Saturday, December 16, 2017

Big Book Winners for 2017

The Big Book Award announced its winners on Tuesday. This year’s results were nearly identical for the jury and reader awards.

The jury’s choices: 

First prize went to Lev Danilkin’s Ленин. Пантократор солнечных пылинок (Lenin. Pantocrator of Dust Motes, I believe, since Lenin refers to dust motes in Aristotle’s De Anima). A biography of V.I. Lenin, Ulyanov. A heavyweight checking in at 784 pages. This is an almost ludicrously lively biography; it was my top pick.

Sergei Shargunov won second prize for Катаев: «Погоня за вечной весной» (Kataev: “The Pursuit of Eternal Spring”) about author Valentin Kataev. This one’s 704 pages long; I have enjoyed reading Kataev so was disappointed that this biography just didn’t grab me.

Third prize was awarded to Shamil Idiatullin’s Город Брежнев (Brezhnev City, at least sort of: Naberezhnye Chelny was called “Brezhnev” during 1982-1988), which looks at adolescence in an automobile industry city during the late Soviet period… I read a very large chunk of this book (it’s also 700 or so pages) before reluctantly giving up. Though there’s lots of great material, it felt unsorted, like there was just too much book.

Readers chose the same three books but in a slightly different order: Shargunov, Danilkin, Idiatullin.

In other Big Book news, Viktoriia Tokareva, a novelist and screenwriter whose work I have barely read, won a special award for her contributions to literature. 

For a summary of the 2017 finalists, here is an article by Elena Makeenko, aptly titled Брежнев против Ленин (Brezhnev Against Lenin).

Up Next: Sukhbat Aflatuni’s lovely Tashkent Novel; Vladimir Medvedev’s polyphonic Zahhak; and Yulia Yakovleva’s thoroughly entertaining Tinker, Tailor (Вдруг охотник выбегает), an atmospheric detective novel that really plays on its setting in Leningrad. Yana Vagner’s Кто не спрятался (Accomplices), which I have barely started but which also seems pretty atmospheric and entertaining...

Disclaimers: The usual. I’m a member of the Big Book’s jury, the Literary Academy.


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