Sunday, April 14, 2019

The 2019 National Bestseller Award Shortlist

The NatsBest Award announced six finalists last week. I’ve listed the books below, with the first (“big”) jury’s point totals. I haven’t read any of the books in full (yet) and know little about them beyond bits I’ve read in reviews and descriptions, so more caveat emptor (as it were) than usual on my summaries (and titles, too). I also confess that I’ve looked the least into the last two books: they interest me most and, selfishly, I don’t want to know too much before reading. The winner – who is supposed to wake up famous – will be announced on May 25.

Film critic Mikhail Trofimenkov’s XX век представляет. Кадры и кадавры (The 20th Century Presents. Cadres and Cadavers is the title that sounds best, translating “кадры” as “cadres” but given the film topic, well, I suspect there’s at least a double meaning of “frames” or “shots,” plus “кадавр” apparently has an additional meaning of some sort of living dead in Russian, a topic seeming to warrant further study and reading!) is a sociopolitical/sociocultural book about film in many countries during the second half of the twentieth century. (14 points)

Andrei Rubanov’s Финист - ясный сокол (Finist, the Brave Falcon; at least for now I’ll borrow the title from a Soviet film) sounds like a blend of ancient Russia, folktale motifs, and fantasy. Here’s a version of the story of Finist. (a lucky 13 points)

I’m so unschooled about manga and anime that I didn’t recognize the “otaku” in Upyr Likhoi’s title Славянские отаку (Slavic otaku). I was curious about the author’s name, too, a pseudonym borrowed from an eleventh-century Russian scribe and priest, though simply looking at the words, the name sounds like Vampire/Ghoul + Evil/Spirited; I kind of like the “Wicked Vampire” option mentioned on Wikipedia’s Öpir page. In any case, it’s a great pseudonym with a fair bit of history. In any case (again), it sounds like the book is an allegory (satirical, too?) of the political conflict between Russia and Ukraine told through two guys who spend a lot of time online. (7 points)

The only book I’ve read any of (about half) is Evgenia Nekrasova’s Калечина-малечина (Kalechina-Malechina): this novel about a girl who is bullied and often left to her own devices struck me most for Nekrasova’s imaginative use of language and vivid settings and situations. I admired those aspects of the book enough that this one has been bothering me, asking, even begging, for another chance at finishing. (7 points)

Alexander Etoev’s Я буду всегда с тобой (I’ll Always Be With You) is set in 1943, in Russia’s Far North. (6 points)

Alexander Pelevin’s Четверо (The Four or perhaps even something like Four of Them) sounds tempting, blending elements of science fiction and detective novels, plus three very distinct temporal settings that somehow connect. (6 points)

Up Next: Alexei Salnikov’s wonderfully twisted The Department.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual, plus I translated NatsBest secretary Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina.


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