov -- Люди в голом (People in the Nude). According to this review on, the book begins as traditional and entertaining autobiographical prose of a Soviet intelligentsia childhood. With age, though, the main character becomes sexist, cynical, cowardly, bilious, unsympathetic and, yes, difficult to identify with.

Tat’iana Bocharova -- Новочеркасск: кровавый полдень (Novocherkassk: Bloody Noon). Nonfiction about a riot over economic conditions that resulted in deaths in Novocherkassk in June 1962. (Wikipedia summary. Time magazine report from October 19, 1962)

Lev GurskiiРоман Арбитман (Roman Arbitman). A “parodic biography” of Roman Arbitman, allegedly Russia’s second president. Yes, there’s even a scandal: Molodaia gvardiia publishing house is asking that copies of Roman Arbitman be destroyed because the cover makes Roman look like part of MG’s famous “Life of Remarkable People” series. That’s a little silly: the book’s cover doesn’t have the famous letters (ЖЗЛ) that identify the series, though I have to admit the design had me fooled at first when I clicked on this article about the book.

Sergei Nosov Тайная жизнь петербургских памятников (The Secret Lives of Petersburg Monuments). Essays about Petersburg monuments. Winner of the National Bestseller “best book” vote from bloggers (mentioned here).

Andrei Stepanov -- Сказки не про людей (Tales Not About People). The publisher’s blurb about these stories says they are about the nature of people but most of the characters are animals. The blurb also calls the book a “редкий жанровый коктейль (rare genre cocktail) blending language play, fables, and magical stories, among others.

Elena EltangКамменые клены (The Stone Maples). So close but yet so far: I held this book in my hand at a Russian bookstore a few weeks ago when I asked the proprietor for Vladimir Terekhov’s Каменный мост (The Stone Bridge), a stone novel that didn’t make the NOSE short list. I’m reading Terekhov’s long (800+ pages) book now. But no, I didn’t buy Stone Maples.

(Previous post on НОС/NOSE)

2. The Guardian has been running top 10 lists lately. A September list inventoried “Helen Rappaport’s top 10 books on Lenin” (!), and yesterday’s covered “Howard Jacobson’s top 10 novels of sexual jealousy.” The latter list includes Lev Tolstoy’s Крейцерова соната (The Kreutzer Sonata) (previous post) and Fedor Dostoevsky’s Вечный муж (The Eternal Husband). I’ve been meaning to read The Eternal Husband for months...

The Guardian’s Books Blog recently published Hannah Davies’s “The unknown Booker prize,” a piece about Western interest (or lack thereof?) in contemporary Russian literature.

3. Finally, I was sad to see that Esther Hautzig, author of the young adult book The Endless Steppe, died recently. (NY Times obituary) The Endless Steppe was a favorite book when I was a child: it tells the story of a family’s life in Soviet labor camps during World War II. I read the book numerous times; it was one of the first I read about Russia.

4. (Next-Day Addition) This item from the Literary Saloon clued me in to the new Azeri National Book Award. Two articles (new story) (interview) offer conflicting information on whether all nominees must be written in Azeri. In any case, the interview, with the award's founder, mentions the possibility of translations into Russian and French. I visited Azerbaijan four or five times during the '90s and would love to read some Azeri fiction. Azerbaijan's most famous literary figure is probably 19th-century writer Mirza Fatali Akhundov.


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