Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Big Book Readers’ Choices & Tolstoy Event in NYC

Just a quick post for today, to let you know that three books were chosen as reader favorites as part of the Big Book Prize program: Mikhail Shishkin’s Письмовник (Letter-Book) (previous post), Dmitrii Bykov’s Остромов, или Ученик чародея (Ostromov, or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice), and Iurii Buida’s Синяя кровь (Blue Blood) (previous post). Readers voted online. I, unfortunately, forgot to vote.

I probably would have voted for Blue Blood, which I enjoyed very much despite a rough start. None of the books felt like sure winners or enduring favorites to me, though I certainly understand the appeal of Letter-Book… which I also enjoyed very much despite a rough start. I’m going to keep trying Bykov’s Ostromov in hopes of catching it when I’m in the right mood: it looks good but I think it’s asking to wait until the depths of winter.

Over all, despite some decent books, this year’s shortlist didn’t give me big favorites like last year’s, where I loved both Senchin’s The Yeltyshevs (previous post) and Gigolashvili’s The Devil’s Wheel (previous post). I thought two other, very different books – Pavlov’s dark Asystole (previous post) and Zaionchkovskii’s almost-light Happiness Is Possible (previous post) – were also very good for very different reasons. I’m curious to see which book wins the jury prizes next week particularly since several – those by Bykov, Slavnikova, and Sorokin – have already won major awards.

And a quick note on an event in New York City: on Friday, December 2, 2011, The Coffin Factory and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will host a reading and discussion of Rosamund Bartlett’s Tolstoy: A Russian Life at 192 Books, 190 10th Avenue. The book, which was released in early November, is a 560-page biography of Lev Tolstoy. The event, scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m., has a listing on Facebook here.

Up Next: Trip report from the American Literary Translators Association conference, winners of the Big Book jury prize and the Booker of the Decade, and, eventually, Veniamin Kaverin’s Открытая книга (Whether I think this is The Open Book or An Open Book remains an open question…).

Disclaimers: The usual. And of course I still want to translate Senchin’s Yeltyshevs


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