Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 Yasnaya Polyana Award Shortlists

I was very sorry to have to leave Moscow before the jury for the Yasnaya Polyana Award announced its 2016 shortlists: six books in the “XXI Century” division and three books in the “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth” division. Winners will be announced in late October. Without further ado—other than my usual caveat that many titles and book descriptions are problematic—here’s the list, in Russian alphabetical order by author:

Narine Abgaryan’s С неба упали три яблока (Three Apples Fell from the Sky), the only book on the list that I’ve read in its entirety (previous post). It’s a lovely book and I enjoyed translating excerpts.

Sukhbat Aflatuni’s Поклонение волхвов (Adoration of the Magi), about which I wrote, earlier: “[it] sounds like it captures a lot, from the familiar biblical story in the title to a family story that begins in the middle of the nineteenth century and concludes in the present, with plot lines that involve a secret society, exile, and a romance with the tsar. Aflatuni’s name keeps popping up on award lists.” Though Adoration sounds very good, I bought Aflatuni’s The Ant Tsar/King in Moscow instead, primarily because it came first, is shorter, and sounds a bit simpler, better for easing myself into Aflatuni’s world.

Aleksandr Grigorenko’s Потерял слепой дуду, is a novella with a title I’m not sure how to translate, particularly since a quick look at the text shows play with language. Jury member Vladislav Otroshenko is quoted on the YP site as being especially pleased the novella made the list; it was among the books and stories he recommended to me when I saw him in Moscow. I thoroughly enjoyed Grigorenko’s Mebet (previous post) and bought Ilget in Moscow; I hope this novella comes out in book form, too.

Boris Minaev’s Мягкая ткань (Soft Fabric), a two-book combo: Батист (part 1) (part 2) (Batiste) and Сукно (Broadcloth or something similar, a heavyish fabric, often woolen; textiles were never my forte even when I sewed a lot!). I heard about the first book from a friend who’d loved it months ago so I was very happy when the publisher, Vremya, gave me copies of the first two books. The fabric apparently refers to life’s fabric, and the books are set primarily in the early twentieth century.

Vladimir Eisner’s Гранатовый остров (Garnet Island is my guess, based on a reader review I found), a collection of long and short stories about life in the Russian north. I love northern stories (see above, Mebet) and do appreciate books with polar bears on the cover.

Leonid Yuzefovich’s Зимняя дорога (The Winter Road), which already won the 2016 National Bestseller Award and is already on the Big Book shortlist, too. It’s a very absorbing “documentary novel” whose cover says “General A.N. Pepeliaev and anarchist I.Ia. Strod in Yakutia. 1922-1923.” As I’ve said before, Yuzefovich works wonders with archival materials.

In the children’s literature division:

Marina Moskvina and Yulia Govorova’s Ты, главное, пиши о любви (Write about Love, That’s the Main Thing or thereabout, albeit with a “you” thrown in) is an epistolary novel written by a writing teacher (Moskvina) and her student (Govorova), who moves to Pushkinskie Gory to work in a zoo.

Marina Nefedova’s Лесник и его нимфа (The Woodsman and His Nymph) is apparently about 1980s Moscow hippies—one of whom is a Janis Joplin sort of figure—and choices between art and love.

Yulia Yakovleva’s Дети ворона (The Raven’s Children, though the “raven” referred to here isn’t a bird, it’s what’s often known in English as a Black Maria…) is set in 1938: two children are left without their parents and younger brother. It’s the first in a cycle of stories about Leningrad.

Disclaimers: I am still a bit sleepy and hope this post makes sense (and lacks weird mistakes!). Two of the Yasnaya Polyana Award’s jury members—Eugene Vodolazkin and Vladislav Otroshenko—are authors I’ve translated. Some of these books have come to me from publishers and literary agents; I’ve translated excerpts of Abgaryan’s book.

Up Next: Moscow trip report (including a record heavy homeward haul of books that includes books by Aflatuni, Grigorenko, and Minaev), Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Jacob’s Ladder, Alexander Snegirev’s Vera (Faith), and Oleg Zaionchkovsky’s Timosha’s Prose.


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