Sunday, March 3, 2019

Vodolazkin Wins 2019 Solzhenitsyn Prize

I’m very pleased to write that Yevgeny (a.k.a. Eugene) Vodolazkin won the 2019 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Literature Prize for organically combining Russian traditions for spiritual and psychological prose with an outstanding knowledge and mind for language arts, as well as for his inspired writing style. The Russian-language award citation, which I translated fairly loosely, is on the site here. Background on the award is here; I was particularly interested to read that the annual $25,000 prize money comes from “the proceeds of worldwide publications of The Gulag Archipelago.” Previous prize winners include Oleg Pavlov and Maxim Amelin.

As one of Eugene’s many translators – there are enough of us around the globe that we could hold quite a gathering to discuss our work on his books – I can only say that the statement hits on many of the reasons I love his writing so much. Although I might add humor to the list – his is often sly, quiet – I see that as part of the “высокая филологическая культура” that’s mentioned in the statement. Since we don’t really talk much about “high philological culture” in English, I opted for “outstanding knowledge and mind for language arts,” something that is, of course, closely tied to his playful use of words. Barbara Hoffert’s recent review for Library Journal touches on this nicely by calling Solovyov and Larionov “darkly witty.”

In my reading, Eugene’s writing displays a combination of clarity of voice plus a certain open-endedness that sometimes almost verges on feeling cryptical – that blend works well for me because once I hear his voices, I feel a lot of flexibility when translating. Of course it helps tremendously that he’s read all my manuscripts and answered numerous questions, assistance that dramatically reduced the risk of making poor choices. In short, I’m one very fortunate person to have translated three of his books for Oneworld!

My translation of Solovyov and Larionov, by the way, has already been released in the UK and will be out in the US in May.

Up Next: Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s Kidnapped, which I truly did enjoy and truly will write about! Trip report on upcoming London travel, which will include the London Book Fair and a bookstore event with Guzel Yakhina – I’m very excited that our Zuleikha will be out from Oneworld this week and was reviewed by Francine Prose in this week’s New York Times Book Review!

Disclaimers: The usual.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Languagehat, it's rare to have a post with so many bits of good news, isn't it!?

  2. Wonderful news! I loved The Aviator and hope to read and review Solovyov and Larionov soon! :D


    1. Oh, glad to hear it, kaggsysbookishramblings! I hope you enjoy S&L!