Saturday, February 15, 2014

NatsBest’s 2014 Longlist

The National Bestseller Award announced its longlist last week: 48 books were nominated by an assortment of publishers, literary agents, writers, editors, critics, and other assorted characters. NatsBest added a new category this year, too: Нацбест-начало (literally NatsBest Beginning), an award for writers under 35. The longlist for that award apparently includes 12 writers.

Here’s a summary of some of the nominees for the main award, including the names of the nominators…

Books nominated more than once:

  • Vladimir Sorokin’s Теллурия (Tellurium), nominated by writers Ksenia Buksha and Igor Sakhnovsky: A polyphonic novel in 50 highly varying chapters. I read about 150 pages before setting Tellurium aside: Sorokin’s use of a futuristic medieval setting, tiny and huge people, kinky stuff, sociopolitical observations, and a novel (ha!) psychotropic agent all felt way too familiar after Day of the Oprichnik, The Blizzard, and The Sugar Kremlin. I’ll be the first to admit that Tellurium is clever, funny, and insightful at times but, to paraphrase that bass player I once knew, I just didn’t feel like I was getting any new information.
  • Nadezhda Belenkaya’s Рыбы молчат по-испански (Fish Keep Quiet in Spanish ), nominated by writers Maria Arbatova and Anna Matveeva: A novel about international adoptions of Russian children. (For more on this title, which is known as Children of Rogozhin in English: Elkost literary agency)
  • Evgenii Chizhov’s Перевод с подстрочника (excerpt) (literally Translation from a Literal Translation) nominated by critic Lev Danilkin and writer Leonid Yuzefovich: A novel about a translator who goes to an invented country with a name ending in –stan to get some literal translations of poetry that need to be translated into real Russian. This one sounds busy but interesting.

Books by writers who’ve already been translated (book-length) into English:

  • Sergei Shargunov’s 1993, nominated by writer Vasilii Avchenko.
  • Gleb Shulpiakov’s Музей имени Данте (chapters) (Museum Named for Dante), nominated by poet Maxim Amelin.
  • Roman Senchin’s Чего вы хотите? (What Do You Want?, albeit in a slangier version, like “Whataya Want”), nominated by critic Natalya Babintseva.
  • Eduard Limonov’s Апология Чукчей (Chukchi Apologia? The Chukchis’ Apologia?), nominated by critic Vladimir Bondarenko.
  • Vladimir Sharov’s Возвращение в Египет (excerpts 1 & 2) (Return to Egypt), nominated by writer Evgeny Vodolazkin.
  • Valery Paniushkin’s Отцы (Fathers), nominated by publisher Iulia Kachalkina.
  • Elizaveta Aleksandrova-Zorina’s Маленький человек (The Little Man), nominated by writer Igor Savelyev. The Little Man will be out in Melanie Moore’s English-language translation this spring, from Glas; the author’s name on the cover is Liza Alexandrova-Zorina.
  • Svetlana Aleksievich’s Время секонд-хэнд (Second-Hand Time?), nominated by critic Vladislav Tolstov.
  • Ilya Boyashov’s Кокон (The Cocoon), nominated by Konstantin Tublin.
  • Anna Starobinets’s Икарова железа (The Icarus Gland), nominated by Artyom Faustov of “Vse svobodny”. This book, “a collection of speculative stories,” will be coming out in English translation in 2014, from a new publisher, Skyhook Press.
  • Elena Kostiukovich’s Цвингер (Zwinger), nominated by publisher Elena Shubina.

I have to admit I didn’t think that particular part of the list would be so long: I think the relatively large number of translated authors speaks to what I (and some other translators I know) see as an uptick in Russian-English translation activity.

A few others: one recommended, one written by a writer I’ve already read, the third randomly chosen by my mouse:

  • Miroslav Nemirov’s Большая Тюменская энциклопедия (The Big Tiumen Encyclopedia?!), nominated by Maxim Semelyak: Writer Dmitry Danilov, whose recommendations usually work well for me, mentioned on Facebook that he liked this book, which isn’t, alas, yet out in book form.
  • Yana Vagner’s Живые люди (Truly Human), nominated by literary agent Natasha Banke: This is a sequel to Vagner’s Vongozero, which I enjoyed very much.
  • Vsevolod Nepogodin’s Французский бульвар (French Boulevard, a real place in Odessa. Ukraine.), nominated by writer Anna Kozlova.

I could go on and on but won’t… it’s snowing yet again (with, good golly, more snow allegedly on the way early next week), which is as good a reason as any to finish up, have some dinner, and read by the fire. Besides, the NatsBest shortlist will be announced in two months, on April 17!

Up Next: Yuri Buida’s Poison and Honey, a finalist for the Belkin Prize, which I’ll be writing about when the winner is announced later this month. I’m also planning to start a new and semi-regular series of posts about some of the many, many translations I receive. A reminder: I’m compiling a list of translations coming out in 2014 so be sure to send me titles you’d like listed.

Disclaimers: The usual; I’ve translated, collaborated with, and/or met a number of the people mentioned in this post.


  1. Interesting mash. Рыбы молчат по-испански = Fish Keep Quiet in Spanish (literally translated Russian title) = Children of Rogozhin (French title) = Wake Up in Winter (provisional English title).
    While Nadezhda Belenkaya and Nadya Guerman is the same person ))

    1. Thank you for this note, Alexander Klimin! I had no idea Guerman and Belenkaya were one and the same! I added a link in the brief description on the main page for this post.