Sunday, September 22, 2019

Yasnaya Polyana Finalists, 2019

Well, how about that? The Yasnaya Polyana Award shortlist appeared last week, the day after I posted about the longlist.

The six finalists are, in Russian alphabetical order:
  • Vladislav Artemov’s Император (part one) (part two) (part three) (The Emperor) is a novel that apparently contains allusions to Master and Margarita.
  • Vladimir Berezin’s Дорога на Астапово (The Road to Astapovo) sounds like a road novel of sorts, following Lev Tolstoy’s route from Yasnaya Polyana to Astapovo.
  • Alexandra Nikolaenko’s Небесный почтальон Федя Булкин (Fedya Bulkin, Heavenly/Celestial Postman) sounds like it’s about a boy who thinks his dead parents are on a long business trip. (Nikolaenko also illustrated Sluzhitel’s shortlisted book.)
  • Sergei Samsonov’s Держаться за Землю (Hold Onto (the?) Earth or something similar?) concerns the Donbass region, coal miners, and geopolitical conflict.
  • Grigory Sluzhitel’s Дни Савелия (Savely’s Days) is the only book on the list that I’ve read (previous post). It’s also the only book on the list narrated by a cat and it’s so enjoyable and filled with Moscow, life, and emotion (plus Nikolaenko’s beautiful illustrations) that I’d bet a big, fat packet of catnip that it will win the reader’s choice vote.
  • Vyacheslav Stavetsky’s Жизнь А.Г. (The Life of A.G.) tells of a Spanish dictator doomed to tour his country in a cage because he failed to shoot himself properly. As I noted last time, this book (like Sluzhitel’s) is also on the Big Book shortlist, though A.G. strikes me as overly burdened with information and description. (As with all Big Book finalists, however, I’ll be giving it another chance.)
Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. Two authors I’ve translated are on the Yasnaya Polyana jury, I’ve received two of the above-mentioned books from the Big Book Award, and I’ve met Sluzhitel.

Up Next: Anna Kozlova’s Rurik, Sukhbat Aflatuni’s Earthly Paradise, two books in English, and some other books in Russian. The latter will likely include Alisa Ganieva’s biography of Lilya Brik, which I’ve been enjoying for its detail (Ganieva uses lots of quotes to allow her characters, their colleagues, and family members to speak for themselves), tactful dishiness, and even personal notes. I’ve been finding the book suspenseful, which is rather odd since I already know a fair bit about LB’s life, loves, and times. A side benefit: now that I “know” LB’s sister, Elsa Triolet, better, I’m moving Viktor Shklovsky’s Zoo, or Letters Not About Love up on the shelf. I’ve also pulled a few Mayakovsky volumes off the shelves: a two-volume Russian set plus James Womack’s book of translations, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Other Poems, which Carcanet Press kindly sent me several years ago. Womack’s spirited translations endeared themselves to me when I first opened the book and found “frickin’ Fet”; discovering last night that his English title for “Нате!” is “Up Yours!” confirmed my appreciation of his work for at least the twentieth time.


  1. Oh, wow! Now I have got to go check out Womack's translations. Thank you, Liza! :-) - Annie

    1. Unknown-but-known Annie, yes!! I think you'll really enjoy them!

  2. I recently learned that Elsa Triolet is quite a writer herself! She was the first woman to be awarded Prix Goncourt in 1944. Impressive, I think! Reading her novel in Russian translation at the moment,

    1. Hello, Olga! Same here! I didn't know much about her and certainly didn't realize she was such a writer. I'll be interested to hear what you think about the novel, please do tell!