Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There’s a Reason They Call Them Shortlists: Yasnaya Polyana-2014

The Yasnaya Polyana Prize announced its shortlists today… and these shortlists sure do put the short in the shortlist. Choosing a meager four books from the “XXI Century” long list of 41 books—winnowed down from 153 nominees—feels a little sad. Then again, according to jury chair Vladimir Tolstoy, the list includes only books the whole jury could approve without serious objections. Even so, I have to wonder if the short shortlist is a reflection of what I perceive as a general lack of excitement about releases from last year/season, the crop from which the 2014 Yasnaya Polyana lists generally draw. The “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth” prize shortlist is even shorter: only three books. Winners will be named on October 21.

The one book I was rooting for did make the shortlist: Evgenii Chizhov’s Перевод с подстрочника (literal title translation: Translation from a Literal Translation) is also the (2014 prize-eligible) book I heard praised most universally in Moscow earlier this month. I’ve already started drafting a post about Translation: I enjoyed it tremendously and thought it was very, very good, despite a bit of flashback-based flabbiness in the first half.

In any case, here’s the full shortlist for the “XXI Century” award:
  • Dmitrii Novikov’s В сетях Твоих (In Thy Nets... see comments on the title; beyond the apparent religious usage Languagehat mentions, I’m still sensing a play on words here with a northern fishing theme and idioms about being draw into something...), this is a collection, led by a long title story/novella, set in the Russian north; Novikov is from Petrozavodsk. [Edit: There are several corrections to this entry!]
  • Arsen Titov’s Тень Бехистунга (Behistun’s Shadow?), a historical novel, apparently a trilogy, set during World War I. Help! Does anyone know if Бехистунг is an alternate spelling for Бехистун, which is Behistun in English? This seems to fit with Titov’s writing, at least circumstantially…
  • Evgenii Chizhov’s Перевод с подстрочника (literally Translation from a Literal Translation), about a Moscow poet who goes to fictional Koshtyrbastan to make real poetry from some literal translations.
  • Sergei Shargunov’s 1993, about family and events during a year I remember as memorably unstable.
As for “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth,” we have:
  • Evgenii Bunimovich’s Девятый класс. Вторая школа (Ninth Grade. School Number Two)
  • Elena Matveeva’s Ведьмины круги (literally Witch Circles but this phrase in Russian is also what’s known as fairy rings in English… I have no idea how a fairy ring or even some sort of witch community might be related to a girl who brings home a stray dog in the title story, but well…)
  • Roman Senchin’s Чего вы хотите? (I’ll go with Whaddya Want?)

Disclaimers: The usual. Plus I know Yasnaya Polyana jury member Vladislav Otroshenko because I’ve translated some of his work, including Addendum to a Photo Album, which just happens to be scheduled for release March 8, 2015, from Dalkey Archive Press. I also translated a short story by Roman Senchin for the Read Russia! anthology.

Up Next: Moscow trip report, including all the books I brought back. (Overweight baggage alert!) Chizhov’s Translation, some translations into English, and Evgenii Vodolazkin’s Solovyov and Larionov. I really have been reading, despite two breaks for travel and the cold that, inevitably, ensued after Moscow—I can’t wait to get caught up on my posts!


  1. Glad to see a петрозаводчанин on the list!

  2. The title of the Novikov book (and of the story published in 2009) appears to be В сетях Твоих, with a capital letter, so I'm guessing it's a religious usage (compare Vitaly Bogdanov's "Ничего нет случайного, и все мы в сетях Твоих") and should be translated "In Thy Nets."

    1. Very interesting, Languagehat, that the capital letter got dropped on the YP list. Thank you for catching that! Of course I completely missed the capital letter when I looked at the title story you linked to. I was so caught up searching the page for references to nets and fishing that I didn't even look at the title.