Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Booker of the Decade & Bely 2011 Short Lists

Today was a big day for Russian book award short lists… Here are two quick bleary-eyed, late-evening lists [with a few next-morning edits]:

First, the Russian Booker of the Decade, for which a huge panel of past judges chose five books out of the 60 that were shortlisted over the past 10 years. The winner will be announced on December 1. The five finalists, in Russian alphabetical order, are:

  • Oleg PavlovКарагандинские девятины, или Повесть последних дней (A Ninth-Day Wake/Party at Karaganda or A Story of Recent Days/Commemoration in Karaganda). This is the third book in the trilogy that begins with Казенная сказка (A Barracks Tale), which I wrote about here. Pavlov’s novel is the only book on the list that has won a Booker.
  • Zakhar PrilepinСанькя (San’kya), which I wrote about here. I have a strong preference for Prilepin’s Грех, (Sin) (previous post), which won the SuperNatsBest earlier this year, but San’kya has often been cited for its political significance.
  • Roman SenchinЕлтышевы (1) (2) (The Yeltyshevs) (previous post), one of my favorite books of recent years [one I’d like to translate], a novel that was short-listed for everything but hasn’t won an award.
  • Liudmila UlitskayaДаниэль Штайн, переводчик (Daniel Stein, Translator) won the Big Book award a few years ago. I enjoyed the book very much when I read it several years ago (previous post). Daniel Stein came out in translation, from Overlook Press, earlier this year.
  • Aleksandr ChudakovЛожится мгла на старые ступени... (beginning) (end) (A Gloom Is Cast Upon the Ancient Steps), a complete mystery to me. Words Without Borders describes the book as a “memoiristic novel” and says Chudakov wrote “widely admired memoirs of such leading Russian literary scholars as Viktor Shklovsky, Viktor Vinogradov, and Lidia Ginzburg,” plus five books and a couple hundred articles.

Now for the Andrei Bely prize short list, for which winners will be announced on December 2… fortunately there is overlap with the NOSE long list, so I can copy and paste a few of these.

  • Nikolai BaitovДумай, что говоришь (Think When You Speak). Short stories (41 in 320 pages) from a poet.
  • Igor GolubentsevТочка Цзе (Not sure… The Tsze Spot, The Tsze Point, Sharpening Tsze? [see first comment, from languagehat]), apparently a collection of very short stories.
  • Vladimir Mikhailov Русский садизм (Russian Sadism). ?
  • Aleksandr MarkinДневник. 2006-2011 (Diary 2006-2011), Live Journal posts from Russia’s first LJ blogger, who has interests in German literature and European architecture.
  • Denis OsokinОвсянки (Yellowhammers), a novella that has already been made into a film known in English as Silent Souls.
  • Pavel PeppersteinПражская ночь (Prague Night). I know more (but still not much!) about Pepperstein as a conceptualist artist and founder of “Inspection ‘Medical Hermeneutics’” than as a writer. A friend did mention enjoying Prague Night, though.
  • Мария Рыбакова -- Гнедич (Gnedich), a novel in verse about Russian poet Nikolai Gnedich, the first Russian translator of The Iliad. Rybakova is also a poet. Excerpt

The Andrei Bely award also recognizes other types of writing, including poetry and humanitarian research. I’m especially excited about the poetry category this time – the nominees are Polina Barskova, Alla Gorbunova, Vladimir Ermolaev, Vasilii Lomakin, Andrei Poliakov, Aleksei Porvin, and Ilya Rissenberg – because I met Polina Barskova at a wonderful poetry translation conference here in Maine last weekend. The title poem from her nominated collection, Сообщения Ариэля (Ariel’s Message), is available in translation here on Cardinal Points, and OpenSpace.ru has a video of Polina reading another poem (Соучастие (scroll down for text)). Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s worth clicking through just to hear Polina’s voice and watch her expressions.

P.S. November 9, 2011: Melville House has a nice post on Polina Barskova that mentions her collections that have been translated into English plus some colorful background on the Bely Prize.

Up next: Iurii Buida’s Синяя кровь (Blue Blood).

Disclosures: The usual. I know Overlook Press from meetings in and around BookExpo America. And I still hope someone will decide they want to publish The Yeltyshevs!


  1. Точка Цзе (Not sure… The Tsze Spot, The Tsze Point, Sharpening Tsze?)

    The Jie Spot, I think (the pinyin equivalent of цзе is jie). You can read the story here (it's very short and mildly amusing); this quote will give you the idea: "Растроганный китаец открывает Саше фамильный секрет — показывает точку Цзе, расположенную на два цуня позади левого уха. Короткое нажатие на точку Цзе вызывает у человека, подвергшегося процедуре, непреодолимое половое влечение к надавливателю."

  2. Thank you, Languagehat! I got a little stuck on variations of Lao-ts(z)e and was too tired for much Googling. I'll add a note referencing your comment.

    I'm glad to see your electricity is back... we were lucky our outage was only about 12 hours.

  3. Yeah, three days is a long time to go without accessing the internet, not to mention showering...

  4. There's a useful table of equivalences here, if you ever need to find pinyin equivalents again.

  5. Thank you for adding the table, Languagehat. That could, indeed, come in handy.

    Three days without electricity, Internet, and showers can feel like three weeks, particularly in the winter!

  6. Such a dilemma! I've read all of these titles and I'd be hard-pressed to pick just one.