Sunday, October 13, 2019

The NOS(E) Award’s 2019 Longlist

The NOS(E) Award announced its longlist a week or two or three ago and, well, yes, I’ve been very slow in posting. Particularly since this is the one longlist I like to list in full: there are sixteen books this year, so wish me luck. (Given some of the titles, I need it!) I’ll list the books in the order they appear on the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation site. The shortlist will be announced on Halloween (trick or treat, dear readers!) after a public debate.
  • Nikolai Kononov: Восстание (Uprising) is a “documentary novel” apparently inspired by the life of Sergei Solovyov, one of the organizers of the Norilsk camp uprising. It’s on the shelf.
  • Andrei Ivanov: Обитатели потешного кладбища (literally: Inhabitants of an/the Amusing Cemetery, I’m thinking this is likely a metaphorical title…) is set in post-war Paris, among Russian emigres, and if the book’s description is to be believed (alas, that’s not always the case, they often feel like a game to me), it apparently hits on a cornucopia of emotions (love and hate) and plot lines (collaboration, resistance, spying, and murder). Among other things. (I am so long overdue to read Ivanov!)
  • Aleksandr Dolinin: Комментарий к роману Владимира Набокова Дар(Commentary on Vladimir Nabokov’s Novel The Gift) is apparently exactly what the title says it is. (Sample
  • Kirill Kobrin: Поднебесный экспресс (The Celestial Express) sounds like an interesting sort-of-but-not-really-a-detective-novel set on a direct train trip (seventeen days!) from China to London. 
  • Alexander Stesin: Нью-йоркский обход (something like All Around New York sounds like it fits the description) concerns a doctor’s observations of work with very diverse patients in New York and New Delhi. (Sample) (Review)
  • Aleksandr Skidan: In Путеводитель по N. (A Guidebook to N.) the N. seems to stand for Nietzsche! :) In this mock autobiography, N. speaks in the voices of luminaries like Rilke, Dostoevsky, and Proust. Hm.
  • Linor Goralik: Все, способные дышать дыхание (literally something like All Capable of Breathing a Breath, perhaps? Or maybe “Everybody”? I’m interested in figuring out how to read this title.) The brief description introducing this excerpt says the book concerns a country that’s facing a huge catastrophe and discovers that empathy can be a double-edged sword. A Big Book finalist, one I’m having a hard time finding a way into.
  • Aleksandr Yarin: Жизнь Алексея: Диалоги (The Life of Alexei: Dialogues) sounds like a polyphonic, polygenre book that includes lots of philosophy and contradictions. And intentional anachronisms, something I do tend to enjoy. (Sample) (Review)
  • Daniil Turovskii: Вторжение. Краткая история русских хакеров (Interference. A Brief History of Russian Hackers. Or maybe Break In? I’m not sure if this concerns the 2016 elections in the US or not.) is a journalist’s account of what’s mentioned in the title. (Sample)
  • Maria Rybakova: Если есть рай (If There’s a Heaven/Paradise) is a bit of a mystery because it has only been published in journal form (in Znamya), meaning there’s no cover blurb (not that those are always very helpful!) and my assumptions could be wildly wrong. The online pages do look inviting, though, particularly after hearing/reading good things about Rybakova’s Gnedich.
  • Evgenii Nikitin: Про папу (About Papa) is, according to the cover, an illustrated “anti-novel,” and, based on the publisher’s description, it sounds like a lovely anomaly for these troubled times we live in. The author wants to make people happy? About Papa is easy reading that prompts smiles and thought? Happy?! Smiles? (Really!) Seriously, though, this sounds like exactly what I need. (Sample)
  • Evgenii Chizhov: Собиратель рая (The Collector of Heaven? Maybe something more like Collecting Heaven? No matter: we have more heaven/paradise…) concerns a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who often leaves the house and gets lost, and her son (nicknamed “King” because he’s flea market royalty) who goes out to find her. It’s about memory, nostalgia, and people who came of age in the 1990s. I enjoyed Chizhov’s Translation from a Literal Translation (previous post) and am looking forward to this book. (Sample) (Review)
  • Aleksei Polyarinov: Центр тяжести (Center of Gravity) sounds like a long (though Labirint says it’s only 480 pages so I’ll read it in ten days, ha ha, ha ha) and (potentially) formally complex novel about a journalist, a hacker, and an artist. (Review
  • Pavel Peppershtein: Тайна нашего времени (Secret of Our Time) is a collection of sixteen stories with the author’s illustrations, published by Garage. I’ve been meaning to read Peppershtein’s fiction for years, after reading (and later translating a text) about his work with Inspection Medical Hermeneutics
  • Sofia Sinitskaya: Мироныч, дырник и жеможаха. Рассказы о родине (Mironych, Hole-Worshippers, and ???. Stories About the Motherland. Oh, that “жеможаха” is difficult, I keep going around in circles with it, feeling like I get it but then realizing I’m not quite there. It’s in the sample, it’s from a hymn, words are run together, and it’s mentioned in Saltykov-Shchedrin and, subsequently, Rozanov but, hm, it’s used in the novel as a nickname so I think I just have to read the book.) contains three novellas set in three separate times, the Great Terror, the late eighteenth century, and the turn of the twenty-first century. The book’s description claims (in my very loose account!) that Sinitskaya’s following in the tracks of Gogol and (even more exciting) Vaginov… (Review) (Sample)
  • Aleksei Sal’nikov: Опосредованно (Indirectly or somesuch) is also a Big Book finalist. It’s also the lone book on this list that I’ve read in full. I enjoyed this novel about a woman in the Urals who writes poetry, which has narcotic effects in the world Sal’nikov describes.
Disclaimers: The usual. Knowing a couple of the authors, if only slightly.

