Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 Russian Booker Finalists

Here you go, Russian Booker fans… the 2014 short list, in Russian alphabetical order. Winners will be announced on December 5. The Russian Booker will award two prizes again this year: one to a “usual” winner, the other in the form of a grant to publish an English-language translation in the UK.
  • Anatolii Vishnevskii’s Жизнеописание Петра Степановича К. (The Story of the Life/Biography of Petr Stepanovich K.). The description of this book, which is evidently completely based on documents, is a little vague: it’s apparently about a man who lives a long life but wanted glory more than longevity, though longevity gives him a chance to see a lot. 

  • Natalya Gromova’s Ключ. Последняя Москва (The Key. The Last/Final Moscow). This one’s called an archival novel, and it apparently focuses largely on the 1930s and a Moscow that no longer exists. Gromova works at the Tsvetaeva house museum in Moscow. There’s more here. The Key is already a 2014 Big Book finalist.

  • Zakhar Prilepin’s Обитель (The Cloister). This novel about the Solovetsky Islands in the 1920s is already on the 2014 Big Book finalist list, and it won Book of the Year last month. I lugged it back from Moscow (it’s big) and plan to read it soon. Probably right after the next book on this list…

  • Viktor Remizov’s Воля вольная. (This is the book with the title that translates literally as something like Willful Will or Free Freedom but Remizov told me he’d use something closer to Soaring Will. Though he wasn’t even quite sure how to explain the title…) In any case, this is a novel about poaching, corruption, and conflict in the Russian Far East… though there’s much more to it than that. I’m looking forward to reading it. [Description edited after reading the book.]

  • Elena Skul’skaia’s Мраморный лебедь (The Marble Swan). According to Novaya gazeta, this is memoiristic writing about friends and family. Even a quick look at the text on the Zhurnal’nyi zal site shows that it’s made up of vignettes/tiny chapters.

  • Vladimir Sharov’s Возвращение в Египет (Return to Egypt). In which one Kolya Gogol (a distant relative of familiar old Nikolai Gogol) finishes writing Dead Souls. An epistolary novel. Already a finalist for this year’s National Bestseller and Big Book awards.
One of the most interesting things about this year’s Booker short list, at least for me, is that four of the six books—Gromova, Prilepin, Remizov, and Sharov—are or will soon be (re)published by editor Elena Shubina’s imprint at AST. And what can I say but that Shubina is a force? And I just seem to gravitate to her books: she published two of the books I’m translating (Marina Stepnova’s The Women of Lazarus and Evgeny Vodolazkin’s Laurus) and now I’m reading Stepnova’s new book and about to read Remizov’s (coming soon from Shubina/AST) and Prilepin’s. I’m also looking forward to reading the tome of Andrei Platonov’s letters she published last winter… more about that one in my Moscow trip report this weekend.

Disclaimers: Just the usual.

Up next: Moscow trip report. Then, at last, books! Evgeny Vodolazkin’s first novel, Solovyov and Larionov, which I enjoyed very, very much (footnotes have never been so much fun), and Marina Stepnova’s latest book, named for Moscow’s Bezbozhnyi Lane. Plus a few books I’ve read in English.


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