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.


  1. Spring of the Peoples or Spring of Nations

    The usual English equivalents use "Springtime."

    1. Oops, yes indeed! I had meant to revisit this since there are so many variations but then never did (I think I got too hungry!).