Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Big Book 2013 Long List

This year’s Big Book Award long list, which came out last week, looks like a good one: beyond the four books I’ve already read and enjoyed very much, there are a couple books I wish I’d bought in Moscow, plus a nice clump of titles I’m interested in. There are 36 books on the list, meaning it’s a bit way too long to include everybody here. But here are some notes:

Four books I’ve already read and loved, with English-language titles linking to previous posts:

Three more books—in addition to 2013 NatsBest shortlister Laurus—have already won or been shortlisted for other major prizes:
  • Maxim Kantor: Красный свет (Red Light, though “свет” can also mean “world,” so I suspect dual meaning here). A novel with lots of twentieth-century history. NatsBest short list.
  • Aleksei Motorov: Юные годы медбрата Паровозова (Male Nurse Parovozov’s Young Years). Autobiographical fiction that won the readers’ prize in the 2013 NOSE award.
  • Aleksandr Terekhov: Немцы (Germans). Won the 2012 NatsBest. On the shelf for ages!
The two books I regret not buying when I was in Moscow… though only mildly because both are available online, in slightly condensed journal versions:
Books by writers I’ve read and enjoyed in the past:
In a column posted to Izvestiia after the short list came out, critic Liza Novikova noted four books of “documentary prose”:
That’s only sixteen books… I’ve heard or read about several more, particularly Denis Gutsko’s Бета-самец (Beta-Male), Denis Dragunskii’s Архитектор и монах (maybe The Architect and the Monk), and Igor’ Sakhnovskii’s Oстрое чувство субботы (A Keen Feeling of Saturday: Eight First-Person Stories), but that still leaves nearly half the list.

A few other books are available online:
  • Elena Makarova: Фридл (Friedl, which a reader tells me is a diminutive for names such as Friedrich and Friederike... the character in the book is a woman but it doesn’t appear that her full name is in the text.). The online “title page” says this is a documentary novel, and the first page clearly shows a World War 2 setting.
  • Andrei Volos: Возвращение в Панчруд (excerpts) (Return to Panjrud). Volos, who is originally from Dushanbe, often writes about Central Asia. His agent’s site says this novel is about a poet in the Middle Ages.
  • Nikolai Klimontovich: Степанов и Князь (Stepanov and the Prince).
  • Anton Ponizovskii: Обращение в слух (For the Ears? I get the feeling of something intended to be heard…). The quick description from the publisher: a novel about Russia and the Russian soul. The book’s Web site doesn’t explain much more, though the journal intro says the novel includes actual interviews.
Disclaimers: The usual, for all sorts of commercial and collegial reasons.

Up Next: Sergei Nosov’s Грачи улетели (The Rooks Have Flown/Gone/Departed/Totally Left Town). One of you wrote and asked why I didn’t use “flown” in the translated title for this book… The Rooks Have Flown certainly sounds better than my versions! I think I was stuck because the title of the Savrasov painting referenced here is often translated as The Rooks Have Returned or The Rooks Have Come Back. I’m still figuring out how I think the title fits the book, which has something of a shock ending.


  1. Interesting list. Even though I sought to begin and improve my acquaintance with Russian writers, I've not been able to read as much as I would have liked. I've asked a friend to check if there are Russian writers in the University of Ghana's bookshop.

    I've only read War and Peace (Tolstoy) and The Government Inspector (Nikolai Gogol).

    Have any of these books been translated?

    1. I hope you're able to find some good Russian books at the university, Nana! All these books are fairly new releases, so I haven't heard of any translations.