Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Book Long List, v. 2011

I always enjoy book award long lists so was happy to find the 2011 Big Book long list today -- it was announced during a press conference at a Moscow pel’meni spot that Joseph Brodsky liked to frequent. The Big Book short list will be announced on May 25.

Big Book’s announcement notes that the list contains 40 books by 39 authors, many of whom are new to the Big Book universe. Mikhail Butov, who announced the list as the expert group’s chair, mentioned the presence of many young writers and praised the nominated works for (I’m paraphrasing) their liveliness and relevance to contemporary life. It’s hard to believe that Vladimir Sorokin, nominated for Метель/The Blizzard (previous post), has never even made a Big Book long list… though of course The Blizzard probably has no chance of winning the big Big Book prize because it already won the NOSE award. (Don’t even get me started on this “no repeaters” thing.) The only writer to appear on the Big Book long list for two books, Iurii Buida with Жунгли/The Jungle and Синяя кровь/Blue Blood, is also new to Big Book.

Other books that I noticed:

  • Oleg Zaionchkovskii for Загул/The Drinking Binge or maybe The Bender.
  • Natal’ia Kliuchareva for Деревня дураков/The Village of Fools – I enjoyed Kliuchareva’s story in the Rasskazy collection very much (previous post).
  • Viktor Pelevin for Ананасная вода для прекрасной дамы/Pineapple Water for the Beautiful Lady, a collection of stories that’s Number 3 on the bestseller list today.
  • Andrei Rubanov for Психодел/Psychodeal, also on the National Bestseller long list.
  • Manuscript No. 163, Овсянки/Yellowhammers – this has to be Denis Osokin’s book… it was presented at the London Book Fair. The book has already been adapted into a film, known in English as Silent Souls. Based on a film review I read, it sounds excellent.
  • Andrei Astvatsaturov’s Скунскамера/Skunkskamera, also on the National Bestseller longlist.

The long list includes several other books I’ve already read:

  • Olga Slavnikova’s Легкая голова/Light Headed (previous post)
  • Margarita Khemlin’s Крайний (previous post)
  • Mikhail Shishkin’s Письмовник/Letter-Book (previous post)
  • Liudmila Ulitskaya’s Зелёный шатёр/The Green Tent, which is Number 5 on today’s bestseller list.

There are two authors on the list that I’ve been meaning to read for ages – Daniil Granin (Всё было не совсем так/That’s Not Quite How It All Was) and Marina Palei (Хор/The Chorus) – plus lots of names that are either new for me or only vaguely familiar. Which is exactly why I think long lists are so much fun.


  1. I always enjoy longlist and shortlist. They are a source of great readings. Why is there a 'no repeaters' policy? Is it to provide a fair chance for every book to win an award? I believe that only deserving books should be awarded.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Nana... I'm glad to hear you also like award lists!

    I'm not sure I'd call "no repeaters" a policy... it seems like an unwritten rule or tradition: I don't think I'm imagining it because I've seen it mentioned in commentary about awards! For all I know, awards juries don't even pay attention to who wins previous awards. But I think they do.

    Though I think it's great to draw attention to more books by spreading out the major awards and the money that goes with them, I also think the most deserving book -- whatever that might be, based on the award's goals -- should win.

    I guess this has been on my mind because Jennifer Egan won two big American awards this year, the National Book Critics Circle Award plus the Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad... I haven't read the book yet but thought it was interesting that she won both!

  3. thanks for your response. It's somewhat a dicey argument. I guess there are enough good books and writers who are all eligible to win awards if only they meet the criteria.

    A visit from the Goon Squad sounds like something Atwood would have written, per the title as i have not read it too.

  4. I have read (and watched) "Овсянки" and didn't enjoy it in either form. It's oddly lifeless and pretentious.

  5. I'm sorry to hear that, ears-of-tin: it sounded like it had so much potential to be good!

  6. Granin is quite boring, I could not get pass 50 pages. Ulitskaia Green Tent is a runaway hit apparently, I have to read it.

  7. Thank you for mentioning the Granin, Stephen, though I'm sorry to hear it's so boring! Yes, The Green Tent has been selling well. I had mixed feelings about it -- I thought some of it was very good but over all I'd call it an uneven novel in stories. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it. (There are several reasons, including ambivalence and disclosure issues, that I probably won't write much about it.)