Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aleshkovsky and Yuzefovich Win Russian Booker Prize and Grant

Pyotr Aleshkovsky won the 2016 Russian Booker Prize today for his novel Крепость (The Citadel). Aleshkovsky has been a Booker finalist in the past—in 1994 for Жизнеописание Хорька (Skunk: A Life), in 1996 for Владимир Чигринцев (Vladimir Chigrintsev), and in 2006 for Рыба (Fish)—so I wasn’t surprised to see The Citadel win. The Citadel, which I began but did/could not finish, is also a finalist for the Big Book Award; Big Book Award winners will be announced next week.

Several of Aleshkovsky’s books have been translated into English: Arch Tait translated Skunk: A Life for Glas (the original title refers to a ferret), and Nina Shevchuk-Murray translated Fish: A History of One Migration and Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices, which combines stories from Aleshkovsky’s Институт Сновидений and Старгород, for Russian Life Books. I wrote about Fish here, mentioning in that post that I’d enjoyed nature passages from Skunk (Ferret!) very much: some of Aleshkovsky’s winter scenes in that book have stuck with me longer than my more recent readings of Fish and The Citadel. Please note that Aleshkovsky’s first name is spelled “Peter” on all these translations.

In other news, Leonid Yuzefovich won the Booker’s grant award, for an English-language translation of his The Winter Road, a beautifully compiled and composed book about Civil War figures in the Russian Far East. The Winter Road also won this year’s National Bestseller Award and is on the Big Book shortlist, too; it was one of my top three books in the eleven-book list of finalists.

Edit: Links!
-The Booker has yet to post a story about the awards but TASS did: here.
-TASS also posted a piece by Konstantin Milchin (an acquaintance of mine) about the award, in which he discusses his dissatisfaction with the Booker jury's decision, which, in effect, says The Citadel is the best novel of the year--that's the Booker's stated goal, after all. The piece is here and, as so often happens, I agree with Kostya's points, which get at some of the reasons I didn't/couldn't finish the book. I was also interested to see that he mentioned, as I did in my post, the fact that Aleshkovsky was thrice a Booker finalist before The Citadel. (I have to think that fact and being able to point to the novel's positive hero were deciding factors for the jury.) The quotes that Kostya included seem to have inspired readers to dig up other awkward passages that, hmm (repurposing Kostya's words a bit), show a lack of compassion for the reader, see, for example, Meduza, here.
-I'll add more links when/if I find them!
-Here's another one, very favorable to Aleshkovsky's win, by Maya Kucherskaya: link.

Disclaimers: Russian Life Books sent me copies of Fish and Stargorod. I received electronic copies of The Citadel from both the Big Book and Aleshkovsky’s literary agency, and The Winter Road from the Big Book Award.

Up Next: Big Book winners; Sukhbat Aflatuni’s The Ant King, which is just plain weird but also suspenseful and mysteriously compelling; book roundup; and two books in Boris Minaev’s Soft Fabric trilogy, which were, combined, a Booker and Yasnaya Polyana finalist.


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