Sunday, February 3, 2019

The 2019 NatsBest Nominees

The National Bestseller Award (NatsBest) announced its nominees (a.k.a. longlist) last week: 44 books chosen by 46 individuals. I appreciate NatsBest for a lot of things, particularly for revealing the list of nominators and nominations so I can see who’s lobbying for what. And even more particularly for posting reviews from the award’s Big Jury: I find myself referring to NatsBest reviews for, literally, years. The 2019 shortlist will be announced on April 9. Here are some of this year’s nominees:

Four (plus one) books I’ve already read and enjoyed in some way or another:
  • Olga Stolpovskaya’s I Hate That Little Bitch (previous post), nominated by Olga Aminova,
  • Grigory Sluzhitel’s Savely’s Days (previous post), nominated by Mikhail Vizel,
  • Eduard Verkin’s Sakhalin Island (previous post), nominated by Vasily Vladimirsky, and
  • Anna Nemzer’s The Round (previous post), nominated by Ilya Danishevsky, plus
  • Yevgenia Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, nominated by Elena Shubina, which I’m still reading.
Three books (two of which look indescribable without reading them) are waiting on the shelf:
  • Timofei Khmelev’s кикер (foosball), nominated by Petr Birger,
  • Guzel Yakhina’s Дети мои (known as Children of the Volga in English), nominated by Evgeny Vodolazkin, and
  • Ksenia Buksha’s Открывается внутрь (Opens In), nominated by Maria Zimina.
The two books nominated twice are:
  • Alexander Etoev’s Я буду всегда с тобой (I Will Always Be With You), nominated by Pavel Krusanov and Alexander Zhikarentsev, a novel set in the Far North during World War 2, and
  • Nikolai Kononov’s Восстание (Uprising), a “documentary novel” apparently inspired by the life of Sergei Solovyov, one of the organizers of the Norilsk camp uprising, nominated by Darya Novikova and Leonid Yuzefovich.
Here a few books (already published in book form) written by authors unknown to me:
  • Dmitry Likhanov’s Bianca, nominated by Konstantin Milchin, involves a dog. Milchin, who often posts cat photos on Facebook when he travels, deserves credit for finding a canine friend to keep Savely company on the list. Milchin and I also have very similar taste in books so I may have to seek this one out.
  • Vlad Ridosh’s Пролетариат (Proletariat), nominated by Dmitry Alexandrov, is about workers in contemporary Russia – Ridosh apparently wrote it after working in a Siberian chemical factory.
  • Nim Naum’s Юби (Ove – apparently the title is a shortened version of «люби», “love,” so there you go, at least for now), nominated by Yevgeny Kogan, is set in May 1986 and concerns a dissident who moves from Moscow to Belarus when he’s likely to be arrested.
  • Alexei Polyarinov’s Центр тяжести (Center of Gravity), nominated by Ksenia Lukina, is about a young journalist, an artist, and a hacker.
There are also several books written by familiar authors whose stories and/or (other) books I’ve already read or even translated: Elizaveta Alexandrova-Zorina, Elena Minkina-Taicher, Narine Abgaryan, Alexander Snegirev, Vladimir Kozlov, Pavel Krusanov, Marina Akhmedova, and Andrei Rubanov. All in all, it’s a list with (for me, anyway!) a nice combination of familiar and unfamiliar names and titles.

Disclaimers: The usual. Plus ties to the NatsBest itself (I translated award secretary Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina), plus a number of the nominees, publishers, and authors. Six or seven of the books on the list were given to me by various parties.

Up Next: Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s Kidnapped, Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, and the Slavist convention trip report, which I wrote last weekend but (ah, cold weather laziness!) just couldn’t bring myself to check, reread, and post. I’m very sorry to report that I had to set Alexei Salnikov’s Petrovs in and Around the Flu aside again: yes, the first chapters made me giggle but then the storytelling got bogged down, losing its narrative drive so fatally that I didn’t even care that Petrova was losing her mind. These Petrovs seem to be a love-‘em-or-hate ‘em sort of enterprise, with readers either thinking the book is fresh, wonderful, and one of the best in recent years or (like me) just not understanding why readers love and tout it so much. I started losing my patience during the chapter about little Petrov, when I found myself sensing something familiar and then realized I’d been comparing (alas, not so favorably) to Oleg Zaionchkovsky’s Petrovich (previous post), which I enjoyed so much. No matter what the Petrovs are supposed to be telling us – and I’ve seen plenty of explanations, from everyday life to allegories involving illness and replication of influenza itself – despite the book’s odd charm and appeal to many readers, it feels as if there’s something in the book’s internal logic that just doesn’t click into place. At least not for me; I threw in the towel at page 171. That despite quite a bit of laughter about Petrov’s ability to, for example, draw odd people into his orbit while riding public transportation, something highly, as they say these days, “relatable.” As I’ve written before, when I find myself not wanting to read (particularly when there’s a befuddling muddle in the middle) I know it’s time to switch books. And, sometimes even to get a flu shot, something I finally did all too recently. I’ll sign off on that happy note. Happy reading!


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