Sunday, September 27, 2020

The 2020 NOSE Award Longlist, All of It

This will probably sound a little weird but here goes: Writing NOSE Award longlist posts is one of my favorite acts of blogging. It’s become a habit to list the entire list – this year it’s twenty books – with brief descriptions. Since book discovery is one of the primary reasons I follow prizes so closely and since I’ve found so many good books that hit multiple long- and shortlists but didn’t win major awards, NOSE’s moderate-length longlists are just my thing. Particularly since I generally find NOSE jurors more unpredictable than the juries of other major awards.

A few points about this year’s list, which was announced on the Prokhorov Foundation site, here… The list was selected from 258 nominations. This is a highly varied list. With many books written by women! The shortlist will be announced in early November during public debate. The winner will be announced in early 2021 during public debate. There will also be reader voting (opens on October 15!) as well as a critics’ pick award. But enough of that. Here’s the list, complete, I’m sure, with plenty of title (and content) blunders since there are, as always, plenty of things that are difficult to translate/guess without reading.

  • Shamshad Abdullaev: Другой юг (The Other South). This is Abdullaev’s first book of prose – apparently all of it – and the publisher promises (among other things that I’ll summarize and paraphrase from the description) a hypnotic Central Asian landscape and nonlinear techniques reminiscent of Proust and Beckett. (Do click through on Abdullaev’s name for more on his life and poetry, some of which has been translated.)
  • Olga Allenova: Форпост. Беслан и его заложники (Outpost. Beslan and Its Hostages). The sad title here is self-explanatory. Allenova has been a special correspondent for Kommersant, a newspaper, since 2000.
  • Polina Barskova: Седьмая щелочь: тексты и судьбы блокадных поэтов (The Seventh Alkali [a sort of cleansing wave/wash]: The Texts and Fates of Blockade Poets). This book covers work by Gennady Gor, Pavel Zaltsman, Natalya Krandievskaya, Tatyana Gnedich, Nikolai Tikhonov, Sergei Rudakov, and Zinaida Shishova. The mysterious title (explained here, in Igor Gulin’s review for Kommersant) comes from a poem by Krandievsksya. (I asked Polina for help on the title and she mentioned purification. There may yet be more on this topic…)
  • Maria Buras: Истина существует. Жизнь Андрея Зализняка в рассказах ее участников (Truth Exists. Andrei Zaliznyaka’s Life As Told By Those Involved or somesuch). Zaliznyak, who died in 2017, was a linguist who studied very old literature and documents, including those written on birchbark (!!! This makes me want to learn more!). Buras was his student and friend.
  • Sergei Vereskov: Шесть дней (Six Days). Publisher Eksmo describes Six Days in their foreign rights catalogue with this sentence (among others!): “Young writer Sergey Vereskov has written a novel about mother, although the reader may feel, at certain points, that the book is about romance, travels, childhood and youth.”
  • Christina Guepting: Сестренка (Sis) (excerpt). Part of publisher Eksmo’s description of Sis in their foreign rights materials: “Sis is an acute social drama that highlights the most frightening aspects of life. The topics raised in the book are universal, and the vivid description of remote areas of the Russian North adds colour to this story.” Northern Russia is always a draw for me, too.
  • Andrei Gogolev: Свидетельство (Evidence, perhaps?). Hm, this one is especially mysterious.
  • Alla Gorbunova: Конец света, моя любовь (It’s the End of the World, My Love). Short stories set in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Nadya Delaland: Рассказы пьяного просода (Stories of a Drunken Prosode/Rhapsode [I so want “prosode” to be a word!]). (excerpt) (Ooh, these titles!) Alexander Chantsev writes (in my paraphrase here!) for the Год литературы site that Delaland’s stories about unexpected dreams and strange changes vary in style and genre.
  • Fyodor Derevyankin: Смерти нет. Краткая история неофициального военного поиска в России (There Is No Death. A Brief History of Unofficial Military Search[es?] in Russia. Based on what Gorky Media writes, this book contains stories of people who rebury soldiers who died during World War 2.
  • Ragim Dzhafarov: Сато (Sato). Apparently the story of a child who thinks he’s being held hostage and is brought to a psychologist.
  • Aleksei Dyachkov: Хани, БАМ (Khani, BAM). Stories set during work on the Baikal-Amur Mainline
  • Tatyana Zamirovskaya: Земля случайных чисел (The Land of Random Numbers). A collection of (per BGS Literary Agency) metaphysical/fantasy/horror short stories, of which I have read several.
  • Nikolai Kononov: Гимны (Hymns) (excerpt). Apparently a book about memory. (Proust strikes again, with a mention in this Kommersant review! (With memory books and Proust references abounding these days – including in This Tilting World, by Colette Fellous, which I recently read in Sophie Lewis’s translation – I started on Proust a month or so ago and am happily reading away on volume two of In Search of Lost Time, thanks to a slow-reading group on Twitter.))
  • Lera Manovich: Рыба плывет (The Fish Is Swimming (I read the story and this version seems to fit)). Stories, allegedly about a Boschesque world; one story is apparently called “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”
  • Evgenia Nekrasova: Сестромам (Sistermom) (title story). Short stories, of which I have read (and very much appreciated) several.
  • Valeria Pustovaya: Ода радости (Ode to Joy). Apparently autofiction about loss, love, and giving birth.
  • Vitaly Terletsky (with artist Katya): Собакистан (Dogistan, perhaps, though that’s awfully close to Dagestan…). Comics. Dystopia. Dogs. Colta has a big interview with Terletsky and Katya here, about two of their books.
  • Sasha Filipenko: Возвращение в Острог (Return to Ostrog, where “Ostrog” is apparently a toponym; the word means “prison”) is a welcome surprise: I thought Filipenko’s Hounding, a Big Book finalist a few years ago, was very good (previous post) and have been meaning to read more of his work. This novel is apparently about a town where a prison is the primary institution. Also on this year’s Yasnaya Polyana shortlist.
  • Mikita Franko: Дни нашей жизни (Days of Our Life). A novel about a boy whose life seems typical. But has lots of secrets. The description and even the reader reviews/comments on seem very concerned about spoilage so I didn’t read much about it… though whilst googling around, I found that articles on Days of Our Life often mention LGBT families right up front, including in this interview with the author.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual due to dealings (in a good sense!) with some of the authors, publishers, and agents involved with some of these books; I received electronic copies of two or three.