Up Next: Anna Kozlova’s Rurik, Sukhbat Aflatuni’s Earthly Paradise (more heaven/paradise, I think it’s a trend), two books in English, and some other books in Russian, including Alisa Ganieva’s biography of Lilya Brik and Liubov Barinova’s brand-new Eve, both of which I’ve been enjoying very much.


  1. literally: Inhabitants of an/the Amusing Cemetery, I’m thinking this is likely a metaphorical title

    It refers to a (fictional) animal cemetery on the (real but no longer extant) Île des Ravageurs in the Seine; I presume the use of потешный is parallel to that in потешный полк.

    Oh, that “жеможаха” is difficult, I keep going around in circles with it, feeling like I get it but then realizing I’m not quite there. It’s in the sample, it’s from a hymn, words are run together

    It's a joke of Shchedrin's (from Пошехонская старина) making fun of the local yokels who hear the words of the Преображение Господне hymn (it's very short; you can hear it here, with the words in a caption below the video) "Показывай учеником своим славу твою, яко же можаху" [Show your disciples/followers your glory, insofar as they are capable], where можаху is the 3 pl. imperfect of Church Slavic мощи/мочи 'be able to,' and being ignorant yokels they think it's "яко жеможаху" 'like a жеможаха,' and they wonder if a жеможаха is some kind of special halo. It's obviously untranslatable!

  2. Thank you for your very helpful comment, Languagehat! How interesting about the cemetery.

    And yes, that's exactly the Shchedrin passage I was referring to and that's exactly what I mean about the difficulty! I found all sorts of interesting references to the phrase but nothing that really answered the question. The book sounds interesting so I may just need to read it to find out if something with a halo would fit. (I almost paged you on жеможаха, by the way, since I'd seen the comment on your blog that mentioned it!)

  3. Thanks for this great list and commentary, Lisa. A small bit of info: Обход is rounds, as in a doctor's rounds in a hospital, so that title would be something like New York Rounds.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nina! Yes, of course! (facepalm here) I think I was so caught up in the "around town" element of the book (since the description mentions that the hospitals are разбросанные all around NYC) that I forgot all about the hospital rounds aspect. It feels like it has multiple meanings here and your "rounds" covers that nicely.

  4. Just purchased Центр тяжести - it sounds super interesting (as usual, i picked up a stack but put down all except one for now). It's a paperback, and it's not big. Looking forward to it and can pass along. ... the one about NYC grand rounds sounds good as well - as you know, i have been around the NYC medical system for quite some time, and I am curious! Let's see long how my resolve lasts not to stack up here! Thanks for recommending....

    1. Thank you for your comment, Margarita! It's funny that you bought Центр тяжести -- I just ordered a few books and meant to get that one but forgot! :) I'd be happy to do another trade with you. The NYC book does sound interesting, too.

      The shortlists are out and I'll post about them later this weekend but for now: the NYC book made both NOSE shortlists and the Polyarinov book made the critics' shortlist.

      Happy reading!