Sunday, April 28, 2019

Big Book Goes Big With Its 2019 Long Longlist

Last week the Big Book Award announced a longlist consisting of forty one titles. The Big Book’s shortlist – of somewhere between eight and fifteen titles – will be named on June 5. Given the sheer volume of volumes on this year’s (long)list, I’ll name about a third of those selected, including the books I’ve read, a couple overlaps with the National Bestseller shortlist, and several completely unfamiliar books that sound like they might be interesting.

The books I’ve already read:
  • Eduard Verkin’s Остров Сахалин (Sakhalin Island) (previous post) still bugs me for being such an absorbing and unforgettable but rather messy postapocalyptic novel that channels Chekhov.
  • Evgenii Vodolazkin’s Брисбен (Brisbane) tells the story of a virtuoso guitar player who discovers he has an incurable medical condition.
  • Anna Nemzer’s Раунд (Round) (previous post) is a polyphonic novel about love, identity, history, and everything else.
  • Alexei Salnikov’s Опосредованно (Indirectly perhaps? This is what a colleague and I think might fit…), which I’ll finish today, is about a woman living in the Urals who writes poetry in a world that’s almost like ours, though poems have drug-like effects.
  • Grigory Sluzhitel’s Дни Савелия (Savely’s Days) (previous post) is the first-cat narrative I so enjoyed last year.
  • Evgenia Nekrasova’s Калечина-Малечина (Kalechina-Malechina) is waiting for a second chance. I read half of K-M and am now feeling strong pangs that demand I return, particularly after just finishing Nekrasova’s novella Несчастливая Москва (Unhappy Moscow). I already appreciated her use of language and now I’m starting to get into her (abundantly peculiar and rather frightening) universe, too, so feeling ready for the second half of K-M. (I’m also finally going to read Platonov’s Happy Moscow. I’m so long due to read more Platonov, but even his short works are always a big itch to try to scratch.)
The two books that overlap with the National Bestseller list (previous post) are Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina and Andrei Rubanov’s Финист - ясный сокол (Finist, the Brave Falcon).

A few books and authors completely unfamiliar to me, listed in alphabetical order by author:
  • Olgerd Bakharevich, author of Собаки Европы (The Dogs of Europe), says this gigundo (nine-hundred-page Edit: oops, apparently it’s a mere 768 pages!) book is about everything, with Belarus, Europe, the world, and Minsk being some of that “everything.” He translated the book himself, rewriting it in the process.
  • Fyodor Grot’s Ромовая баба (Rum Baba) warrants a mention for the simple fact that the beginning mentions plague.
  • Anna Klepikova’s Наверно я дурак (literally something like I’m Probably a Fool) describes itself as an anthropological novel (it appears to be autofiction) and sounds like it’s about a volunteer at a home for children with (apparently) psychiatric issues. (An excerpt)
Finally, there are two manuscripts. Manuscripts always have an air of mystery (and, honestly, irritation as well) since no author’s name or publisher is mentioned. But at least these titles are simple! Number 141 is Вавилонская лестница (The Staircase of Babel) and number 158 is Рюрик (Rurik).

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. Many of the books mentioned in this post were given to me; I know some of the authors listed and have translated three books by one. I’m a member of the Big Book’s jury, known as the Literary Academy.

Up Next: A Salnikov post covering The Department and what I’ll provisionally continue to call Indirectly. And then probably Nekrasova.


  1. Could you please let me know if Sakhalin Island has been translated into English. Trying to find that information online and no luck so far. I absolutely adore your blog Lisa as being a Russophile it helps me find out about new authors and novels worth reading. I am a teacher - Global Perspectives & Spanish- from the Canary Islands currently teaching in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria.
    bookishyure at yahoo dot co dot uk

    1. Sorry for the delayed response! I'm glad the blog is helpful for you. Nothing on Sakhalin Island as far as I know but literary agent sites and book sites like Amazon are a far better source of information on available books than I!

  2. Wow! Evgenii Vodolazkin has a new book? I am very excited about this! I hope you'll be translating it! (Sorry, this overshadowed the rest of the longlist résumé for me, although I did see the magic phrase "cat narrative" in there somewhere...

    1. Indeed he does, Russian Dinosaur, it came out during the winter! (I'm glad you noticed "cat narrative" in there, too, ha ha! This whole list looks fairly promising, fingers crossed for some good ones.)