Up Next: Inga Kuznetsova’s Промежуток plus the long-promised potpourri post, which will likely be written as a pandemic-era reading post.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Yasnaya Polyana Award’s 2020 Shortlist

The Yasnaya Polyana Award jury announced a six-book shortlist yesterday. I can’t say I think this list is especially inspiring or exciting – in large part because many of the titles are familiar from other award lists – though I can’t say I found this year’s YP longlist especially inspiring or exciting, either, for the same reason! Repetition. If you’re interested in jury views, Mikhail Vizel’s piece on the Год литературы site offers bits of commentary from jury members. And so here we go, in Russian alphabetical order by surname:

  • Andrei Astvatsaturov’s Не кормите и не трогайте пеликанов (Don’t Feed or Touch the Pelicans), a novel concerning an urban neurotic who goes to London and gets suck(er?)ed into some sort of real-life (but fictional) detective story, was already a NatsBest shortlister.
  • Sergei Belyakov’s Весна народов (Springtime of the Peoples or Spring of Nations are among the many variants for this title wording [edit]) isn’t concerned with European revolutions in 1848 but rather the Russian Revolution of 1917, which (borrowing from the book’s description) led to the establishment of various governments, including multiple entities in Ukraine. The book’s subtitle mentions Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgakov, and Petlyura.
  • Ksenia Buksha’s Чуров и Чурбанов (Churov and Churbanov) is the only book on the list that I’ve read in full (previous post). It’s very good, a genuine bright spot in this year’s reading: it’s funny, smart, and skillfully constructed. Also a Big Book finalist.
  • Sophia Sinitskaya’s Сияниежеможаха (which, sorry, I’m going to continue calling The “Zhemozhakha” Shining since the title’s more understandable word is the same as the Russian title of a certain Stephen King book) has already hit the NatsBest and Big Book shortlists, too. I still need to return to this one after having gotten stuck (twice!) in the first novella in the book, which is also the first novella in another Sinitskaya book. (!) It’s good, it’s interesting, I love the details and atmosphere… but somehow it just hasn’t held together for me, doesn’t impel me to read.
  • Sasha Filipenko’s Возвращение в Острог (Return to Ostrog, where “Ostrog” is apparently a toponym; the word means “prison”) is a welcome surprise: I thought Filipenko’s Hounding, a Big Book finalist a few years ago, was very good (previous post) and have been meaning to read more of his work. This novel is apparently about a town where a prison is the primary institution.
  • Evgeny Chizhov’s Собиратель рая (Collector of Heaven or Collecting Heaven?), which I read in part and have been known to call “good-natured,” is a slow, meandering novel about a woman with dementia and her son, who loves flea markets. Although it didn’t hit me (particularly after Chizhov’s truly wonderful The Translation), I do understand its appeal.


Up Next: Inga Kuznetsova’s Промежуток. Potpourri books still await, and who knows what else might pop up!


Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual, which includes having translated two Yasnaya Polyana jury members’ books and having enjoyed talking with a couple of this year’s award finalists.