Sunday, April 26, 2020

The 2020 NatsBest Short List

The National Bestseller Award announced its six finalists the week before last. (Yes, I’m still a little slow here!) Given the current uncertainties in just about everything due to COVID-19, it’s unclear when, exactly, the winner will be chosen and announced in the fall.

On the positive side, that means there’s plenty of time to read the finalists. Here they are, listed with the number of points the first jury awarded.

  • Mikhail Elizarov’s Земля (Earth) (13 points) (previous post) tells, over more than 750 packed pages, of life, death, and the Russian funeral industry. And that’s only volume one! This is the only book on the list that I’ve read so far.
  • Olga Pogodina-Kuzmina’s Уран (Uranium) (9 points) is apparently a documentary novel about events at and around the Sillamäe uranium plant in 1953. This one definitely interests me.
  • Andrei Astvatsaturov’s Не кормите и не трогайте пеликанов (Don’t Feed or Touch the Pelicans) (6 points) concerns an urban neurotic who goes to London and gets sucked into some sort of real-life (but fictional) detective story.
  • Sofia Sinitskaya’s Сияние “жеможаха” (Oh, woe is me on this title!) (6 points) contains three interconnected novellas that I suspect are probably connected with her Мироныч, дырник и жеможаха, which also has a difficult title. I started reading that first book at exactly the wrong time, late this winter, when I was just too distracted to appreciate it. I’m eager to start over.
  • Kirill Ryabov’s Пёс (The Dog) (6 points) sounds like a short novel about deep desperation – if not for the book description noting hope, it might sound like The Dog is чернуха, that dark, dark realism I used to read so much of. Maybe it’s part of what I see as the new wave of chernukha, though.
  • Bulat Khanovs Непостоянные величины (Inconstants [? This title appears to play on the mathematical term for “constants.”) (5 points) is about a young teacher of Russian language and literature who graduates from Moscow State University and goes to teach in Kazan, challenging himself to see how long he can stand teaching in an ordinary school.

Up Next: More award news, a potpourri post of books read, including Turgenev’s On the Eve, which may not be my favorite Turgenev but which held my attention quite nicely.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual, plus having translated a novel by the NatsBest secretary, excerpts from one of the finalists, and having met a couple of the finalists.


Post a Comment