Sunday, June 8, 2014

Inspector NOSE: From Whodunnit? to Whowunnit?

Watching last Tuesday’s Webcast of debates for the Prokhorov Foundation’s special Inspector NOSE award offered up far more suspense than I’d expected. I came in a little late thanks to my ongoing post-BookExpo America haze (now, thankfully, departed), picking things up during jury discussions about which books to put on the shortlist but apparently missing (thankfully, I suspect) some sort of discussion about what to do with some of the biggest names in post-Soviet detective novelry: Boris Akunin, Leonid Yuzefovich, and Alexandra Marinina.

And then, all of a sudden, after several jurors had listed their three favorites from the Inspector NOSE long list (previous post), the Webcast cut out for good, never to return. Despite some evening Googling, I didn’t learn the name of the winner until I opened my e-mail the next morning and read a note from Margarita Khemlin, who’d written to say she’d won, for her novel Дознаватель (The Investigator) (previous post)… I’d written to her on Tuesday saying I was going to watch the Webcast and hoped to at least catch a glimpse of her on my computer. Which I didn’t!

Despite the technical difficulties, I saw enough of the debate to know Margarita had a good chance of winning and understand that Inspector NOSE truly did intend to recognize fiction that expands on the detective genre’s literary conventions. Scholar and writer Andrei Astvatsaturov, for example, noted The Investigator’s stylized skaz writing and appealing characters, as well as the novel’s ability to interest him in far more than who’d committed murder. Linguist Maxim Krongauz put the book on his shortlist, too, saying The Investigator is more than a detective novel and citing the novel’s characters plus its mix of languages and peoples: much of the dialogue is in surzhik, a blend of Ukrainian and Russian. Alas, due to my own tardiness and the etherealness of the Internet itself, I didn’t hear all the jurors discuss their choices for the shortlist.

In any case, these five books ended up on the shortlist:

  • Arsen Revazov’s Одиночество -12 (Solitude 12), which is on my shelf.
  • Boris Akunin’s Азазель (The Winter Queen), which I enjoyed many years ago. (Available in Andrew Bromfield’s translation.)
  • Dem’ian Kudriavtsev’s Близнецы ((The) Twins), which I’m going to get, thanks to Astvatsaturov’s recommendation (I scribbled down words like narcotic, psychedelic, and strong text).
  • Margarita Khemlin’s Дознаватель (The Investigator), which won!
  • Oleg Dark’s На одной скорости (At One Speed (?))

Disclaimers: I’ve published translations of two of Margarita Khemlin’s short stories and am currently working under two translation grants from the Prokhorov Foundation’s Transcript program.

Up Next: BookExpo America trip report. Yuri Mamleyev’s The Sublimes is still waiting for me to finish its post, I’m almost done with Irina Ratushinskaya’s The Odessans, Bulgakov’s White Guard is still “in progress,” and I’m zigging and zagging my way through Anna Matveeva’s story collection Подожди, я умру — и приду (Hold on, I’ll Die and Come Back).


  1. I'm interested to hear what you think about Подожди, я умру - и приду. Its on my 'maybe-read' pile. :)

    1. A belated thank you, Anya, for your comment! The three or four stories I've read so far were all good: soundly structured and generally interesting with some humor and/or bite... I even felt like it might be fun to translate one. But still, but still, I tend to prefer novels! :)