Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2016 Big Book Winners: Yuzefovich Takes Top Jury Prize

Winners of the 2016 Big Book Award were announced this evening in Moscow. The top jury prize went to Leonid Yuzefovich for his Winter Road, which already won this year’s National Bestseller award as well as a translation grant from the Russian Booker. Evgenii Vodolazkin won second prize for his Aviator (previous post) and Ludmila Ulitskaya took third place for her Yakov’s Ladder (previous post). My summary of all this year’s Big Book finalists is on the blog here. All three of these authors have won the top Big Book prize in the past and all three of these books were published by Elena Shubina’s imprint at AST.

Reader’s choice awards, which were announced last week, went to Ulitskaya’s Yakov’s Ladder, Maria Galina’s Autochthons (previous post), and Vodolazkin’s Aviator. The Big Book site notes that only four votes separated the Galina and Vodolazkin books.

An award for contributions to literature went to Boris Kupriyanov, who is, among other things, a co-founder of the Falanster bookstore in Moscow as well as a key figure for two Moscow book fairs/festivals.

Link(s) with commentary:
-Mikhail Edelshtein’s concise pre-ceremony plus/minus view of all the finalists, on Lenta.ru.
-Maya Kucherskaya's summary on Vedomosti. After mentioning that Aleksei Ivanov didn't win anything for his Nenast'e Kucherskaya suggests that a special prize could be given so that all deserving books win something. I'd expected that Ivanov's book would win something (my prediction was that he, not Ulitskaya, would be in the top three and I wasn't far off, Ivanov's point total was very, very close to Ulitskaya's) but special prizes like that would be impractical for an award like Big Book, where the jury is large and members have the option of voting remotely, making that sort of prize logistically difficult. Not to mention contentious! Beyond that, it seems to me that awarding three jury prizes and three reader's choice prizes is already very generous.
-Anna Narinskaya's commentary on Kommersant is far more interesting. I, too, wish books like Sergei Kuznetsov's and Dmitry Danilov's had been Big Book finalists this year: they're both on my shelf but even without having read them yet, I have a strong suspicion that they would have been far better choices than, for (safe) starters, the book about reptiles, which was very, very weak. I couldn't agree more with Narinskaya that books like Danilov's spice up Big Book shortlists: they help readers discover writers and there's a lot to be said for diluting the mainstream. This is a minor point (and I'm probably splitting hairs here) but I can't say that I fit her perception that members of the jury want to read books that reflect on and connect Russian history and the Russian present: my personal bias is just for books that are interesting/compelling and hold together structurally. This time around--and last year, too, with Guzel Yakhina's Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes--those happened to be books that involved Russian history. And of course I love Laurus and The Women of Lazarus. And lots of other novels that somehow blend history and the present. But I'm open to anything. Like Danilov's books, which are generally very much in the present... and which I always enjoy so much.
-Two pieces by people I know and thus particularly enjoy reading: Mikhail Vizel on the Год литературы site notes, among other things, that Yuzefovich said that Ivanov should have won. (He also notes that only two points separated the Ulitskaya and Ivanov books, almost nothing, given the totals.) Konstantin Milchin, for TASS, places particular focus on the lack of new names.
-Klarisa Pulson for Novaya Gazeta (here), who says the results were too predictable. Something I agree with... but a jury has to vote on a set list of books.

Disclaimers: The usual. I’m a member of the Big Book’s Literary Academy, its jury, and received all the books from the Big Book and, in some cases, the books’ literary agencies. I have translated books by Vodolazkin—I’m currently working on The Aviator—and excerpts from books by Galina.

Up next: Belated autumn travel report. Belated reading roundup. And books: Sukhbat Aflatuni’s The Ant King, which is very suspenseful and oddly absorbing.


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